Course Title: Critical Social Work

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Critical Social Work

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


330H Social Science & Planning


Sem 1 2006


City Campus


365H Global, Urban and Social Studies


Sem 1 2007,
Sem 1 2008,
Sem 1 2009,
Sem 1 2010,
Sem 1 2011,
Sem 1 2012,
Sem 1 2013,
Sem 1 2014,
Sem 1 2015,
Sem 1 2016,
Sem 1 2017,
Sem 1 2019


City Campus


365H Global, Urban and Social Studies


Sem 2 2019

Course Coordinator: Associate Professor John Whyte

Course Coordinator Phone: 9925 1079

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: Building 8, Level 10

Course Coordinator Availability: By appointment

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities


Course Description

This course introduces you to critical theories as a framework for critical social work practice. ‘Critical social work’ encompasses a range of approaches that challenge the assumptions upon which societies and welfare practices have been constructed.
You will survey the historical development of theory in social work practice as it relates to key debates and fields of practice. You will develop a critical practice framework informed by analysis of the range of theoretical perspectives informing contemporary policy and practice contexts, principles of ethical social work practice, and application of lessons learned from the history of the development of social work as a profession. Emphasis will be placed on contemporary debates around poverty, inequality, the political nature of social suffering and the role of social work in responding to disadvantage and marginalisation.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

You will be assessed on your development of the following program learning outcomes in this course:

• Theorise and develop interventions that address the social structural and political levels through which poverty and inequality are generated and critically assess policies and programs developed to address disadvantage
• Apply sophisticated oral and written communication skills to present complex information to individuals, organisations and professional and non-professional communities in accessible and culturally appropriate ways
• Critically analyse theories informing social work practice and the contemporary policy context to develop an evidence base for ethical professional practice
• Practice as an autonomous ethical and critical social work practitioner with a commitment to lifelong learning
• Apply specialist social work knowledge and skills to understanding and responding to contemporary social disadvantage, oppression and marginalisation, recognising the fundamentally political nature of social suffering

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

Upon successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  1. Define and evaluate the scope and nature of social work practice and the challenges associated with contemporary social work
  2. Identify and critique the philosophical underpinnings of contemporary critical practice in human services
  3. Compare and contrast the value of different theoretical frameworks informing practice
  4. Interpret and appraise competing theoretical perspectives and practice approaches
  5. Propose and theorise key elements of a critical social work professional identity

Overview of Learning Activities

Seminars will involve a mix of lecture input and small group activities, including discussions and case studies.

Overview of Learning Resources

RMIT will provide you with resources and tools for learning in this course through our online systems.
A list of recommended learning resources will be provided by your lecturer, including books, journal articles and web resources. You will also be expected to seek further resources relevant to the focus of your own learning.

Overview of Assessment

  • You will be assessed on how well you meet the course’s learning outcomes and on your development against the program learning outcomes.
  • Assessment will cover both theoretical and practical aspects of your learning. You will be able to develop your work in relation to your own specific areas of interest in your professional practice.
  • Feedback will be given on all assessment tasks.
  • If you have a long term medical condition and/or disability it may be possible to negotiate to vary aspects of the learning or assessment methods. You can contact the program coordinator or the Disability Liaison Unit if you would like to find out more.
  • A student charter summarises your responsibilities as an RMIT student as well as those of your teachers.
  • Your course assessment conforms to RMIT assessment principles, regulations, policies, procedures and instructions which are available for review online:

Assessment tasks

Assessment 1: Quizzes (20%) [CLO 2,3 & 4]

Assessment 2: Essay (30%) [CLO 1, 3, 4 & 5] 

Assessment 3: Exam (50%) [CLO1,2,3,4 & 5]