You are viewing information for England.  Change country or region.

Critical social work practice

Qualification dates
Start End

This module will support you as a student social worker in becoming a confident, analytical and reflective practitioner and an independent learner.You'll be encouraged to develop independent study and research skills specific to your practice interests, and the module has a strong focus on practitioner research, guiding you towards sources of information to critically evaluate. You will reflect critically on practice and on your own learning needs so as to prepare you for your first year as a qualified social worker.

What you will study

This is the final compulsory practice learning module in The Open University degree in social work. It follows on from Applied social work practice (K216) and its preceding module Foundations for social work practice (K113). K315 supports the professional standards for social work laid down by the national regulatory bodies for the profession. K315 should be either the last module that you complete or should be studied at the same time as one of the OU level 3 option modules in the social work degree. As part of K315, you will undertake a practice learning opportunity of 100 days.

This module is composed of 10 learning guides that are delivered online. Each guide will take you two weeks to work through. They will direct you to the resources that you should be studying, and will include the following topics:

  • critical social work practice
  • anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice
  • managing complexity
  • eliciting meaningful service user feedback
  • ethical practice
  • research for social workers
  • leadership and management in social work practice
  • understanding continuing professional development.

In addition to this study material you’ll be required to meet the UK nation-specific Standards in Social Work laid down by regulatory bodies for the profession in your country of residence. Details concerning this can be found in published guidance from The Open University. You’ll meet the Standards by a 100-day practice learning opportunity provided to you by your sponsoring agency. Your practice is assessed by a practice educator.

Professional recognition

This is one of a set of modules that together constitute approved programmes leading to a degree in social work in England or Scotland. The degrees are approved by Social Work England (SWE) and the Scottish Social Services Council. 

After successful completion of the social work degree, you will be eligible to apply for registration as a qualified social worker with the Social Work England (SWE) or the Scottish Social Services Council.

Entry requirements

To study this module you must:

  • be registered for the relevant degree in social work for your nation with the University
  • be registered as a social work student with the relevant care council
  • be sponsored by your employing agency
  • be working in a practice context
  • have passed all modules at Stages 1 and 2. 

Your sponsoring agency should provide you with appropriate practice learning opportunities and undertake to allow you one day a week study time for 120 credits per year. Further information for sponsoring agencies is available – speak to an adviser.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact us.

Preparatory work

You should be in discussion with the Agency Co-ordinator to identify a possible Practice Learning Opportunity prior to the beginning of the module.

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 module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

Electronic versions of most of the printed study materials are provided on the website. Multimedia activities are provided online and you will revisit some of the resources you used on K216.

You will need

You should ensure that you have access to Microsoft Office and we strongly recommend that it is run on a Microsoft Windows-based social work settings almost always require the use of Windows-based computers and Microsoft Office applications.

Computing requirements

You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll have two types of tutor on this module – a module tutor and a programme tutor.

The module tutor will help with the academic content of the module, mark and comment on your written work, and who is the person you can ask 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 five compulsory online workshops, and two online learning events. These provide essential support for students to apply module concepts to their practice learning settings. You will also be expected to participate in your online tutor group discussion forum for ongoing teaching and learning.

The programme tutor will provide individual support and arrange meetings in relation to your practice learning opportunities and professional development. Questions of a professional social work practice nature should be directed to the programme tutor.

The Student Support Team will provide support and give general help and guidance with 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.

There will also be a practice educator's report at the end of your practice learning opportunity which will make a pass or fail recommendation to be considered by the Practice Assessment Panel and which is finally ratified by the Exams and Assessment Board.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K315 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

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

This page describes the module that will start in February 2023. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2024.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school