Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module SOCI41940: Social Work in Context

Department: Sociology

SOCI41940: Social Work in Context

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 40 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap
Tied to L5K380


  • 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 (social work) module that involves interprofessional learning with community and youth work students. Formative assessment (group and individual) undertaken on the Social Work in Practice module serves as preparation for assessments undertaken for this module.


  • 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 HCPC standards of proficiency. 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

  • 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:

Students are already undertaking formative assessment during the parallel module Social Work in Practice

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