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BA (Honours) Social Work (England) - Learning outcomes

Educational aims

The degree aims to equip students with the requisite skills and knowledge for the first year of practice as a qualified social worker. In order to do this your studies will:

  • prepare you for work with individuals families, carers, groups, communities and other professionals
  • teach you how to plan, carry out, review and evaluate social work practice
  • provide you with the necessary skills needed to support individuals to represent their needs, views and circumstances
  • support you with working with risk
  • show you how to manage and be accountable, with supervision and support, for your own social work practice within your organisation
  • enable you to demonstrate professional competence in social work practice.

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes are described in four areas. Within these four areas we emphasise achievable outcomes for students who have chosen a degree in social work and who are learning at a distance and in the workplace.

Knowledge and understanding

When you have completed this degree, you will have knowledge and understanding of:

  • issues and trends in modern public and social policy, and their relationship to contemporary practice and service delivery
  • the impact of racism, poverty, poor health and discrimination
  • how to find, evaluate and carry out relevant research for practice
  • the legal basis of social work intervention, the roles and remits of a range of services, including social services, education, housing, health and criminal justice.

Cognitive skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • gather information from a wide range of sources, taking account of different views and being able to analyse and evaluate critically
  • consider and evaluate specific factors relevant to practice, such as risk, rights, identity and vulnerability
  • synthesise knowledge from contributing disciplines in order to apply it to an understanding and analysis of the situation and circumstances
  • critically evaluate evidence from research and be able to apply it and to think logically, even under pressure
  • review and evaluate policies, judgements, decisions and interventions designed to be effective in mitigating personal and social disadvantage and risk.

Practical and/or professional skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate the ability to fulfil the Professional Capabilities Framework for social work, at a qualifying level
  • demonstrate an understanding of the ethical basis of social work and the underpinning values of social work practice
  • have knowledge of the theoretical basis of social work and apply this to practice
  • practise critical self-reflection and engage in professional development.

Key skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to demonstrate the following skills:


You will be able to:

  • communicate effectively with individuals, groups and organisations, in a range of formal and informal situations
  • present information and arguments verbally, in writing and using electronic communications, in a structured form that is logical, coherent and appropriate to the audience
  • gather, select and manage information from a wide range of sources and in a variety of ways, for a range of purposes. 

Application of number

You will be able to:

  • calculate, analyse figures and interpret data in both statistical and financial contexts.

Information technology

You will be able to use:

  • digital literacy skills at a level required for social work graduates
  • information and communication technology methods and techniques for a variety of purposes including professional communication, data storage and retrieval, information searching and resource management.

Learning - how to learn

You will be able to:

  • critically evaluate information, arguments and assumptions
  • manage your own learning through the identification of learning needs, objective setting, monitoring progress by critical reflection, identifying strengths, weaknesses and areas to improve, and responding to feedback.

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

Core knowledge and understanding are acquired via the use of specially prepared distance-learning materials. Assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning, and you will be required to complete scheduled assignments.

Cognitive skills are promoted by the critical approach of the prepared texts and the other module resources. You are encouraged to develop your own skills through the materials and workshops. As you progress through the levels of the programme, you will be expected to demonstrate a capacity to describe and articulate key understandings, then to examine, evaluate and compare different accounts and competing evidence.  At honours level you will be expected to analyse critically, taking account of the basis of any evidence and reviewing the level of risk and implications of any consequent actions. These skills are assessed through the assignments.

Key skills development and assessment will be established through OU level 1 modules, with digital literacy skills being particularly prominent in order to lay down a foundation capability for using digital literacy skills to a standard required for social work graduates and developing further information literacy and learning skills in later modules. The key introductory OU level 1 module assumes that you are new to degree level study and offers carefully paced and structured support in developing study skills and basic information handling and communication skills. It is complemented by the first practice module, which develops the skills and knowledge necessary for readiness for direct practice. The OU level 2 practice module will require you to build and apply key skills in undertaking a series of learning activities/assignments centred on social work practice situations. By level 3, the relevant key skills will be expected to be integrated into your performance, demonstrating your ability to fulfil the key professional roles, with emphasis on consolidation of information literacy and collaborative learning skills development to equip you for continuing professional development.