The programme aims to equip students as competent social workers by ensuring that they have the relevant knowledge, skills and values in accordance with the Qualification Framework for a Degree in Social Work in Wales (2019), the QAA Subject Benchmark Statement Social Work, the National Occupational Standards for Social Work (2011) and the Social Care Wales’ (SCW) Code of Professional Practice for Social Care (2017).
The global definition of social work (2001), which has been adopted to underpin the key purpose and occupational standards for social work, describes it as:
A practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing. The above definition may be amplified at national and/or regional levels.
From this key purpose the following key roles are identified:
- Maintain professional accountability.
- Practise professional social work.
- Promote engagement and participation.
- Assess needs, risks and circumstances.
- Plan for person-centred outcomes.
- Take actions to achieve change.
The programme is designed to equip students to fulfil these key roles as competent beginner social workers in Wales. To achieve this, it is structured to promote the integration of theory and practice and to embed theory and practice within an explicit framework of values and ethics, with particular reference to practising in Wales.
The structure of the 360-credit honours degree is built on 120 credits at OU levels 1, 2 and 3. At each stage, students will engage with 60 credits of theoretical but occupationally relevant material and 60 credits of practice-focused learning. At Stage 1, students complete a portfolio based on their current practice. This ensures that they are suitable and safe to work directly with people who use services and carers. At Stage 2 and Stage 3, students will undertake two extended periods of practice learning which includes time spent in social work settings. The assessment strategies for academic and practice learning are different, with the practice-learning requiring evidence of personal and professional skills through portfolio development and feedback from practice supervisors/educators.
Progression through the degree will be paced. The programme will aim to move the students from a development of awareness and understanding at stage 1, through a process of application and engagement at stage 2 to a capacity for critical, reflective and evidence-based practice at stage 3.
The descriptions below account for learning outcomes under discrete headings. It should be borne in mind, however, that the integrative and holistic approach to teaching and learning social work competencies means that the boundaries between knowledge and understanding, cognitive skills, key skills, and practical and professional skills are inevitably blurred.
Teaching, learning and assessment methods
Knowledge and understanding
Core knowledge and understanding are acquired via the use of specially prepared distance-learning materials, including specially written study materials, learning guides, reference texts and web-based resources with integrated audio and video material. Assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning, and you will be required to complete scheduled assignments, which may take the form of essays, case studies and so on.
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.
Practical and/or professional skills
Practical and professional skills will be developed on the three practice learning modules at each of the levels. Teaching will be delivered in workshops and during practice. Each workshop will include participation in activities to develop ability to understand key concepts and develop practice skills; full attendance is required at all workshops. Written assessment will require demonstration of an understanding of the theoretical basis of social work and how this applies to practice. It will be necessary for you to show an ability to reflect on your practice. The written assignments will be an opportunity for you to show integration of learning across the programme. Practice learning opportunities will be assessed by a practice educator, who will make an assessment of practice using the Social Care Wales' National Occupational Standards and Code of Professional Practice.
Students are encouraged to submit some or all written work in Welsh, and mentoring support will be available for students studying the practice learning modules who would like to consider this option.
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 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 OU 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.