Program Overview for Instructors

Conceptualization of the MSW Curriculum

The MSW curriculum consists of a professional foundation and an advanced concentration. Both the professional foundation and advanced concentration are organized according to five curriculum areas: Social Work Practice, Human Behavior in the Social Environment (HBSE), Social Welfare Programs and Policies (SWPP), Social Work Research, and the Field Practicum. Within each curriculum area social work values and ethics, diversity, social and economic justice, and populations at risk are addressed. The narratives below briefly describe the curriculum within each sequence area.

At the foundation level the curriculum is grounded in a generalist perspective which emphasizes the importance of working across a range of systems that includes individuals, couples, families, groups, agencies and communities. The generalist perspective maintains a focus on the interaction between systems (person-in-environment perspective) and utilizes specific theories such as systems theory and empowerment theory, as well as the strengths perspective. Students learn about and are expected to demonstrate the ability to carry out a range of social work roles, including but not limited to, case manager, advocate mediator, and counselor.

During the professional foundation year students undertake an integrated set of final assignments which focuses on demonstrating competencies in engagement, assessment, and practice with individuals, families, and communities, as well as a policy/service organization assessment and improvement project (formerly referred to as the POPS project). These assignments are designed to facilitate the integration of a generalist social work perspective with an improvement project conducted at the field learning site.

The advanced concentration curriculum focuses on deepening knowledge and skills and adding breadth, depth, and specificity to that which was learned in the professional foundation. Students deepen and extend their assessment, intervention, and evaluation skills with diverse and at-risk populations; demonstrate an understanding of the major theories that inform clinical practice with individuals and families, and the micro and macro factors underlying mental health and illness; and deepen critical thinking skills and the ability to use empirical research to inform the implementation of evidence-based practice. Throughout the curriculum there is attention to social and economic justice and the importance of practicing competently with diverse and at-risk populations.

Socialization to the profession also continues in the advanced concentration year. Students are expected to consolidate their identification as a professional social worker, recognize and manage personal values in a way that allows professional values to guide practice, implement strategies for applying ethical principles to decision-making processes in practice, practice self-awareness and respect for its importance to the therapeutic process and demonstrate reflection, independence, and accountability for professional behavior, practice, and lifelong learning.