SWSP6013 Social Work Theory and Practice (Critical Theories and Skills)

Level: Master
Credit Points: Six
Prerequisites: None
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, anti-oppressive practice 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, socially inclusive outcome for all client groups. 

Unit Workload

The unit includes twelve sessions of 3 hours of class time on campus. It will be taught over two-weekend blocks, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9am and 4pm (includes a 1-hour lunch break):

  • Week 3:               Sessions 1-6       
  • Week 11:             Sessions 8-13    

Students are required to attend both weekend blocks.


Class time will be used for interactions with students to facilitate discussion of unit materials and assessments, presentations and group activities. Course materials will be available in the online class space. In addition to the 3 hours of class time, students are expected to engage in 6 hours of private study per session.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Compare and contrast knowledge of various critical perspectives and place their development in historical, political, social and cultural context.
  2. Analyse later influences of post-modernity as well as anti-oppressive theory on critical social work and the impact of language, difference, dialogue, discourse and power positions in creating and maintaining inequality and social injustice.
  3. Demonstrate critical reflection, strength-based and solution focused practices for use with client groups.
  4. Demonstrate advanced skills in case assessments, mediation, conflict resolution, policy evaluation, advocacy and cross-cultural skills for use in practice.
  5. Demonstrate ethical maturity in all interventions with client groups and colleagues.
  6. Critically reflect on and respond to current ideological shifts about social inclusion and anti-oppressive theory, identity, sexuality, difference and disability, notions of care, professional helping and use and abuse of the role of the professional against their emerging professional stance.

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

  • Baines, D. (Ed.) (2017). Doing Anti-oppressive Social Work: social justice social work (3rd ed.). Halifix and Winnipeg: Fernwood.
  • Morley, C., Ablett, P., & Macfarlane, S. (2014). Engaging with social work: A critical introduction. Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press.

Recommended Readings

  • Adams, R., Dominelli, L., & Payne, M. (Eds.) (2002). Social work: Critical issues and critical debates (2nd ed.). Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Allan, J., Briskman, L., & Pease, B. (Eds.) (2009). Critical social work: Theories and practices for a socially just world. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin.
  • Baines, D. (Ed.) (2011). Doing anti-oppressive practice: Social justice social work (2nd ed.). Halifax, Canada: Fernwood.
  • Beddoe, L., & Maidment, J. (2009). Mapping knowledge for social work practice: Critical intersections. South Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning Australia.
  • Chung, R., & Benak, F. (2012). Social justice counselling: The next step beyond multiculturalism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
  • Dominelli, L. (2002). Anti-oppressive social work theory and practice. Hampshire, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Dominelli, L. (2002). Feminist social work theory and practice. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Gray, M. & Webb, S. (Eds.) (2013). The new politics of social work. London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Fejo-King, C. (2013). Let’s talk kinship: Innovating Australian social work education, theory, research and practice through Aboriginal knowledge. Torrens, Australia: Christine Fejo-King Consulting.
  • Fook, J. (2002). Social work: Critical theory and practice. London, England: SAGE Publications.
  • Healy, K. (2012). Social work methods and skills: The essential foundations of practice. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Jandt, F. (2013). An introduction to intercultural communication: Identities in a global community. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
  • Jones, K., Cooper, B., Ferguson, H., & Ferguson, T.H. (2008). Best practice in social work: Critical perspectives. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Knapp, M., & Daly, J. (Eds.) (2011). The SAGE handbook of interpersonal communication. London, England: SAGE Publications.
  • Koprowska, J. (2010). Communication and interpersonal skills in social work. Exeter, England: Learning Matters.
  • Lavalette, M. (Ed.) (2011). Radical social work today: Social work at the crossroads. Bristol, England: The Policy Press.
  • Lindsay, T., & Orton, S. (2014). Group work practice in social work (3rd ed.). Exeter, England: Learning Matters.
  • Maidment, J., & Egan, R. (2009). Practice skills in social work and welfare: More than just common sense. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin.
  • Mullaly, B. (2010). Challenging oppression and confronting privilege: A critical social work approach. Don Mills, Canada: Oxford University Press.
  • Muller, L. (2014). A theory for Indigenous Australian health and human service work: Connecting Indigenous knowledge and practice. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin.
  • O’Hara, A., & Pocket, R. (2011). Skills for human service work: Working with individuals, groups and communities (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.
  • Shulman, L. (2009). The skills of helping individual, families, groups and communities (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
  • Thompson, N. (2006). Anti-discriminatory practice (4th ed.). Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Trevithick, P. (2006). Social work skills: A practice handbook (2nd ed.). Buckingham, England: Oxford University Press.


  • 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.