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Applied social work practice

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This is a compulsory module in the OU degree in social work in England and Scotland. You must have met the formal entry requirements and be studying towards the degree, have passed Foundations for social work practice (K113), be working in a practice context and be sponsored by your employing agency. The module helps you to understand the application of social work knowledge to practice, addressing key roles and standards for social workers and relevant knowledge, values and skills for social work. The module includes a practice learning opportunity: 70-days in England and 100-days in Scotland. The practice learning opportunity will be under the supervision of a practice assessor appointed by your sponsoring agency. 

What you will study

This is a compulsory module of the degrees in social work (England and Scotland). It is one of two compulsory modules that, together with an optional module, make up the second stage of the three-stage degree in England. It is also one of the two compulsory modules for the degree in social work in Scotland that make up the third stage of the four-stage degree. The degree programmes have been approved by the nation-specific regulatory bodies for the profession. See Applied social work practice KZW216 for information about the version of the module to be studied for the degree in social work in Wales.

The study materials provide you with case examples and illustrations of social work practice (using audio and video); original discussion of key social work concepts and theoretical debates; and reprinted articles introducing important theoretical and ethical issues. Activities in the learning materials help you to apply your learning to your current social work practice. The module is structured in three blocks of study:

  • Working with needs and risk
  • Working with groups and networks
  • Working with communities and diversity.

Each block consists of four units, with an introduction and conclusion to the module forming two additional units, so that there are 14 in all.

This module will enable you to:

  • make relevant application of the UK nation-specific standards in social work laid down by the regulatory bodies for the profession
  • apply underpinning knowledge — including theories and methods for practice — relevant to social work
  • apply the four components of good practice: knowledge; values and ethics; skills; and social work process
  • learn from the expectations and needs of individuals, families, carers, groups, and communities who use services
  • learn from other resource materials in the social work degree programme, so that you can meet the learning requirements appropriate to this stage of the degree.

The module also helps you to build on your skills in information and digital literacy, based upon the requirements of the regulatory bodies for the profession.

Professional recognition

This is one of a set of modules that together constitute an approved programme leading to a degree in social work approved by the regulatory body for the profession in your nation.

Entry requirements

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

  • be registered for the relevant degree in social work for your nation
  • be registered as a social work student with the regulatory body, if you are in Scotland
  • be sponsored by your employing agency
  • be working in a practice context
  • have passed all your modules, including K113, for Stage 1 of the BA (Hons) Social Work (England) or Stage 2 for the BA (Hons) Social Work (Scotland).

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 each year 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.

You will need to spend between seven and ten hours a week studying, in addition to the hours spent on the practice learning opportunity.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

You will need to have access to a practice learning opportunity organised by your sponsoring agency: 70-days in England and 100-days in Scotland.

You will receive guidance of how to get started online in your first 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

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course specific study material
  • audio and video content
  • assessment details
  • access to online tutorials and study forums
  • access to teaching and library resources

You’ll also be provided with three module workbooks and other printed materials.

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, Excel and PowerPoint) for the duration of the programme, and we strongly recommend that they are run on a Microsoft Windows-based computer.

For more details refer to Digital literacy and use of computing on the Social Work degree.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11). Any macOS is unsuitable with this module.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Davies, M. (ed) The Blackwell Companion to Social Work (4th edn) Wiley-Blackwell £30.25 - ISBN 9781118451724

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have two types of tutor on this module — a tutor and a programme tutor.

Your tutor will help you with the academic content of the module, mark and comment on your written work. You can ask them for advice and guidance. Your tuition is delivered online and contact with your tutor will be through email and online discussion forums, although phone communication may also be used.

Your tutor will run six compulsory practice skills workshops. Five of these workshops will be full day face-to-face workshops and one of these workshops will be held synchronously online. These provide essential support for you to apply module concepts to your practice learning setting and for you to prepare for academic and practice assessment. As well as the six compulsory workshops, you will be expected to participate in your online tutor group discussion forum for workshop-learning consolidation exercises.

Your tutor and programme tutor will provide an additional introductory online workshop as well as individual support in relation to your practice learning opportunity and your professional development. Questions of a professional social work nature should be directed to your programme tutor.

Student support can give general help and guidance with your studies.

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.

Your end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be submitted online.

There will also be a practice assessment report.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K216 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

Applied social work practice starts once a year – in February.

This page describes the module that will start in February 2024, the last time we expect it to start.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment