Latest information about COVID-19

SWSP1013 Social Work Theories

Level: Bachelor
Credit Points: Six
Prerequisites: None
Mode(s) of delivery: Online
Core/elective: Core

Unit Description

This unit is an introduction for first-year social work students and provides a broad understanding of social work theory within the social work profession at the beginning level. Students are introduced to a range of social work theories and the relationship between social work theories and social work practice. Social work with individuals, children and families, groups, and communities and the dilemmas that confront social workers in their daily practice are examined to assist students to begin to analyse the values, attitudes, beliefs and action in social work.

Unit Workload

The workload for this unit is 9 hours per week. This includes timetabled class time and private study time.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Describe what theory is and its link with practice.
  2. Describe and discuss concepts of equality, fairness and social justice and how they underpin the philosophical base of social work.
  3. Articulate social work values and ethics and describe the influence factors such as gender, ethnicity, ability, age and class have on shaping these values and ethical and cultural practices.
  4. Describe contemporary social work theories and their underlying assumptions about the social, cultural and intra-psychic worlds of individuals, communities and societies and how they are applied to different social problems.
  5. Demonstrate practice skills linked to theories discussed, such as relationship work, problem exploration, the process of assessment, networking, and advocacy.
  6. Demonstrate the use of ‘reflection’ in theory and practice in order to be able to respond to more complex issues with people and communities.

Learning and Teaching Process

This unit is taught over 12 weeks and totals 3 student contact hours per week.

Students will participate in teaching and learning activities including:

a)     Lectures and critical discussion

b)   Tutorials and skill development activities

c)   Online pre-learning activities

d)   Online post-learning

 Depending on the delivery mode, this unit’s content is delivered to students via

  • A weekly 3 hour learning session [via Zoom]. One hour will be didactive material delivered in lecture format. Two hours will be interactive class time, for discussion of the lecture, readings, assessments and class activities.

In addition to timetabled contact hours, students are expected to do at least 6 hours of personal study each week to review lectures and read prescribed and recommended materials for this unit. The total individual workload of this unit will be around 9 hours (including teamwork, individual self-study and reading).


Recommended Text

  • Healy, K. (2014). Social Work Theories in Context: Creating frameworks for practice (2nd ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Payne, M. (2014). Modern social work theory (4th ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.

Recommended Readings

  • Brekke, J. S. (2012). Shaping a science of social work. Research on Social Work Practice, 22(5), 455-464.
  • Mattsson, T. (2014). Intersectionality as a Useful Tool: Anti-Oppressive Social Work and Critical Reflection, Journal of Women and Social Work, 29(1), 8-17.
  • Samson, P. L. (2015). Practice wisdom: The art and science of social work. Journal of Social Work Practice: Psychotherapeutic Approaches in Health, Welfare, and the Community, 29(2), 119-131.
  • Turner, S.G., Maschi, T.M. (2015). Feminist and empowerment theory and social work practice, Journal of Social Work Practice, 29(2), 151-162, DOI:10.1080/02650533.2014.941282


  • Australian Social Work
  • ADVANCES: Journal of Social Work and Welfare Education
  • Australian Journal of Social Issues
  • Critical Social Work
  • Journal of Social Work Education (USA)
  • Journal of Social Work (UK)

Academic Misconduct

Ethical conduct and academic integrity and honesty are fundamental to the mission of ACAP. Academic misconduct will not be tolerated by the college. Please refer to for full details of the Academic Misconduct Policy.


This unit outline may be updated and amended from time to time. To ensure you have the correct outline please check it again at the beginning of the trimester. For a list of required textbooks for the upcoming trimester, please click here.