The primary goal of the BSW curriculum is to prepare students to enter generalist social work practice with diverse populations and in diverse settings. Generalist social workers have the expertise to analyze practice situations by taking into account characteristics of individuals who may be experiencing problems, while at the same time, evaluating the role that other systems such as the family, peer groups, organizations, the community and larger society play. In designing and carrying out interventions, the generalist may work directly with individuals experiencing problems that require counseling or other mental health services, but the generalist frequently employs other strategies such as linking people to services, advocating for change in unresponsive organizations, developing new programs and working with others to change social policies at the local, state and national levels. The generalist must be able to work with a diversity of populations and problems.
As a Council of Social Work Education accredited program our curriculum is designed to successfully prepare students to achieve 10 social work competencies comprised of the professions’ core knowledge, values and skills. These include the following:
Preparation for generalist practice involves developing a constellation of values, knowledge and skills. This preparation includes instruction in the following areas: human development over the life course, people as individuals and participants in larger systems, social policy and societal institutions, the value base which underlies and drives the social work profession, and the range of practice skills necessary for conducting and evaluating generalist practice. Social work focuses on the interaction between the person and society. Social and economic justice, discrimination, and system barriers that prevent people from reaching their potential are central issues to social work practice.
The sine qua non of the BSW curriculum is field instruction, which occurs in the final year of our program. Field instruction gives students the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of core social work competencies in practice settings under the direction of an experienced and trained social worker. Concurrently with field placement, students are enrolled in an integrative seminar designed to help students connect knowledge, values and skills learned in the classroom with experiences from field placement. Although students are expected to develop mastery of these competencies throughout the curriculum, the most important assessment of students' competencies occurs in field placement, as this is the best measure of students' abilities to apply core social work competencies in actual practice settings.
The curriculum leads to a BSW degree. This signifies that the program is much more than a major. The program begins from a liberal arts base. All social workers need an understanding of basic principles of the social, behavioral, and natural sciences and an appreciation for human culture through literature and the arts. Instead of the traditional major-minor designation used in many curricula, the program employs a major in Social Work coupled with an interdisciplinary cluster.
The Human Behavior Cluster consists of seven courses selected to promote an understanding of human behavior from several vantage points including psychology, sociology, anthropology, and biology. The cluster emphasizes human diversity across cultures. Courses in sociology and economics provide a foundation for understanding issues of social and economic justice and social welfare policy. Social workers must be able to think critically about practice and policy issues, so the cluster includes courses designed to develop critical thinking and analysis skills in social science research methods. These courses also deepen awareness of population groups who are vulnerable in our society such as people of color, women, and gay, lesbian and transgendered persons.
The social work major builds on the knowledge base provided by other disciplines through the cluster minors. In the major, students apply this knowledge base to the development of social work practice skills, knowledge and values. It is important to understand that the curriculum is not simply an aggregate of courses, but an integrated sequence of courses that provide the knowledge, values and skills required for social work practice. Students are required to complete courses in a particular order so that upper division courses may build on a common knowledge base from earlier courses. For example, if all students in an upper division practice course have completed a basic course in statistics, in research methods, and an introductory practice course, then all students can be expected to gather and analyze data as part of a course project in the advanced course. Because proper sequencing of the curriculum is important, the Council on Social Work Education expects that accredited programs have and follow an organized curriculum plan.
The courses required of all BSW students reflect the 10 core social work competencies as outlined in the Council of Social Work Education’s Educational Policies and Accreditation Standards, Educational Policies (EP) 2.1.1 to 2.1.10. These include:
Each of these competencies is covered in multiple courses in the Social Work Program and all are addressed in SW 480 and SW 481 Senior Field Placement I and II. Students must demonstrate all ten competencies through successful completion of course assignments and activities designed around them, including demonstrations of competencies within actual practice situations during field placement (senior year).
2.1.1: Identifying as a Professional Social Worker: Professional social workers advocate for client access to the services of social work; Practice personal reflection and self-correction to assure continual professional development; Attend to professional roles and boundaries; Demonstrate professional demeanor in behavior, appearance, and communication; Engage in career-long learning; and Use supervision and consultation.
Identifying as a social worker is a process and occurs throughout the program from SW 100 Exploring Social Work where students are introduced to the professional roles, values and ethics to SW 480 and SW 481 Senior Field Placement where students demonstrate these values, skills and ethics in practice. Courses especially important to this competency include:
2.1.2: Applying Social Work Ethics: Social workers recognize and manage personal values in a way that allows professional values to guide practice; Make ethical decisions by applying standards of the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics and, as applicable, of the International Federation of Social Workers/International Association of Schools of Social Work Ethics in Social Work, Statement of Principles; Tolerate ambiguity in resolving ethical conflicts; and Apply strategies of ethical reasoning to arrive at principled decisions.
Coverage of ethics is not limited to specified courses in our curriculum. Instead, the content is infused throughout all social work courses. Ethical reasoning is introduced in several in liberal arts courses as part of the liberal studies program. Our introductory social work course (SW 100 Exploring Social Work) provides an in-depth coverage of ethics as they relate to working in this field. Each subsequent course in the social work major includes content on ethics within the context of the primary topic for that course. Courses in the curriculum that are especially important to this competency include:
2.1.3: Applying Critical Thinking: Social workers distinguish, appraise, and integrate multiple sources of knowledge, including research-based knowledge, and practice wisdom;
Analyze models of assessment, prevention, intervention, and evaluation; and Demonstrate effective oral and written communication in working with individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, and colleagues. Foundations of critical thinking are addressed in liberal arts courses as part of the liberal studies program. Critical thinking is also covered in all social work courses. Courses that are especially important to this competency include:
2.1.4: Engage Diversity and Difference: Social workers recognize the extent to which a culture’s structures and values may oppress, marginalize, alienate, or create or enhance privilege and power; gain sufficient self-awareness to eliminate the influence of personal biases and values in working with diverse group; Recognize and communicate their understanding of the importance of difference in shaping life experiences; and view themselves as learners and engage those with whom they work as informants.
Cultural, social class, ethnic, racial and other aspects of diversity are introduced in several courses within the human behavior cluster minor, including: AN 100 Cultural Anthropology, NAS 204 the Native American Experience, HS 293 Minorities in American History, HS 273 Gay and Lesbian History, HS 283 the American Woman, SO 322 Social Class, Power and Mobility, SO 362 Gender and Society, and SO 372 Minority Groups. Diversity and cultural competence are infused in all courses in the social work curriculum. Those most pertinent to this competency include:
2.1.5: Advance Human Rights and Social and Economic Justice: Social workers understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination; Advocate for human rights and social and economic justice; and Engage in practices that advance social and economic justice.
Several courses in the Human Behavior Cluster Minor address human rights and social and economic justice, especially: EC 101 The American Economy, EC 201 Microeconomic Principles, EC 202 Macroeconomic Principles, SO 322 Social Class Power and Mobility, SO 362 Women, Men and Social Inequality, and SO 372 Minority Groups (formerly SO 282). Issues of human rights and social and economic justice are addressed throughout social work major courses, especially in the following courses:
2.1.6: Research-Informed Practice and Practice-Informed Research: Social workers use practice experience to inform scientific inquiry, and use research evidence to inform practice. Most courses in the Social Work Program require students to read, understand, and evaluate knowledge generated by social research. In SO 208 Research Methods I, a required course in the cluster minor (which can be substituted for another statistics course), and SW 308 Research Methods II, a required social work course, students develop the capacity to apply basic research procedures to social work practice functions such as conducting community needs assessments, monitoring client change, and performing program evaluations.
Social work courses especially relevant to this competency include:
2.1.7: Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Social workers utilize conceptual frameworks to guide the processes of assessment, intervention, and evaluation; and Critique and apply knowledge to understand person and environment. Human Behavior in the Social Environment perspectives provide a common knowledge base for social work practice in terms of understanding humans as biological, psychological, and social beings who shape and are shaped by a social environment. A general systems perspective is used to organize knowledge of people as individuals, as members of families and groups, and as participants in larger societal systems such as organizations and communities.
Human Behavior in the Social Environment concepts are introduced in several courses in the liberal studies program and in the Human Behavior Cluster Minor. Social Work courses that are most relevant to this competency include:
2.1.8: Policy Practice: Social Workers analyze, formulate, and advocate for policies that advance social well-being; and Collaborate with colleagues and clients for effective policy action. The Social Work Program helps students develop knowledge of social policy issues that confront our society, an introduction to policy analysis skills, and an appreciation for the importance for taking an active role in policy making as social work professionals. Social Work courses focused on policy practice include:
2.1.9: Practice Contexts: Social Workers continuously discover, appraise, and attend to changing locales, populations, scientific and technological developments, and emerging societal trends to provide relevant services within communities; and provide leadership in promoting sustainable changes in service delivery and practice to improve the quality of social services.
Social Work courses focused on preparing students for practice in and responding appropriately to various contexts include:
2.1.10: Engagement, Assessment, Intervention, and Evaluation: Social Workers substantively and affectively prepare for action with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities; Use empathy and other interpersonal skills; Develop a mutually agreed-upon focus of work and desired outcomes; Collect, organize, and interpret client data; Assess client strengths and limitations; Develop mutually agreed-upon intervention goals and objectives; Select appropriate intervention strategies; Initiate actions to achieve organizational goals; Implement prevention interventions that enhance client capacities; Help clients resolve problems; Negotiate, mediate, and advocate for clients; Facilitate transitions and endings; and critically analyze, monitor, and evaluate interventions.
While students are introduced to concepts of engagement, assessment, intervention and evaluation in the early stages of the social work program, it is in the advanced stages of the curriculum that a major focus becomes these stages of generalist practice. Courses where the major focus is on these dynamics of practice include: