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 QAA Benchmark Statements for degrees in Social Work and National Occupational Standards, the Scottish Standards in Social Work Education (SiSWE), the Scottish Requirements for Social Work Training and the SSSC’s Code of Practice for Social Service Workers. The international definition of social work (2001), which has been adopted to underpin the key purpose and occupational standards for social work, describes it as:
'A profession which promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.'
From this key purpose the following six key roles are identified:
Standard 1: Prepare for practice and work in partnership with individuals, children, parents, families and extended families, carers, groups and communities, professionals and organisations.
Standard 2: Plan, undertake, review and evaluate social work practice with individuals, children, parents, families and extended families, carers, groups, communities and other professionals.
Standard 3: Assess and manage risk to individuals, children, parents, families and extended families, carers, groups, communities, self and colleagues.
Standard 4: Demonstrate professional confidence and competence in social work practice.
Standard 5: Manage and be accountable, with supervision and support, for their own social work practice within their organisation.
Standard 6: Work in partnership with individuals, children, parents, families and extended families, carers, groups and communities to address and manage their needs, views and circumstances.
The programme is designed to equip students to fulfil these key roles as competent, newly qualified social workers. 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.
The structure of the 480-credit honours degree is built on 180 credits at OU level 1 (SCQF level 7), 180 credits at OU level 2 (progressing through SCQF levels 8 and 9), and 120 credits at OU level 3 (SCQF 10). At Stage 1, you will study two key introductory OU level 1 modules, one in social sciences and one in health and social care. Stage 2 includes Foundations for Social Work Practice and a module on working with children, young people and families which will prepare you to be able to demonstrate key capabilities for child care and protection in the context of your practice learning at stages 3 and 4. Stage 3 comprises a 60-credit law module and 60 credits of practice embedded learning, and at Stage 4 you will study 60 credits on investigating health and social care and complete your final 60-credit practice learning module. The practice learning includes time spent in practice settings as well as the study time needed to explore and develop this experience and to integrate it with the more theoretically based learning. The assessment strategies for these two aspects of learning are different, with the practice-learning requiring evidence of personal and professional skills through portfolio development and feedback from practice assessors.
Progression through the degree will be paced. The programme will aim to move the students from a development of awareness and understanding at stages 1 – 2, through a process of application and engagement at Stages 2 – 3, to a capacity for critical, reflective and evidence-based practice at Stage 4.
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 stages 2, 3 and 4. 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 at all workshops is expected. 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 the learning across the programme. Practice learning opportunities will be assessed by a practice assessor. The practice assessor will make an assessment of practice using the Scottish Social Services Council Standards in Social Work Education (SiSWE).
Key skills development and assessment will be established through OU level 1and 2 modules, including laying 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 practice foundation module at stage 2 offers carefully paced and structured support in developing readiness for direct practice, study skills and basic information handling and communication skills. The stage 3 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 stage 4, 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.