Advancing social work practice

This is an interdisciplinary module with subject matter derived from psychology, sociology, social policy, law and social work studies. It builds on the pre-requisite module Developing social work practice (K832) and will support you as a student social worker in becoming a confident, analytical and reflective practitioner. You'll extend your research skills and explore social work practice with different service user groups.

Vocational relevance

Advancing social work practice (K833) is the second of the two compulsory modules leading to the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work which is a professionally qualifying award.


K833 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 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 in October and finish in June. Prior to the start of this module, you would have successfully completed and passed Developing social work practice (K832).

After successfully completing this module you will:

  • 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 practise
  • be able to think critically about the complex social, cultural, legal, economic and political contexts in which social work practice is located
  • Identify and evaluate different perspectives on mental health, including social, psychological and medical, and the significance of service user and carer views
  • Apply social work methods in order to achieve change, maintain stability, develop independence, improve life opportunities and promote wellbeing
  • Demonstrate a conceptual understanding to be able to critically evaluate current research.

During this module you will study four blocks: Research Based Practice; Mental Health; Professional Development; and one from Social Work Practice with Children and Families, or Social Work with Adults. For the last block of this module 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.

This module has been designed on pedagogic principles associated with active learning and uses a blended-learning approach of online and face-to-face teaching and learning. Therefore 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 online and at face-to-face learning events. Where it is not possible to provide face-to-face learning, online alternatives will be offered. You will be alerted to any changes.

In addition to module-directed activities within the learning materials, there are opportunities to 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 (a practice placement of 90 days)
  • three mandatory face-to-face practice skills workshops
  • four 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 at three practice skills workshops. The workshops are usually held face-to-face but online alternatives will be offered where this is not possible due to public health restrictions or other exceptional circumstances and in agreement with the tutor. The three workshops will form an essential component for skills development.

You will learn

This module has been designed to support students to continue 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 face-to-face practice skills workshops. The practice 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 for this module can be found in the facts box.

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).

Course work includes

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

Future availability

Advancing social work practice (K833) 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 2025.


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).

In addition, you will need to have successfully completed and passed Developing social work practice (K832). 

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

Outside the UK

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

Preparatory work

You will need to have successfully completed and passed Developing Social Work Practice (K832) and have access to a practice placement organised by your sponsoring agency.

You would have already received 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
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £4335.00

To register for this course - see 'Entry requirements'. Registration closes 12/09/24

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2025.

Future availability

Advancing social work practice (K833) 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 2025.

Additional costs

Study costs

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

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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