SCIE Knowledge review 06: Teaching and learning communication skills in social work education

By Pamela Trevithick, Sally Richards, Gillian Ruch and Bernard Moss with Linda Lines and Oded Manor

Published: May 2004


In 2003 the social work qualifying course became a three-year degree. The Department of Health set out requirements for social work training1 in which it identified five core areas that all students must undertake specific learning and assessment on. Communication skills is one of these.

Good communication, both oral and written, is at the heart of best practice in social work. Communication skills are essential for establishing effective and respectful relationships with service users, and are also essential for assessments, decision making and joint working with colleagues and other professionals.

SCIE is reviewing the evidence for the teaching and learning of all five core areas and this review is the second in the series.


The purpose of the review was to identify key good practice messages to assist social work educators in developing frameworks for teaching communication skills on social work qualifying courses. However, an absence of evaluated practice has made it impossible to recommend a framework for teaching communication skills. As a result, this review identifies areas where further research is required to underpin good practice.


This knowledge review is for people who teach social work (that is, academics, practice teachers and service users) and for researchers. It may also be of interest to students and social care workers.

Messages from the knowledge review

DH (Department of Health) (2002). Requirements for social work training, London: DH.


Related links

SCIE's resources on workforce development Department of Health