SWSP2003 Critical Social Work Theories

Level: Bachelor
Credit Points: Six
Prerequisites: SWSP1013; Successful completion of a minimum of four Level 100 units
Mode(s) of delivery: On-campus (Sydney)
Core/elective: Core

Unit Description

This unit explores the passion social work has for social justice and equality and the ideas about its cause and effect on the lives of individuals, families, communities and society - nationally and internationally. Theories that have social justice and critical analysis as their focus will be explored. A framework for a critically informed practice for evaluating the effectiveness of ‘the self’ as well as knowledge and practice skills will be explored in the current debates about social work's current and future role in the helping professions. Attention to anti-discriminatory and cross-cultural skills and language, and working effectively with difference in order to work towards an emancipatory outcome for all client groups will inform the skill development. Socially inclusive practice will be explored with specific attention given to spirituality and religion, and social work with people with disabilities and different abilities, sexual orientation and preference.

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. Understand various critical perspectives and their development in historical, political, social and cultural contexts.
  2. Describe critical theories' contribution to the individual approach to helping those in need.
  3. Describe how class, gender, ethnicity, ability, ideology and sexuality create exploitation and alienating practices for many people.
  4. Describe later influences of post-modernity on critical theory and the impact of language, difference, dialogue, discourse and power in creating and maintaining inequality and social injustice.
  5. Articulate critiques of these theories and their efficacy in the practice setting.
  6. Demonstrate a critically reflective stance in their personal and professional lives in order to respond to the increasingly complex issues in practice.

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 Texts

  • Morley, C., Ablett, P., & Macfarlane, S. (2014). Engaging with social work: A critical introduction. Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press.
  • Baines, D. (Ed.) (2011). Doing anti-oppressive practice: Social justice social work (2nd ed.). Halifax, Canada: Fernwood Publishing.

Recommended Readings

  • Gray, M., & Webb, S. A. (Eds.) (2013). The new politics of social work. London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Haynes, K. S. (2012). Empowering and transformative practice. In M. Gray, J. Midgely, & S. Webb (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of social work (pp. 264-278). London, England: SAGE Publications.
  • Orme, J. (2007). Feminist social work. In R. Adams, L. Dominelli, & M. Payne (Eds.), Social work: Critical issues and critical debates (pp. 218-226). Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.


  • 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 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.