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SWSP2003 Critical Social Work Theories

Level: Bachelor
Credit Points: Six
Prerequisites: Nil
Mode(s) of delivery: Online
Core/elective: Core

Unit Description

This unit explores critical social work’s foundations in critical theory and the development of critical social work practice and approaches. It critiques historical and contemporary establishment social work approaches to address oppression and marginalisation and argues that only a critical approach can affect social change for human betterment.

Core skills imperative to a lifelong commitment to emancipatory social work practice are developed including critical thinking, critical and structural analysis, critical reflection and the use of critical theory to inform practice. A critical social work practice framework will be developed, informed by critical theory, critical social work approaches and principles of ethical social work practice. Understandings of the ‘self’, privilege, power, social location, oppression and disadvantage are explored including implications for practice.

The course emphasises innovative, disruptive and creative practice solutions built on a foundation of critical thinking and structural analysis. Students are reoriented to new and innovative critical social work practice that draws on a rich history of collective action; linking experiences of oppression with emancipatory action for social change and social justice outcomes.

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 have:

a)    Developed a critical practice framework informed by critical theory, critical social work approaches and principles of ethical social work practice.

b)    Advanced knowledge of the historical development of critical theory to explain the fundamental structural nature of poverty, inequality, disadvantage and marginalisation. Students will also be able to critically evaluate existing policies and programs developed to address disadvantage and oppression.

c)     Mastery of critical social work practice and the range of theories, methods, approaches and skills it encompasses.

d)    Advanced knowledge and skills in radical case work, critical policy analysis, community development, working with diversity, advocacy and collectivist social responses and ability to apply these approaches to a variety of practice contexts.

e)    Cognitive, technical, and creative skills including critical and structural analysis and critical reflection. Demonstrated use of these skills to critically reflect on the ‘self’, identity and social location. Ability to link critical reflection implications for critical social work practice.

f)      Cognitive, technical and creative skills to draw upon critical theory, critical social work practice and local and international critical social work examples. Demonstrated ability to develop innovative and alternative critical social work approaches that will address disadvantage and oppression in a range of practice contexts.


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 Texts

  • Morley, C., Ablett, P., & Macfarlane, S. (2019). Engaging with social work: A critical introduction. Cambridge University Press.
  • Pease, B, Goldingay, S, Hosken, N and Nipperess, S (2016) Doing Critical Social Work- Transformative Practices for Social Justice, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest
  • ADVANCES: Journal of Social Work and Welfare Education
  • Australian Journal of Social Issues
  • Australian Social Work
  • Critical Social Work
  • Journal of Social Work (UK)
  • Journal of Social Work Education (USA)

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 the Academic Misconduct Policy for full details.


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.