SW0415 - Social and Psychological Contexts

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Students will engage with the social and psychological contexts relevant to social work practice. They will consider different kinds of inequalities in society and how they impact opportunities and outcomes for service-users, and also explore the changing social context of practice. Students will consider the human life-course, and models of mental health. The learning and teaching strategy will combine lectures, seminars and case-study assignments, and be assessed with a series of short-answer questions which ask students to consider the interrelation of different factors.


Crawford, K. and Walker, E. (2010) Social Work and Human Development. 3rd EdnExeter: Learning Matters Ltd.
Cunningham, J. and Cunningham, S. (2008) Sociology and social work. Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd.
Fenton, S. (2010) Ethnicity. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Polity.
Goodman, A. (2009) Social work and substance misusers. Exeter: Learning Matters.
Green, L. (2010) Understanding the life course. Cambridge: Polity.
Priestly, M. (2003) Disability: A life course approach. Cambridge: Polity.
Tew, J. (2004) Social perspectives in mental health: Developing social models to understand and work with mental distress. London: Jessica Kingsley.
Thornton, S. (2008) Understanding human development. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Journal Articles

Duncan, S. (2007) ‘What’s the problem with teenage parents’ Critical social policy, 27(3) pp.307-334.
McSherry, D. (2004) ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg: examining the relationship between child neglect and poverty’, British journal of social work, 34 pp. 727-33.
Banks, S. (2011) ‘Ethics in an age of austerity’ Journal of social intervention, 20(2) pp. 5-23.
Tolman, D., Spencer, R., Rosen-Reynoso, M., & Porche, M.V. (2003) ‘Sowing the seeds of violence in heterosexual relationships’, Journal of social issues, 59(1) pp.159-178.

Electronic Resources

Chalal, K. & Ullah, A.L. ( 2004) Experiencing ethnicity: Discrimination and service provision www.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/foundations/914


The curriculum will include
Sociology & Welfare
- Social divisions e.g. race, class, gender & sexuality
- Social model of disability
- Economic factors and debt

Sociological context of changing social work role
- Risk society, audit society
- Theories of responsibility
- Personalisation

Psychology & Wellbeing
Introduction to the life course
- Infancy and childhood
- Physical development
- Cognitive development
- Adolescence
- Adulthood
- Older Age

Models of mental health
Problematic Substance Use


This module aims to support learners to move from entry level to being able to draw on sociology, psychology, and health and welfare as approaches which inform social work practice with individuals, families and communities.
Learners should be able to consider research, theory, and other knowledge regarding factors which differently harm individuals and groups, and which can affect their life-chances. They will be oriented by the value of the expertise of service users and carers in weighing up the impact of different sociological and psychological factors. They will have awareness of the social context of the changing social work role, and be able to identify the interrelation between knowledge of inequalities and social work values.
This module is the first in the thread which scaffolds learning in relation to the Knowledge Capability within the Professional Capabilities framework. This module leads on to SW0511 ‘Risk and Development’, which will attend more closely to forms of harm, their impact on people, and the implications for practice.


On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Demonstrate knowledge of key ideas from the fields of sociology and psychology relevant to social work practice
2. Demonstrate knowledge of ideas relating to health and welfare, such as models of mental health
3. Show awareness of theoretical frameworks for appraising human development and change across the lifespan
4. Identify factors which can compromise or harm physical, cognitive and social development
5. Describe and appraise some of the social barriers which shape human development and well being
6. Demonstrate the value placed on the expertise of service users, carers and other professionals


SW0411, SW0412, SW0413, SW0414, SW0416


Lectures on the social and psychological context of social work will address both sociology and welfare, and psychology and wellbeing. Lectures will provide opportunities to guide students in learning to apply research, theory and knowledge, sociology, psychology, and health and welfare to social work practice. They will also make links with learning on other modules such as social work ethics and values, and social policy. Students will be asked to reflect in lectures on the interaction between the different factors which impact the opportunities and outcomes of service-users and carers.
Seminars will provide an opportunity for students to consolidate their knowledge. They will provide opportunities for students to reflect on how to apply knowledge in practice, and address sensitive issues such as the application of their knowledge in a diverse society. For example, whilst the social model of disability might be introduced in the lecture, the following seminar could further develop the implication of the division between the idea of ‘impairment’ and of ‘disability’ for social work practice.
A set of e-learning resources will be available to students, with e.g. exercises to further develop learning in lectures and seminars; test-yourself assessments to help students see how far they are towards meeting learning objectives.
The formative assessment for the module will be an opportunity for students to practice their skills in making use of different forms of knowledge in responding to a case-study (e.g. a mock planning meeting). This will help orient the students towards the practical implications of the knowledge they learn about on the module, and offer a chance to practice their skills in making sense of the opportunities and outcomes of service-users and carers in the context of interacting social and psychological factors


Summative assessment and rationale for tasks

The summative assessment for the module will be a workbook of reflections from their reading and learning over the course of the module accompanied by a short-answer coursework task. The questions in the coursework will address various dimensions of sociology and welfare, and of psychology and well-being, and the changing social context of social work practice. Short-answer coursework has the advantage of facilitating the assessment of students’ learning regarding the different kinds of social and psychological causes introduced in this module. The questions will be framed to assess students on their ability to utilise research, theory and the expertise of service users and carers. 2,500 words. 100%
b. Additional formative assessment – detail of process and rationale
The formative assessment for the module will be a practical case-study task. Students will be given the case-study in advance of the practical, in order to give an opportunity for them to further research relevant knowledge (e.g. relating to the ethnicity, impairment or the life-stage of the service-users). A member of staff will observe this practical and offer feedback on the students’ application of knowledge.
c. Indication of how students will get feedback and how this will support their learning
Students will receive ongoing verbal feedback in response to their questions and contributions in the seminars, and in response to the formative task. Students will also be able to get automated feedback on their responses to ‘test-yourself’ e-learning resources. Students will receive written feedback in response to the summative task, including guidance on further thinking and reading to help meet the different learning outcomes as fully as possible.

Course info

UCAS Code L502

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time

Department Social Work, Education & Community Wellbeing

Location Coach Lane Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2020 or September 2021

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