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Studying for your Social Work Degree

Studying for your Social Work Degree

Jane Bottomley | Patricia Cartney | Steven Pryjmachuk



Studying for your Social Work Degree is PERFECT for anyone wanting to train to become a social worker. After reading this fully comprehensive guide you will understand:

  • the structure and culture of HE, and how social work fits into it
  • what to expect, and what will be expected of you, as a university student
  • teaching and assessment methods within social work, so that you can perform to the best of your ability in an academic environment
  • how to manage your social work studies in an effective way and make the most of the resources available to you.

The books in our Critical Study Skills series will help you gain the knowledge, skills and strategies you need to achieve your goals. They provide support in all areas important for university study, including institutional and disciplinary policy and practice, self-management, and research and communication. Packed with tasks and activities to help you improve your learning, including learner autonomy and critical thinking, and to guide you towards reflective practice in your study and work life. Uniquely, this book is written by an experienced social work lecturer and an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) lecturer.


Pat Cartney is Head of Social Work in the School of Health Sciences Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at the University of Manchester. She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her teaching  and research interests focus on exploring how people learn best about professional practice and how they become knowledgeable and skilled social work practitioners.

Jane Bottomley is a Senior Language Tutor at the University of Manchester and a Senior Fellow of the British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes (BALEAP).She has been involved in the development of a number of content-based academic study skills courses at the University of Manchester and has published widely in this field. 

Steven Pryjmachuk is Professor of Mental Health Nursing Education in the School of Health Science's Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at the University of Manchester and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. His teaching, clinical and research work has centred largely on supporting and facilitating individuals – be they students, patients or colleagues – to develop, learn or care independently. In December 2014, Steven was elected as vice Chair (2015-16) and Chair (2017-18) of Mental Health Nurse Academics UK, an organisation representing 65 Higher Education Institutions providing education and research on mental health nursing.

This is a very welcome, refreshing addition to the field.....I enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking of studying a social work degree or thinking of becoming a lecturer or an Associate Tutor on a social work degree programme.

Ann Anka, University of East Anglia

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Cover Cover 1
Half-title i
Series information ii
Title page iii
Copyright information iv
Table of contents v
Acknowledgements vi
Meet the series editor and authors vii
Introduction viii
Chapter 1 Studying social work in higher education 1
What is HE? 2
Your social work degree 2
Qualification frameworks 3
Courses and credits 4
Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) 5
Lifelong learning and continuous professional development 6
Being a university student 7
Study time 8
Virtual Learning Environments 9
Lectures 10
Seminars 11
Tutorials 12
Independent learning 13
Summary 14
References 14
Chapter 2 Strategies for effective learning 16
What is learning? 16
Managing your learning: student autonomy 17
Strategies for effective learning 19
Being organised 19
Being disciplined 20
Being realistic 20
Being smart 20
Being positive 21
Being proactive 21
Being committed 22
Being open-minded 22
Being reflective and self-aware 22
Learning styles 23
Discussion of case studies 25
Collaborative learning 26
Collaboration in social work 27
Collaboration in action 28
Important qualities in group work 30
Managing conflict 30
Discussion: managing conflict 31
Discussion of case studies 35
Summary 32
References 32
Chapter 3 Becoming a member of your academic and professional community 34
Joining the academy 34
Academic principles, pursuits and practices 37
Teaching, research and knowledge 37
Values, beliefs and academic integrity 40
Communication 41
Academic phrasebank 41
The social work community 42
Historical landmarks in social work 42
Current developments in ethical guidance for social work 46
Reflective practice 46
Your Professional Development Portfolio (PDP) 47
Identifying and challenging poor practice 47
Graduate attributes 47
Discussion: applying graduate attributes 49
Summary 50
References 50
Chapter 4 Critical thinking 52
What is critical thinking? 52
The critical thinker 55
Critical thinking in universities 55
Critical thinking in social work 56
Applying and developing your critical thinking skills 57
Approaching learning resources critically 57
Active reading 59
Synthesis of information and ideas 60
Scrutinising research and arguments 63
Demonstrating criticality in your academic work 68
Discussion versus description 69
Stance 69
Argument 70
Objectivity 70
Persuasiveness 71
Demonstrating criticality in your social work practice 71
Summary 72
References 72
Chapter 5 Academic resources: technology and the library 74
Understanding technology and developing good computer skills 74
Hardware 74
Discussion of hardware uses at university 75
Software 76
Office suites 76
Word processing 77
Presentations 78
Spreadsheets 80
Communication software 81
The internet 82
The cloud 84
Social media 85
Online behaviour and security 85
Computer security 85
Personal security 85
The university library 86
Knowing what’s out there 87
Conducting a literature search 88
Identifying key search terms 88
Refining your search 89
Widening your search 89
Google and Wikipedia 89
Summary 90
References 90
Chapter 6 Assessment 91
Assessment in higher education 91
Submission and marking of assessments 92
An effective approach to assessment 93
Become assessment literate 93
Plan and manage your time 93
Written assessments 94
Reports 94
Portfolios 94
Essays 94
Dissertations 95
Oral assessments 95
Exams 96
Social work practice placement assessments 98
Feedback on academic work 99
Good practice in feedback 100
Your response to feedback 100
Summary 102
References 102
Appendix: The language of higher education 103
Answer key 106
Index 113