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Leading, managing, caring

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This module is designed to appeal to anyone with an interest in caring services in a modern, complex and demanding world. From service users and informal carers, to social workers and clinicians, if people don’t work effectively together the quality of services will be undermined. Rooted in the foundations of a caring approach to leadership and management, this module provides tools and insight to understand your role in relation to others. Whether you are managing a large team of people or simply trying to ensure good quality care for yourself or a loved one, this module will help you achieve the best outcomes.

What you will study

Whatever your relationship with health and social care services, the way you act and react in situations, and the way you relate to other people you meet, has a huge impact on how any service is delivered and experienced. Perhaps you already work in a health or social care setting, maybe you provide informal care for a family member, or maybe you’re a regular user of health or social care services yourself and just want to learn more about your experiences and how to shape them. The more you understand about how the health and social care system operates, and why people behave as they do within it, the easier it will be to navigate it and get the best outcomes for all concerned.

Leading, managing, caring (K318) guides you through the basic foundations of a caring approach to leadership and management. It provides you with the tools and insight to understand your role in relation to others, and what you can do to help achieve the best outcomes for all involved.

This module is designed to appeal to anyone with an interest in how we can maintain caring services in a modern, complex and demanding world. It provides an overview of the organisational, legal and policy contexts within which services operate, focusing on the challenges and opportunities faced by people across health and social care. Throughout the module you will apply your learning to real life examples, drawn from the case studies provided and your own personal experiences. This is particularly useful for those wishing to pursue a career in management and leadership, while the knowledge and skills you'll develop are equally valuable to anyone who uses services and wants to develop a better understand of the system and the human relationships within it.

This module will help you get to grips with the constantly changing nature of health and social care provision, improve your knowledge, develop skills and help in understanding what makes behaviours enhance, or undermine, good quality service experiences for everyone. Throughout, you will explore case studies, policies and strategies relevant to your own context or areas of personal interest. As a result you'll develop a broad understanding of the challenges and opportunities of managing, leading and caring in health and social care, and be able to reflect on your own personal skills and abilities for working with others to contribute to positive care service experiences and outcomes.

From your first week of study you will have the opportunity to work with a variety of carefully selected ‘tools’ – including self-assessment inventories, decision making tools, change management models, stress management frameworks and goal setting techniques. By the end of the module you will have compiled your own personal ‘toolkit’ for effective working with others which you can take with you to apply in any context, and will serve as a useful future resource for personal and professional development.

There are 4 blocks of study exploring the key areas of concern for leading, managing and caring:

Block 1: Approaching care
You'll start by exploring your own relationship with care, managing and leading. We all have to care for people or things in our daily lives and we are all at one time or another on the receiving end of care from others; we all encounter ‘management’ in our daily lives; and we are exposed to a variety of leaders trying to convince us to follow their vision. The first block gets you to reflect on this and to think about your own capacity to manage and lead others, even if you have no formal leadership or managing experience.

Block 2: Caring relationships
In the second block you'll explore how theoretical understanding can support practical attempts to provide effective care, and work through complex situations with a variety of people. You will reflect on how your own approach to leading and managing others influences the relationships you have, not just at work but in wider everyday experiences as well.

Block 3: Creating a caring environment
Next you'll move from focusing on relationships between people, to relationships between people and their environments. Drawing on real life examples you will consider the impact of organisational and political contexts on service experiences in health and social care. You will think about what we can do – either as providers or receivers of those services – to make them more effective.

Block 4: Ethics, quality and care
Having considered the practical context within which services exist, in the final block you'll reflect on the ethical context of health and social care practice. This will involve reflecting on personal values and ethical practice, legislative requirements around safeguarding, and the value of learning from experience.

Each block of study ends with a guided enquiry where you are provided with a case study scenario, some background context, and a set of tasks to complete. Working either alone or in collaboration with other students these activities provide perfect opportunities for you to apply your new knowledge and skills in a safe environment with the support of your tutor and your fellow students.

Entry requirements

You are not required to have completed any study in this area before, but you should consider that this is a Stage 3 module. OU Stage 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at Stages 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU.

Our module Introducing health and social care (K102) would be ideal preparation for those new to the field of health and social care. Although K318 does build upon the use of ICT skills developed in earlier stages, there is the opportunity in the introductory weeks to quickly develop the necessary skills if you do not already have them.

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

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
  • the K318 toolkit
  • quizzes, assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

You'll also receive a print copy of the module textbook, which will also be available to read online, and you will have access to relevant published research which will be available through the Open University library’s online resources.

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) or macOS Ventura or higher.

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

Throughout the module you will be supported by a personal tutor. This support can take a variety of forms and include the use of several modes of contact to best suit your needs. You will also be strongly encouraged to engage in group learning with your fellow students through collaborative activities and tutor hosted online learning sessions. You will also be provided with written feedback on your TMA submissions that is designed to guide your future TMA submissions as you progress through the module.

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.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K318 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

Leading, managing, caring (K318) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2028.

Course work includes:

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