Course Title: Critical Approaches to Social Work

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Critical Approaches to Social Work

Credit Points: 12


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


365H Global, Urban and Social Studies


Sem 1 2007,
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 2018,
Sem 1 2019,
Sem 1 2020

Course Coordinator: Associate Professor John Douglass Whyte

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 1079

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 08.10.34

Course Coordinator Availability: By appointment

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

You should have satisfactorily completed the prerequisite courses HWSS2090 History and Trends in Social Work and HWSS2091 Social Work Practice (Introduction to Social Work Practice) before you commence this course. Note it is a condition of enrolment at RMIT that you accept responsibility for ensuring that you have completed the prerequisite/s and agree to concurrently enrol in co-requisite courses before enrolling in a course. For your information the RMIT Course Requisites policy can be found at:;ID=twx09y07zi1c

Course Description


This course introduces critical approaches to social work practice. Critical approaches theorise the ways in which our experience and possibilities are shaped by history, language, culture and institutions, with particular attention to power relationships and social inequalities. You will explore the range of theoretical perspectives that are drawn together under the heading of ‘critical social work practice’, understanding their origins, scope of application and limitations. You will analyse contemporary social problems to identify the assumptions they make about human wellbeing and the social world. You will explore the application of principles of critical social work in practice.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

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

  • Locate critical approaches to social work practice and their philosophical and political bases in the history of social work theory development and the history of ideas
  • Identify the assumptions about human beings and society underpinning contemporary ideological and political debates in social welfare policy
  • Consider the relationship between social structures and contemporary social inequalities
  • Critically analyse how power relationships, history and language frame the experience of individuals, families, groups and communities
  • Recognise the scope and limitations of critical approaches to social work

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

  • Participate robustly in contemporary and changing ideological and political debates impacting on society, in an informed, flexible and grounded manner to evaluate policy and/or engage in policy debates
  • Apply a body of interdisciplinary knowledge, values and skills in working with and for society’s most vulnerable and marginalised individuals, families ,groups and communities
  • Critically analyse, synthesise and reflect on issues of social disadvantage, marginalisation and oppression in both local and international contexts, and proactively work to promote social justice and human rights
  • Demonstrate creativity, critical thinking and practical reasoning when identifying and solving problems in diverse contexts within the discipline of social work

Overview of Learning Activities

You will be engaged in learning that involves a range of face to face activities including lectures, tutorials, group and class discussion, group activities and individual research.

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 may include reports, projects and presentations, individually and in groups. Assessment will cover both theoretical and practical aspects of your learning. 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: