Developing social work practice

This is an interdisciplinary module with subject matter derived from psychology, sociology, social policy, law and social work studies. The study materials will enable you to ensure that the experiences of service users and carers are at the heart of social work practice. The module will also help you examine the nature of organisations that provide social work services.

Throughout your study you will be encouraged to further develop your research literacy and explore how research findings and other evidence can inform practice and be used by practitioners. In addition to online learning, the module includes 80 days of practice-based learning.

Vocational relevance

Developing social work practice is the first of two compulsory modules leading to the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work which is a professionally qualifying award.


K832 is a compulsory module in our:


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method

Distance and practice-based learning

Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

This module is delivered over eight months and has a practice placement experience running alongside academic study. The module will start at the end of January and finish in September. Prior to the start of your placement, you will need to complete 10 days of verified practice experience in your normal workplace and pass an assessment of ‘Readiness for direct practice’.

After successfully completing this module, you will:

  • have acquired the necessary professional skills to enable you to work in partnership with service users and carers and other professionals to foster dignity, choice, independence, and effect change
  • be able to evaluate your practice and your contribution to change
  • be equipped to engage in critical and reflective professional practice according to the Standards for social work education and Codes of Practice and Conduct relating to the nation of the UK in which you practice
  • be able to think critically about the complex social, cultural, legal, economic and political contexts in which social work practice is located
  • have the knowledge and understanding to analytically appraise and use evidence and research in decision-making, professional judgement and evaluation of outcomes
  • have developed key skills appropriate for the academic level in the areas of digital and information literacy, and academic, professional and reflective writing.

During this module you will study five blocks: Foundations for Social Work Practice; Communication and Interpersonal Skills; Social Divisions and Diversity; Human Growth and Development; and one from Social Work Practice with Children and Families, or Social Work with Adults. For the last block you will be able to choose either the children and families option or the adult option alongside your placement to support your practice learning. Relevant teaching of law, digital and information literacy, values and ethics, safeguarding practices, theories and approaches in social work intervention, research methods and evidence-based practice has been threaded through the module blocks.

The learning materials include a range of module-directed multi-media activities for you to engage in to support your learning about social work. You will access the learning guides and activities online through the module website and will be supported through additional readings and books in print. Likewise, you will also engage with video and audio resources, draw upon a range of online tools that suit your study needs, and take part in activities with other students at online learning events.

In addition to module-directed activities within the learning materials, you'll engage in independent learning. The design of the module is informed by the fact that when you become a qualified social worker, you will be expected to be able to address complex situations, think for yourself, collaborate with other professionals and be accountable for your actions. Both academically and in your practice you will increasingly be called on to make your own decisions and evaluations.

This module will help you to develop knowledge and skills in these areas through these regular opportunities for independent learning that will enable you to relate your study closely to your own practice context and to your particular learning needs.

The module has three main learning components:

  • practice learning (10 days of verified practice experience in your normal workplace preparation for ‘Readiness for direct practice’, followed by a practice placement of 80 days)
  • a mandatory residential school and three practice skills workshops – these are usually held face-to-face
  • five blocks of study, which you will study online.

You will be expected to critically apply relevant knowledge, skills and values in a practice setting to a professional standard. This will entail demonstrating your analytical use of module concepts and research findings, showing a critical appreciation of a range of social work theories and methods, and evidencing your ability to apply them appropriately to practice.

It is a professional requirement for you to engage in practice skills development, which will take place in the residential school and three practice skills workshops. These events are usually held face-to-face. Online alternatives will be provided for events and activities that are not possible to offer face-to-face due to public health restrictions or other exceptional circumstances. You will be told in advance of any changes. The practice skills workshops will form an essential component for skills development.

You will be required to demonstrate your ‘Readiness for direct practice’ before you undertake your first practice placement. Readiness for direct practice will be assessed by attending planned learning events, undertaking 10 days of verified practice in your normal workplace and completing a tutor-marked assignment. This is a regulatory requirement which you will need to evidence; and if you do not pass the assessment of Readiness for direct practice you will be de-registered from the module.

You will learn

This module has been designed to support students to begin the journey of becoming confident, critical, analytical and reflective practitioners who can work with other people to help meet the often complex needs of those who require social work support. This also entails being able to provide professional authority and leadership as qualified social workers.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

A module tutor will help with the academic content of the module, mark and comment on your written work, and provide academic advice and guidance. Most of the contact with your tutor will be through email and online discussion forums, although phone communication may also be used. Your tutor will run three compulsory practice skills workshops. These events are usually held face-to-face, but where this is not possible, high-quality online alternatives will be offered. The practice skills workshops provide essential support for you to apply module concepts to your practice learning. As well as the workshops, you will be expected to participate in your online tutor group discussion forum.

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


The assessment details can be found in the facts box. 

The first tutor-marked assignment (TMA) will comprise an assessment of your ‘Readiness for direct practice’. You must receive a pass mark for this TMA in order to be able to proceed with the rest of the module. There will be two further pieces of written assessment, one submitted during the module and the other at the end of the module.

Additionally, your practice learning will be assessed through a Practice Assessment Report submitted at the end of your placement, which will lead to a pass or fail recommendation to be considered by a Practice Assessment Panel and finally ratified by the Module Result Panel at the end of the module.

Professional recognition

On successful completion of both K832 and K833 you will be awarded the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work, entitling you to use the letters PG Dip Soc Wk (Open) after your name.

Information about the regulatory approvals in place for the PG Dip Soc Wk (Open) can be found in the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work qualification description (E85).

Residential School

This learning event will take place over a weekend in February and will provide you with an opportunity to focus on preparing your ‘Readiness for direct practice’ assignment and will include activities to foster skills development for effective communication, observation and reflection. It will provide opportunities for you to explore:

  • the value of evidence-based practice and the stages of the research process
  • ways in which you can make links between theory and practice
  • the importance of working in partnership with service users and carers (to include a focus on communication and relationship building skills, ethics and values)
  • the use of critical reflection and reflexivity in practice
  • the role of professional supervision
  • the importance of interprofessional working
  • self-assessment of prior learning, including undertaking an audit of transferable skills and knowledge, identifying your learning style, and establishing personal learning priorities
  • your placements, the regulatory framework, standards and contrast between K832 and K833 practice learning opportunities.

Participation is compulsory if you want to gain credit for the components required to demonstrate readiness for direct practice. If you do not pass the ‘Readiness for direct practice’ you will not be able to start your placement and will be de-registered from the module.

Course work includes

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

Future availability

Developing 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.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

This module is only available as part of the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work, which has minimum academic and other entry requirements and a formal admissions process. For full details please see Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work (E85).

Further information and how to apply is available from the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care website.  

To study this module you must be fully supported by your employer (or an organisation with whom you have an established relationship as a volunteer), who will be required to provide a suitable practice learning opportunity for you.

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

Outside the UK

This module is not available for study outside the UK and ROI, because the work-based learning must take place within a relevant regulatory framework.

Preparatory work

You will receive guidance on how to get started online in your first module mailing. This will provide you with information on using your computer for OU study by working with the OU Computing Guide. For example, it explains how to access and use your module 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.


Start End England fee Register
25 Jan 2025 Sep 2025 £4335.00

To register for this course - see 'Entry requirements'. Registration closes 09/01/25

February 2025 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Future availability

Developing 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.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Residential school

This module has a residential school. There’s no additional cost for this, but you must pay for your travel.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

Online learning guides containing interactive activities, video and audio resources, a reader, assessment guide, practice learning guide, and a programme handbook.

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

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

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.

If you have a disability

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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