Course Title: History and Trends in Social Work

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: History and Trends in Social Work

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


365H Global, Urban and Social Studies


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 2018,
Sem 1 2019,
Sem 1 2020,
Sem 1 2021,
Sem 1 2022,
Sem 1 2023

Course Coordinator: Dr Sharlene Nipperess

Course Coordinator Phone: +(61 3) 9925 2944

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

In this course you will be introduced to the profession and discipline of social work. You will explore the breadth and variety of activity that constitutes social work nationally and internationally and the histories that have shaped it. You will examine key debates about social work and you will reflect on the challenges and opportunities awaiting those who choose to enter the social work profession. 

You will also be provided with an introduction to studying and learning at university and in particular to ways of learning that are especially important in professional education. You will acquire study skills that will be relevant for successful completion of the social work program but also for continuing learning into the future. 

As a foundational social work course, you will begin to develop an analytic and critical appreciation of the work done by social workers and the conditions that lead to their involvement in the lives of others. The course will help you to understand the potential of social work to be both a liberating and disabling profession: a tension/theme you will continue to explore throughout your program. 

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

Program Learning Outcomes  

In this course you will develop the following program learning outcomes:   

  • 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. 

Course Learning Outcomes  

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

  1. Describe what social work is and identify the diversity of social work practice
  2. Recognise contemporary issues in social work and critically analyse their social and historical contexts
  3. Employ analytic and critical skills in learning about social work in relation to the key social and political debates that impact on individuals, families and groups
  4. Reflect thoughtfully on social work as a chosen area of study and professional career 

Overview of Learning Activities

You will be engaged in learning that involves a range of activities including lectures and smaller classes. The learning activities in this course may involve you working in small groups, contributing to large group discussions and participating in planned activities. You will also have the opportunity to practice and develop your academic and study skills. 

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 may be required to purchase a reading pack or text book. You will also be expected to seek further resources relevant to the focus of your own learning.  

There are services available to support your learning through the University Library.  

The University Library has extensive resources for social work students. The Library has produced a subject guide that includes quality online and print resources for your studies. 

The Library provides guides on academic referencing and subject specialist help as well as a range of study support services. For further information, please visit the Library page on the RMIT University website and the myRMIT student portal.

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 Tasks

Assessment Task 1: Self-Reflection, 500 words, 20% CLO 1 and CLO 4

Assessment Task 2: Group presentation on agency visit, 30 minutes, 40% CLO 1, CLO 2 and CLO 3

Assessment Task 3 - Annotated bibliography, 1500 words, 40%  CLO 1, CLO 2, CLO 3 and CLO 4

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 Equitable Learning Services if you would like to find out more.

Your course assessment conforms to RMIT assessment principles, regulations, policies, procedures and instructions.