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«Purpose: Social Work Practice, Education, and Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards The purpose of the social work profession is to promote ...»

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Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards

Purpose: Social Work Practice, Education, and Educational Policy and Accreditation


The purpose of the social work profession is to promote human and community well-being. Guided by a

person and environment construct, a global perspective, respect for human diversity, and knowledge

based on scientific inquiry, social work’s purpose is actualized through its quest for social and economic

justice, the prevention of conditions that limit human rights, the elimination of poverty, and the enhancement of the quality of life for all persons.

Social work educators serve the profession through their teaching, scholarship, and service. Social work education—at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral levels—shapes the profession’s future through the education of competent professionals, the generation of knowledge, and the exercise of leadership within the professional community.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) uses the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) to accredit baccalaureate- and master’s-level social work programs. EPAS supports academic excellence by establishing thresholds for professional competence. It permits programs to use traditional and emerging models of curriculum design by balancing requirements that promote comparability across programs with a level of flexibility that encourages programs to differentiate.

EPAS describe four features of an integrated curriculum design: (1) program mission and goals; (2) explicit curriculum; (3) implicit curriculum; and (4) assessment. The Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards are conceptually linked. Educational Policy describes each curriculum feature.

Accreditation Standards (in italics) are derived from the Educational Policy and specify the requirements used to develop and maintain an accredited social work program at the baccalaureate (B) or master’s (M) level.

Copyright © 2008, Council on Social Work Education, Inc., all rights reserved.

Revised March 27, 2010 / Updated August 2012

1. Program Mission and Goals Educational Policy 1.0—Program Mission and Goals The mission and goals of each social work program address the profession’s purpose, are grounded in core professional values (EP 1.1), and are informed by context (EP 1.2).

Educational Policy 1.1—Values Service, social justice, the dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, integrity, competence,1 human rights, and scientific inquiry are among the core values of social work.

These values underpin the explicit and implicit curriculum and frame the profession’s commitment to respect for all people and the quest for social and economic justice.

Educational Policy 1.2—Program Context Context encompasses the mission of the institution in which the program is located and the needs and opportunities associated with the setting. Programs are further influenced by their historical, political, economic, social, cultural, demographic, and global contexts and by the ways they elect to engage these factors. Additional factors include new knowledge, technology, and ideas that may have a bearing on contemporary and future social work education and practice.

Accreditation Standard 1.0—Mission and Goals The social work program’s mission and goals reflect the profession’s purpose and values and the program’s context.

1.0.1 The program submits its mission statement and describes how it is consistent with the profession’s purpose and values and the program’s context.

1.0.2 The program identifies its goals and demonstrates how they are derived from the program’s mission.

These six value elements reflect the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics.

National Association of Social Workers (approved 1996, revised 1999). Code of Ethics for Social Workers.

Washington, D.C.: NASW.

–  –  –

Educational Policy 2.0—The Social Work Curriculum and Professional Practice The explicit curriculum constitutes the program’s formal educational structure and includes the courses and the curriculum. Social work education is grounded in the liberal arts, which provide the intellectual basis for the professional curriculum and inform its design. The explicit curriculum achieves the program’s competencies through an intentional design that includes the foundation offered at the baccalaureate and master’s levels and the advanced curriculum offered at the master’s level. The BSW curriculum prepares its graduates for generalist practice through mastery of the core competencies. The MSW curriculum prepares its graduates for advanced practice through mastery of the core competencies augmented by knowledge and practice behaviors specific to a concentration.

Educational Policy 2.1—Core Competencies Competency-based education is an outcome performance approach to curriculum design. Competencies are measurable practice behaviors that are comprised of knowledge, values, and skills. The goal of the outcome approach is to demonstrate the integration and application of the competencies in practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. The ten core competencies are listed below [EP 2.1.1–EP 2.1.10(d)], followed by a description of characteristic knowledge, values, skills, and the resulting practice behaviors that may be used to operationalize the curriculum and assessment methods.

Programs may add competencies consistent with their missions and goals.

Educational Policy 2.1.1—Identify as a professional social worker and conduct oneself accordingly.

Social workers serve as representatives of the profession, its mission, and its core values. They know the profession’s history. Social workers commit themselves to the profession’s enhancement and to their own professional conduct and growth. Social workers  advocate for client access to the services of social work;

 practice personal reflection and self-correction to assure continual professional development;

 attend to professional roles and boundaries;

 demonstrate professional demeanor in behavior, appearance, and communication;

 engage in career-long learning; and  use supervision and consultation.

Educational Policy 2.1.2—Apply social work ethical principles to guide professional practice.

Social workers have an obligation to conduct themselves ethically and to engage in ethical decisionmaking. Social workers are knowledgeable about the value base of the profession, its ethical standards, and relevant law. Social workers  recognize and manage personal values in a way that allows professional values to guide practice;

 make ethical decisions by applying standards of the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics2 and, as applicable, of the International Federation of Social Workers/International Association of Schools of Social Work Ethics in Social Work, Statement of Principles;3  tolerate ambiguity in resolving ethical conflicts; and  apply strategies of ethical reasoning to arrive at principled decisions.

Educational Policy 2.1.3—Apply critical thinking to inform and communicate professional judgments.

Social workers are knowledgeable about the principles of logic, scientific inquiry, and reasoned discernment. They use critical thinking augmented by creativity and curiosity. Critical thinking also requires the synthesis and communication of relevant information. Social workers  distinguish, appraise, and integrate multiple sources of knowledge, including research-based knowledge, and practice wisdom;

 analyze models of assessment, prevention, intervention, and evaluation; and  demonstrate effective oral and written communication in working with individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, and colleagues.

Educational Policy 2.1.4—Engage diversity and difference in practice.

Social workers understand how diversity characterizes and shapes the human experience and is critical to the formation of identity. The dimensions of diversity are understood as the intersectionality of multiple National Association of Social Workers (approved 1996, revised 1999). Code of Ethics for Social Workers.

Washington, DC: NASW.

International Federation of Social Workers and International Association of Schools of Social Work. (2004). Ethics in Social Work, Statement of Principles. Retrieved January 2, 2008 from http://www.ifsw.org factors including age, class, color, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, immigration status, political ideology, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. Social workers appreciate that, as a consequence of difference, a person’s life experiences may include oppression, poverty, marginalization, and alienation as well as privilege, power, and acclaim. Social workers  recognize the extent to which a culture’s structures and values may oppress, marginalize, alienate, or create or enhance privilege and power;

 gain sufficient self-awareness to eliminate the influence of personal biases and values in working with diverse groups;

 recognize and communicate their understanding of the importance of difference in shaping life experiences; and  view themselves as learners and engage those with whom they work as informants.

Educational Policy 2.1.5—Advance human rights and social and economic justice.

Each person, regardless of position in society, has basic human rights, such as freedom, safety, privacy, an adequate standard of living, health care, and education. Social workers recognize the global interconnections of oppression and are knowledgeable about theories of justice and strategies to promote human and civil rights. Social work incorporates social justice practices in organizations, institutions, and society to ensure that these basic human rights are distributed equitably and without prejudice. Social workers  understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination;

 advocate for human rights and social and economic justice; and  engage in practices that advance social and economic justice.

Educational Policy 2.1.6—Engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research.

Social workers use practice experience to inform research, employ evidence-based interventions, evaluate their own practice, and use research findings to improve practice, policy, and social service delivery.

Social workers comprehend quantitative and qualitative research and understand scientific and ethical approaches to building knowledge. Social workers  use practice experience to inform scientific inquiry and  use research evidence to inform practice.

Educational Policy 2.1.7—Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment.

Social workers are knowledgeable about human behavior across the life course; the range of social systems in which people live; and the ways social systems promote or deter people in maintaining or achieving health and well-being. Social workers apply theories and knowledge from the liberal arts to understand biological, social, cultural, psychological, and spiritual development. Social workers  utilize conceptual frameworks to guide the processes of assessment, intervention, and evaluation; and  critique and apply knowledge to understand person and environment.

Educational Policy 2.1.8—Engage in policy practice to advance social and economic well-being and to deliver effective social work services.

Social work practitioners understand that policy affects service delivery, and they actively engage in policy practice. Social workers know the history and current structures of social policies and services; the role of policy in service delivery; and the role of practice in policy development. Social workers  analyze, formulate, and advocate for policies that advance social well-being; and  collaborate with colleagues and clients for effective policy action.

Educational Policy 2.1.9—Respond to contexts that shape practice.

Social workers are informed, resourceful, and proactive in responding to evolving organizational, community, and societal contexts at all levels of practice. Social workers recognize that the context of practice is dynamic, and use knowledge and skill to respond proactively. Social workers  continuously discover, appraise, and attend to changing locales, populations, scientific and technological developments, and emerging societal trends to provide relevant services; and  provide leadership in promoting sustainable changes in service delivery and practice to improve the quality of social services.

Educational Policy 2.1.10(a)–(d)—Engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

Professional practice involves the dynamic and interactive processes of engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation at multiple levels. Social workers have the knowledge and skills to practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Practice knowledge includes identifying, analyzing, and implementing evidence-based interventions designed to achieve client goals;

using research and technological advances; evaluating program outcomes and practice effectiveness;

developing, analyzing, advocating, and providing leadership for policies and services; and promoting social and economic justice.

–  –  –

Educational Policy 2.1.10(d)—Evaluation Social workers critically analyze, monitor, and evaluate interventions.

Educational Policy B2.2—Generalist Practice Generalist practice is grounded in the liberal arts and the person and environment construct. To promote human and social well-being, generalist practitioners use a range of prevention and intervention methods in their practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. The generalist practitioner identifies with the social work profession and applies ethical principles and critical thinking in practice. Generalist practitioners incorporate diversity in their practice and advocate for human rights and social and economic justice. They recognize, support, and build on the strengths and resiliency of all human beings. They engage in research-informed practice and are proactive in responding to the impact of context on professional practice. BSW practice incorporates all of the core competencies.

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