Policy practice in social work education: A literature review

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The aim of this study was to review existing knowledge on policy practice (PP) in social work education that seeks to train undergraduate and graduate social work students to influence social policy. The review, based on different search strategies, identified 113 publications written by scholars from Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa, UK and the USA. The review revealed marked growth in interest in PP education between 1970 and 2014. This was reflected in articles that have reported on six areas: research on the place of PP in social work curricula; research on students’ preferences with regard to PP; recommendations on what to include in PP education; descriptions of actual pedagogical methods and courses; evaluations of actual pedagogical methods; and tools for assessing PP competencies. Most of this discourse was devoted to descriptions of PP courses and teaching methods and much less to systematic evaluation of PP teaching.

Key Practitioner Message: • Policy practice education is playing a growing role in social work training at both the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Master of Social Work (MSW) levels; • The literature suggests a wide range of innovative experiential approaches in class and in actual policy arenas; • To further strengthen the field, systematic evaluations of policy practice teaching innovations are required.

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