Social Work within a Community Discourse: Challenges for Teaching and Learning

Forde, Catherine and Lynch, Debby (2008) Social Work within a Community Discourse: Challenges for Teaching and Learning. [Conference Proceedings]


In this paper we discuss our interdisciplinary collaboration as educators, one from a social work background and the other from a community work background, and consider the challenge of teaching community work to social work students in a way that is relevant for contemporary practice and that embraces community work principles and values. The paper begins with a consideration of the long-standing debate about the relationship between social work and community work and the relative similarities and divergences between the two approaches. It proceeds to explore Jim Ife’s (1998) framework of competing discourses of human services and how the framework has helped us to articulate our thinking and teaching practice in the Irish context. For us, the framework reconciles social work and community work within a community discourse that provides a language transcending disciplinary boundaries. This approach represents a means of familiarising students with the community work process and enabling them to take action on issues of social justice. The framework represents four competing models of human service delivery: the managerial, the market, the professional and the community. We discuss how we use this conceptualisation to teach and engage students in a process of critical reflection. The paper discusses methods that we use to undertake this process, the development of our joint teaching practice over the last four years, and students’ reflections on their learning.

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