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Foundations for social work practice

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This key introductory OU level 1 module is a compulsory module of the OU degree in social work. You must be studying towards the degree and be sponsored by your employing agency. The module will help develop your knowledge of the key roles of social work, and introduce the social work standards and codes of practice relevant to each UK nation. You will also build key skills in information and communication technologies (ICT), information literacy and reflective writing. This module includes a minimum 10-day period of verified practice learning in a social care setting, under supervision of a practice verifier appointed by your sponsoring agency and attendance at eight workshops.

If you are not sponsored and are not a registered social work student you can register for the parallel module Foundations for social work practice (KYJ113). Students studying in Wales should refer to Foundations for social work practice (KZW113).

What you will study

This is an excellent module which – in my experience – has been enjoyed by students and tutor alike (K113 module tutor).

The module helped me to formulate tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and enabled me to look at, reflect, better understand and evaluate my own personal experience and life events (K113 student).

The module concentrates on writing about practice, and learning how to apply theoretical learning to practice contexts. The module is divided into eight blocks of learning. Each block covers a particular aspect of understanding social work and use case study material to illustrate and apply these ideas into practice situations.

Block 1 - provides an overview of some of the ideas about how individual psychology and identity are relevant to all social work settings. This includes what values underpin professional identity in the complex situations social workers deal with.

Block 2 - explores the social context that is important both to understand how services are delivered, but also the wider supports and environments that can support or restrict people’s opportunities and life chances. How social workers are concerned with these inequalities, and issues of social justice are examined.

Block 3 - uses children and family work to consider how and why social workers might come to be engaged with people.

Block 4 - concentrates on using issues facing older people in coming to consider the skills and approaches to formal assessment in social work, and how to establish an understanding of someone’s situation.

Block 5 - develops social work approaches of groups and community work to support people with mental health distress. The themes of stigma and discrimination are explored in particular and the models of the constructive ways social workers can address these issues.

Block 6 - provides information about adults with learning disabilities and in particular how their engagement in reviews of services they receive personally, or more general service reviews and evaluations is an important principle for social work with all service users and their carers.

Block 7 - uses models of work with families with children with disabilities to consider partnership working and ideas of early intervention in social work.

Block 8 - concentrates on the issues of professional development and understanding of the personal and regulatory requirements for individuals wishing to develop their professionalism generally or continue with the social work programme.

In addition, to pass the module, you will be required to:

  • complete a minimum period of 10 days verified practice learning in a social care/social work setting. It will be your responsibility to arrange the practice experience including identifying a verifier. To carry out this practice experience you may be asked to provide a current Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) or Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) certificate. If you do not have a certificate and one is required, it will be your responsibility to negotiate and fund it.
  • attend eight one-day practice skills workshops (normally held on a Saturday) with your tutor group to provide you with the chance to explore the theoretical themes in relation to the realities of social work practice. Any workshop days missed will have to be added onto the verified practice element.

It is also recommended that you shadow a social worker during your 10-day practice experience. This is not a requirement, however, if this opportunity is not available.

During this module you will develop your ICT skills and can gain marks for this both in continuous assessment and in the end-of-module assessment. There may also be online discussions that take place to continue your interactions with your tutor and fellow students and develop your online communication skills.

Professional recognition

This is one of a set of modules that together constitute approved programmes leading to social work degrees in England and Scotland. The degrees are endorsed by the Health and Care Professions Council for England and the Scottish Social Services Council.

Entry requirements

This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, which help you to progress to modules at OU level 2.

This module is not available for standalone study. To study this module, you must be:

  • registered for the honours degree in social work (or have declared it as your qualification intention) 
  • registered as a social work student with the Scottish Social Services Council if you study in Scotland
  • sponsored by your employing agency
  • working in a practice context.

The sponsoring agency will provide you with appropriate practice learning opportunities and undertake to allow you one day a week study time for 120 credits study while you are on the programme. (There will be a pro-rata reduction in the entitlement of study time allowed if you are studying less than 120 credits per year). Further information for sponsoring agencies is available – speak to an adviser.  

Studying social work is demanding, if you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact us.

Preparatory work

You will receive guidance of how to get started online in your module mailing. This will provide you with information on using your computer for OU study and working with the Computing Guide. For example, it explains how to access and use your website and online discussion forums. If you have time before the module starts, you can work through this and explore all the online services available to you.

What's included

All study materials are provided. The main mode of delivery of the teaching is through the module website. In addition, printed materials of the learning guides and key readings are supplied to support your studies.

You will need

Social work settings almost always require the use of Windows-based computers and Microsoft Office applications. Many digital literacy activities within the Social Work Programme are therefore based on the Windows operating system and on Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

You should ensure that you have access to Microsoft Office (Microsoft Word and Excel) for the duration of the programme, and we strongly recommend that they are run on a Microsoft Windows-based computer.

We recommend that you purchase the following book: Davies, M. (ed) The Blackwell Companion to Social Work (4th edn) Wiley-Blackwell £28.99 - ISBN 9781118451724

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either:

  • Windows 7 or higher
  • macOS 10.7 or higher

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To participate in our online discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Part of your tuition is delivered online so some of the contact with your tutor will be through email and online discussion forums, although phone communication may also be used. If you are new to the OU, you will find that your tutor is particularly concerned to help you with your study methods. Your tutor will run eight obligatory workshops (usually held on a Saturday) including two in the first month of study. Requests for excusal from a workshop are dealt with by your tutor who will advise on ways you can compensate for your absence. In addition to the eight workshops, you will be expected to participate in your online tutor group discussion forum for workshop learning consolidation exercises. Questions of a professional, social work nature should be directed to your tutor. 

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

You must submit your end-of-module assessment (EMA) online.

It is a condition of the module assessment that to pass the module you must not have engaged in behaviour that is confirmed as being damaging or dangerous to service users or to other students or programme providers, or that creates an unacceptable risk to yourself or to others.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K113 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Foundations for social work practice starts once a year – in February. This page describes the module that starts in February 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2022.

Course work includes:

8 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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