SWSP1013 Social Work Theories

Level: Bachelor
Credit Points: Six
Prerequisites: None
Mode(s) of delivery: On-campus (Sydney)
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 Approach

  1. Learning is an active process – which involves both questioning and challenging.
  2. Learning is a shared process – where others’ thoughts and ideas are presented, critically analysed, exchanged and respected.
  3. Learning is a collaborative and empowering process for self and others.
  4. Learning is thoughtful and reflective.
  5. Learning requires integration with prior knowledge and other arenas of knowledge development in the program.
  6. Preparation for lectures and seminars and reading the recommended texts and references is essential.

The content of this unit has been designed to maximise both online and face-to-face learning to integrate the subject matter.

Students are expected to:

  • Complete all activities
  • Complete readings
  • Complete all assessments
  • Attend all classes

It is also recommended that students:

  • Keep a record of new terminology that is introduced in this unit
  • Keep a copy of assessments and other correspondence
  • Make notes on unit content and readings

There will be learning activities linked to all lecture materials which are designed to encourage students to deliberate and reflect and to provide opportunities for further learning. The activities are designed to help students think through and practise the specific skills and general concepts presented in this unit as well as provide valuable learning opportunities.


Recommended Text

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

Recommended Readings

  • Adams, R., Dominelli, L., & Payne, M. (2002). Social work: Critical issues and critical debates (2nd ed.). Hampshire, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Allan, J., Pease, B., & Briskman, L. (Eds.) (2009). Critical social work: An introduction to theories and practices (2nd ed.). Sydney, Australia: Allen & Unwin.
  • Beddoe, L., & Maidment, J. (2009). Mapping knowledge for social work practice: Critical intersections. South Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning.
  • Chenoweth, L., & McAuliffe, D. (2012). Starting the journey: An introduction to social work and human service practice. South Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning Australia.
  • Connolly, M., & Harms, L. (2011). Social work: From theory to practice. Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press.
  • Coulshed, V., & Orme, J. (2012). Social work practice. Hampshire, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Gray, M., Midgley, J., & Webb, S. (Eds.) (2012). The SAGE handbook of social work. London, England: SAGE Publications.
  • Healy, K. (2005). Social work theories in context: Creating frameworks for practice. Hampshire, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Healy, K. (2012). Social work methods and skills: The essential foundations of practice. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Thompson, N., & Thompson, S. (2008). The social work companion. Hampshire, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Wilson, K., Ruch, G., Lymbery, M., & Cooper, A. (2008). Social work: An introduction to contemporary practice. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.


  • 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 http://currentstudents.acap.edu.au/assets/Managing-My-Course/A-Z-Policies/Academic-Misconduct-Policy.pdf 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.