Learning, teaching and assessment of law in social work education

SCIE Guide 13

By Suzy Braye and Michael Preston-Shoot

Published October 2006

About this guide

This guide focuses on learning, teaching and assessing law in social work education. It is not the purpose of the guide to prescribe law curriculum content. Rather, its purpose is to set out the key choices that those engaged in learning, teaching and assessing law must consider. This is followed by examples of how that learning, teaching and assessment might be enriched, for example through the involvement of experts by experience, or the use of case studies.

Key messages

  • The participation of experts by experience in the teaching and assessment of law in social work education has been noticeable by its absence.
  • Students’ understanding of law decays over time when their knowledge is not routinely used. Social work programmes and individual practitioners, when engaged in continuing professional development, must attend to updating social work knowledge and skills.
  • There is only limited research evidence on the outcomes and effectiveness of different methods of learning, teaching and assessing law in social work education. There is an urgent need to integrate research into the provision of teaching, learning and assessment.
  • In professional education and in practice, social work and legal practitioners can learn much from each other’s perspectives and can integrate their knowledge and skills to achieve beneficial outcomes with experts by experience.
  • Law learning, teaching and assessment is more effective when closely aligned to the tasks, dilemmas and situations that social workers will encounter in practice.
  • Law learning, teaching and assessment should have as its purpose a moral/ethical and rights-based framework to enable students to bring critical enquiry and reflection to their roles and tasks. Technical competence should not be the sole goal.

Context

In 2003 the social work qualifying course became a three-year degree. The Department of Health set out requirements for social work training in which it identified five core areas of learning. Law is one of these.

If social workers do not know relevant law and how to apply it there can be serious consequences for service users, practitioners and managers. Social workers also need to be able to question procedures, roles and the social impact of law. They must be critical thinkers as well as skilled technicians.

SCIE is reviewing the evidence for the teaching and learning of all five core areas of the social work degree. This guide is based on a preceding knowledge review.

Purpose

The purpose of this guide is to set out the key choices that those engaged in learning, teaching and assessing law must consider. This is followed by examples of how that learning, teaching and assessment might be enriched, for example through the involvement of experts by experience and the use of case studies.

Audience

The guide is primarily for use by social work law lecturers but it will also be useful for ‘experts by experience’ (service users), external examiners, care council staff, practice teachers and social workers in training at qualifying and post-qualifying levels. The intended readership is everyone with an interest, commitment and/or responsibility for ensuring quality outcomes from the social work degree in respect of social workers’ knowledge of, critical reflection on and skilled use of their legal powers and duties.

Find out more

See also Knowledge review 08: Teaching, learning and assessment of law in social work education.