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Educational aims

The programme aims to equip students as competent social workers by ensuring that they have the relevant knowledge, skills and values in accordance with the Qualification Framework for a Degree in Social Work in Wales, the QAA Benchmark Statement for degrees in Social Work, the National Occupational Standards for Social Work and the Care Council for Wales’ (CCW) Code of Practice for Social Care Workers. The international definition of social work (2001), which has been adopted to underpin the key purpose and occupational standards for social work, describes it as:

a profession which promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.

From this key purpose the following six key roles are identified:

  • Key role 1: Prepare for, and work with individuals, families, carers, groups and communities to assess their needs and circumstances.
  • Key role 2: Plan, carry out, review and evaluate social work practice, with individuals, families, carers, groups, communities and other professionals.
  • Key role 3: Support individuals to represent their needs, views and circumstances.
  • Key role 4: Manage risk to individuals, families, carers, groups, communities, self and colleagues.
  • Key role 5: Manage and be accountable, with supervision and support, for your own social work practice within your organisation.
  • Key role 6: Demonstrate professional competence in social work practice.

The programme is designed to equip students to fulfil these key roles as competent beginner social workers in Wales. To achieve this, it is structured to promote the integration of theory and practice and to embed theory and practice within an explicit framework of values and ethics, with particular reference to working with Welsh language sensitivity.

The structure of the 360-credit honours degree is built on 120 credits at Levels 1, 2 and 3. At each level, students will engage with 60 credits of theoretical but occupationally relevant material and 60 credits of practice-focused learning. At Level 1, students will be supervised for 20 days in a practice setting to ensure that they are suitable and safe to work directly with service users and carers. They will undertake two extended periods of practice learning which includes the time spent in practice settings and the study time needed to explore and develop this experience, and to integrate it with the more theoretically based learning. The assessment strategies for these two aspects of learning are different, with the practice-learning requiring evidence of personal and professional skills through portfolio development and feedback from practice supervisors/assessors.

Progression through the degree will be paced. The programme will aim to move the students from a development of awareness and understanding at Level 1, through a process of application and engagement at Level 2 to a capacity for critical, reflective and evidence-based practice at Level 3.

The descriptions below account for learning outcomes under discrete headings. It should be borne in mind, however, that the integrative and holistic approach to teaching and learning social work competencies means that the boundaries between knowledge and understanding, cognitive skills, key skills, and practical and professional skills are inevitably blurred.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding


  • issues and trends in modern public and social policy and their relationship to contemporary practice and service delivery
  • social processes such as racism, poverty, poor health and other sources of disadvantage, and how these are associated with processes of marginalisation, risks of crime and exclusion
  • competing explanations for the characteristics and circumstances of people who use services and for the range of perceived needs, including psychological and physiological, as well as social, theories of individual and social development, identity and functioning from infancy to old age and death
  • theoretical ideas and evidence from research on effective human services, including critical and competing explanations from social work theory and other relevant disciplines
  • the legal basis of human services in Wales and the role of professions, such as social work, in relation to such social processes
  • the roles and significant inter-relationships between a range of services, including social services, education, housing, health and criminal justice
  • the complex relationships and ethical and practical dilemmas surrounding justice, care and control in social welfare and community justice
  • the significance of inter-personal and socio-cultural factors in the delivery of effective human services in a diverse society with specific reference to working with Welsh language sensitivity and working within the Welsh culture
  • the nature of professional judgement and processes of risk assessment, including an understanding of the nature of risk and harm
  • approaches and methods of intervention in a range of family, community-based or group care settings
  • up-to-date legislation defining the rights of people, equal opportunities legislation, measures to tackle discrimination, and the roles of statutory agents, such as social workers, with a duty to uphold the law and protect the public
  • issues of Welsh language sensitivity and culture
  • codes of practice (including the CCW’s Code of Practice for Social Care Workers), the regulation of professional conduct, practice guidelines and the values underpinning them.

Cognitive skills

Be able to:

  • gather information from a wide range of sources, taking account of different views and being able to analyse and evaluate critically
  • consider and evaluate specific factors relevant to practice, such as risk, rights, identity and vulnerability
  • synthesise knowledge from contributing disciplines in order to apply it to an understanding and analysis of the situation and circumstances
  • critically evaluate evidence from research and be able to apply it, and to think logically, even under pressure
  • review and evaluate policies, judgements, decisions and interventions designed to be effective in mitigating personal and social disadvantage and risk.

Practical and/or professional skills

Be able to:

  • demonstrate the ability to fulfil the National Occupational Standards key roles for social work, at a qualifying level
  • demonstrate an understanding of the ethical basis of social work and the underpinning values of social work practice
    have knowledge of the theoretical basis of social work and apply this to practice
  • demonstrate an awareness of current research in both theory and practice. To have the ability to critically evaluate research evidence
  • work within the legal framework for practice
  • work in partnership with users and other professionals
  • work in ways that demonstrate understanding of Welsh language sensitivity and culture
  • practice critical self-reflection and engage in professional development.

Key skills

Be able to:

  • communicate effectively with individuals, groups and organisations, in a range of formal and informal situations, using an appropriate style and level, face to face, over the phone, in writing or by e-mail. Students will need to develop their Welsh language sensitivity skills and apply these in all levels of communication
  • use information and communication technology at a level that will enable them to get the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) or its equivalent
  • use information and communication technology methods and techniques for a variety of purposes, including professional communication, data storage and retrieval, information searching and resource management
  • gather, select and manage information from a wide range of sources and in a variety of ways, for a range of purposes. These methods should include electronic searches using the internet, use of electronic databases, reviews of written materials and face-to-face, written and telephone contact with individuals and groups
  • critically evaluate information, arguments and assumptions, being aware of different viewpoints, the authority of source, the limitations of techniques and the limit of their knowledge
  • calculate, analyse figures and interpret data in both statistical and financial contexts
  • present information and arguments verbally, in writing and using electronic communications, in a structured form that is logical, coherent and appropriate to the audience
  • manage own learning through the identification of learning needs, objective setting, monitoring progress by critical reflection, identifying strengths, weaknesses and areas to improve, and responding to feedback.

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

Knowledge and understanding

Core knowledge and understanding is taught via the use of specially prepared texts, reference texts, learning guides, directed reading, DVDs/CDs, web-based resources and CD-ROMs. Interactive learning helps to consolidate knowledge and understanding and develops the skills described later in this table. It takes place via the activities within the prepared texts. These may involve the students working alone with ideas, referred across perhaps to other module components or resources to draw upon. It may also take place online in guided discussion with other students. Additionally there will be opportunities for interactive learning in face to face group tutorials or day schools. This will include bilingual teaching methods within the three practice modules.

Students work independently with the teaching materials but are encouraged to form self-help groups. Associate lecturers support students both face-to-face and also through correspondence tuition providing detailed guidance and feedback on assignments. On some modules students will also have the assistance of a programme tutor who will take an overview of their progress in relation to practice learning.

Assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning – students will be required to complete scheduled assignments. These may take the form of essays, case studies, reflective accounts, interviews, questionnaires or projects. An end-of-module assessment may be via a written three-hour examination or a reflective review as a piece of extended writing. The examinations use a similar style of questions as in the assignments, suitably adapted for exam conditions.

Cognitive skills

Cognitive skills are promoted by the critical approach of the specially prepared texts and the other module resources. Students are encouraged to develop their own skills via the activities and exercises in the materials and through the tutorials and day schools. Within the context of the module and level, many activities require students to implement one or more of the cognitive skill outcomes.

As students progress through the levels of the programme, they will be initially expected to demonstrate a capacity to describe and articulate key understandings, then to examine, evaluate and compare different accounts and competing evidence and finally, at honours level, to analyse critically, taking account of the basis of any evidence and reviewing the level of risk and implications of any consequent actions.

Such skills are assessed via the same assignments and exams outlined above, any of which require demonstration of one or more cognitive skills. Developmental feedback from the associate lecturers encourages further refinement and progression.

Practical and/or professional skills

Teaching and assessment on the three practice learning modules at each of the levels will be concerned specifically with developing and testing practical and professional skills.

Teaching on the practice learning modules will be delivered in workshops and on placement. Each workshop will include training style activities to develop the student’s ability to understand key concepts and develop practice skills.

Written assessment will require students to demonstrate an understanding of the theoretical basis of social work and how they have applied this to practice. They will be required to show an ability to reflect on their own practice. The written assignments will be an opportunity for students to show integration of their learning across the programme.

Students’ placements will be supervised and assessed by a practice assessor. The assessor will judge the student’s practice using the framework of the six key roles and values requirements.

The programme also seeks to promote and encourage students’ use of Welsh language skills in academic work and practice learning settings so for the practice learning modules, students will have the option to be assessed, in either context, in the medium of Welsh.

Key skills

A framework for developing and assessing key skills will be established through the Level 1 modules. These Level 1 modules assume that students are new to degree-level study and offers carefully paced and structured support in developing study skills, basic information handling and communication skills. They also lay down a foundation capability for using ICT which is developed (to ECDL standards), along with further information literacy and learning skills, in later modules.

An integrated series of face-to-face workshops and online tutorials run through the practice modules and enable key skills development to be supported and assessed. The Level 2 practice module will require students to build and apply key skills in undertaking a series of learning activities/assignments centred on social work practice situations. By Level 3, the relevant key skills will be expected to be integrated into the performance of students demonstrating their ability to fulfil the key professional roles, but there will be a special emphasis on consolidation of information literacy and collaborative learning skills development to equip students for continuing professional development.