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Critical social work practice

Qualification dates
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This module will support you in becoming a confident, analytical and reflective practitioner and independent learner. You will be encouraged to develop independent study and research skills specific to your practice interests. It has a strong focus on practitioner research, guiding you towards sources of information to critically evaluate, in preparation for your first year as a qualified social worker. As part of this module, you will undertake a practice learning opportunity of 100 days.

Critical social work practice (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 your Open University social work degree.

What you will study

This module is composed of 10 learning guides that are delivered online and will complement your learning in your practice placement. Each guide will take you two weeks to work through and will direct you to relevant resources on the topic while offering further reading for specific areas you may be interested in.

Topics that are covered include:

  • research in social work
  • anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice
  • assessment
  • eliciting meaningful service user feedback
  • ethical practice
  • problem solving, decision making and using professional judgement
  • leadership and management in social work practice
  • understanding continuing professional development.

In addition to this academic content, you will be required to meet the regulatory requirements specific to your nation and undertake 100 days of practice learning, 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 (SSSC). 

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 (SSSC).

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, or have been accepted onto the Independent Social Work pathway in Scotland
  • 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. For Independent Students in Scotland the social work team will find you appropriate practice learning opportunities.

Further information for sponsoring agencies is available, or 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 this module.

In Scotland, all students due to start a placement will be required to complete a Practice Learning Opportunity (PLO) form to enable the team and/or the sponsor to identify a suitable placement.

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

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
  • access to documentation required for the Practice Assessment Report which you'll complete at the end of your placement.

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

Social work settings almost always require the use of Windows-based computers and Microsoft Office applications. You should ensure that they have access to the above software 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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll have two types of tutor on this module – a module tutor and a practice 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. Four of these workshops will be full day face-to-face workshops and two 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.

The practice tutor will provide individual support and arrange meetings in relation to your practice learning opportunities and professional development, as well as give advice/feedback on the evidence that you provide as part of your Practice Assessment Report.

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.

There will also be a practice educator's report at the end of your placement, making a pass or fail recommendation to be considered by the Practice Assessment Panel, 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 2025 when we expect it to start for the last time.

Course work includes:

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