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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Sociology

SOCI41940: Social Work in Context

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 40 Availability Available in 2021/22
Tied to L5K480 Social Work


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module provides students with an integrated knowledge and understanding of theory and research in the following areas that inform social work interventions:
  • i) the historical and organisational contexts of social work,
  • ii) physical, psychological, socio-cultural and economic aspects of human growth and development, disability and mental health,
  • iii) social work theory and methods,
  • iv) partnership working.
  • The module, delivered in the first months of the MSW, underpins and prepares students for their first practice placement. It complements, and is delivered in parallel with, Social Work in Practice. It is also complemented by the Professional and Personal Development module. Formative assessment based on critical reflection of an experience of group work and group presentation serves as preparation for summative assessments across first year modules.


  • The module will incorporate a number of specific elements reflecting the QAA benchmarks statements for social work, the Professional Capabilities Framework (diversity, rights, justice and economic well-being, knowledge, critical reflection and analysis, contexts and organisations) and Social Work England Professional standards. It will focus on the acquisition of subject specific knowledge of the contexts of social work and their integration with other programme components.
  • Historical and political context of social work;
  • Globalisation and international social work;
  • Social work theory;
  • Theoretical approaches to social work methods and interventions;
  • Critical understanding of Human Growth and Development including disability and mental health across the lifespan;
  • Partnership working: interagency, interprofessional and partnership working with users and carers;
  • Organisational theory and the organisation contexts of social work;
  • Outcomes of social work interventions in a range of contexts.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Awareness of the construction of social problems and processes leading to social exclusion of individuals, families, groups and communities, and the implications for social work practice (SSK1).
  • The organisational and disciplinary contexts of social work (SSK2).
  • Theories and research offering explanatory accounts of human growth, development and behaviour individually and in social settings (SSK3).
  • The theoretical and research foundations for social work interventions with individuals, families, groups and communities (SSK4).
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Acquisition, critical analysis and evaluation of knowledge and its application in decision making and problem solving activities of social work practice (SSS1).
  • Critical reflection and self-reflection to inform the development of social work practice (SSS8).
Key Skills:
  • The use of information technology and computer skills to research, analyse and disseminate information relevant to social work and in preparation for social work practice (KS1).
  • Critical thinking, critical analysis, problem solving and decision-making processes (KS3).

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • During periods of online teaching, for asynchronous lectures in particular, planned lecture hours may include activities that would normally have taken place within the lecture itself had it been taught face-to-face in a lecture room, and/or those necessary to adapt the teaching and learning materials effectively to online learning.
  • The module learning outcomes will be addressed through a combination of direct teaching, group work, workshops, fieldwork, directed observations, collaborative learning, and student presentations.
  • Knowledge and skills will be assessed through:
  • An individual 3000 word critical observation study (testing knowledge of Human Growth and Development and social work theory and methods);
  • An individual 3000 word agency report (testing knowledge of organisational contexts and partnership working).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Classroom based teaching/learning 20 2 x weekly 4 hours 80
Independent study: reading, class and assignment preparation 320
Total 400

Summative Assessment

Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Critical Observation Study 3000 words 50% Yes
Agency Report 3000 words 50% Yes

Formative Assessment:

A group presentation on social work theory and its application together with critical reflection on the experience of collaborative learning.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University