Publish at July 03 2022 Updated July 03 2022

Social Work Practice: Advocating Social Justice and Change

How social workers in the United States engage in creating change

In this course, you will learn how social workers in the United States engage in creating change and supporting the resilience of individuals, families and communities in this new era. Learners will have an opportunity to explore the social work profession, the different roles of social workers in a range of settings, the cross cutting themes that guide social work practice, the history of social work, and current challenges.

Using a social justice lens, learners will reflect on current challenges facing the lives of individuals, families and communities and examine ways to advocate for needed changes.


  • Week 1 - What is Social Work? : This module focuses on defining social work as a profession, exploring roles social workers perform across settings, examining core social work skills at the micro, mezzo, and macro system levels and addressing social work professional ethics. We hope that by the end of this module, you will have a greater understanding of the breadth of social work and the range of roles and skills social workers develop in their work.
  • Week 2 - Integrated Themes of Social Work : In this Module, you will have the opportunity to learn about the core frameworks and approaches the guide how social workers engage in change efforts. The core frameworks include: the ecological systems perspective, the strengths approach, and empowerment, the use of a social justice lens, a cultural humility framework, and an evidence-informed practice perspective. The module begins with brief mini-lectures about the core frameworks and some examples of how evidence is used to promote change efforts. You will then engage in applying what you have learned to a case situation. You will listen to a brief discussion of the case from former MSW students. You will also take a brief quiz that highlights the core frameworks. To conclude this module, you will hear from a few professionals about how they link the core frameworks to their own practices.
  • Week 3 - A History of Social Work : This module explores the history of social work as a field. You will have the opportunity to engage with an interactive timeline that outlines how different people, events, and policies have helped shape U.S. based social work over the past 100 years. You will also hear from current-day social workers whose work builds upon the historical contexts you’ve explored. Finally, you’ll learn about social work’s “Grand Challenges” and how these are shaping the future direction of the field.
  • Week 4 - Privilege, Oppression, Diversity, and Social Justice : Module 4 explores the connection between social work and social justice. Indeed, some social workers maintain that social work is social justice. You’ll learn about a framework for centering justice in social work: Privilege, Oppression, Social Justice, and Diversity (P.O.D.S.), as well as the key concepts of intersectionality and praxis. You will also hear from faculty and social workers in the field about how their work seeks to center justice.

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