Sowk 546 – science of social work assignment 1


SOWK 546 – Science of SOcial work

Assignment 1 Guidelines

Self-Assessment of Practice Knowledge


Aims of Assignment

The overarching aim of Assignment 1 is to increase students’ appreciation of the science of social work by helping them to identify ways in which their practice goals and aspirations can be enhanced by critical thinking, scientific inquiry, and scientific practice knowledge. Specific aims of the assignment include the following:

1) To deepen students’ understanding of how their personal characteristics, values, and experiences have influenced their decision to pursue social work as a profession, as well as their goals and aspirations as a professional social worker. 

2) To help students identify, refine, or validate their practice interests.

3) To enhance students’ ability to assess their existing practice knowledge and to determine what additional knowledge they need in order to achieve their practice goals and aspirations.

4) To strengthen students’ ability to formulate practice questions that, when answered, will enhance their practice competence and effectiveness.

Format & Approach

The assignment consists of three parts. The first part of the assignment addresses the connection between your life experiences and your professional identity as a social worker. The second part of the assignment relates to your current areas of interest and the professional knowledge you currently have in the specified area of interest. Finally, the third part of the assignment asks that you develop practice questions that you have regarding this area of interest. 

By the end of Assignment 1, you will have developed practice questions that are relevant to YOUR professional interests and development. One of the questions that you formulate will be the basis for Assignments 2 – 4. In some instances, multiple questions might be combined to create a single question that will form the basis for the subsequent assignments.

In subsequent assignments, you will gather, review, critique, and integrate information and knowledge related to the practice question that is the focus of the portfolio assignments. Ultimately, you will be asked to use the information and knowledge that gained as a result of completing the portfolio assignments in to answer the practice question around which the assignments revolve AND to raise awareness about some aspect of the question and/or answer.

In the space provided, please provide thoughtful responses that reflect your understanding and application of key concepts and terminology. When completing the assignment, it is important to reflect not just on the item and your response, but also on the item and response in relation to the other items and responses. Additionally, it is important to reflect on the process of completing the assignment and on your experience. Please recognize that in some instances, there are no right or wrong answers.

When completing the assignment, it is suggested that you to carefully review and refer to (1) the NASW Code of Ethics (2008), (2) the Council on Social Work Education Educational Policy and Academic Standards(EPAS)(2013), and (3) The Grand Challenges for Social Work.

Grading & Submission

Assignment 1 comprises 10% of your final grade. Grading for the assignment will be based on a 100 point scale.  Points for each item are identified within the assignment. The total number of points earned will then be divided by 10,converting the score into a 10 percentage point scale. Points will be based on (a) the presence or absence of a response to each assignment question or item, (b) the completeness of your response, (c) the thoughtfulness of your response, and (d) the clarity of your response.

All assignments must be uploaded into the VAC platform. Emailed assignments will not be accepted. Use the following convention for naming your document for uploading:

[insert last name].[insert first name].546_Assignment1 

Learning Outcomes Addressed by Assignment 1

This assignment addresses the following student learning outcomes: 1, 2, 3, & 5.

Part 1. Formulating Your Professional Identity



Begin by reflecting on your personal characteristics, values, and experiences. As part of your reflection, consider how diversity and difference might have shaped you and your identity. Dimensions of diversity are understood as the intersectionality of multiple factors. These include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, tribal sovereign status, nationality, immigration status, culture, color, class, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, relationship or marital status, ability and disability, age, religion/spirituality, and political ideology (CSWE 2015). 

1. In no more than ONE paragraph, describe how diversity and difference have shaped your life experiences. Consider, for example, your experiences with exclusion, oppression, discrimination, marginalization, poverty, and alienation as well as inclusion, privilege, power, access, and acclaim.(5 POINTS)


Next, reflect on how your personal characteristics, values, and experiences have influenced your decision to pursue social work as a profession and the problems, issues and populations with which you are most interested.

2. In no more than ONE paragraph, identify a population (for example, older adults who are socially isolated, children who were maltreated, individuals with physical disabilities, individuals who have traumatic life events, etc.), or issue (for example, commercial sexual exploitation of women, substance abuse, mental health treatment disparities, homelessness, intimate partner violence/family violence, etc.) that interests you and will likely become an area of specialization for you as a professional social worker. (5 Points)


Reflect on you aspirations as a professional social worker. As part of your reflection, think specifically about both your short- and long- term goals as a professional social worker. 

2. In no more than ONE paragraph, discuss your short-term goals and aspirations as professional social worker. As part of your discussion, describe the capacity in which you hope to be working upon graduating from the MSW program at USC. For example, one might envision being a social worker in a non-profit community based agency, a school social worker, a clinical social worker in a Department of Mental Health or other agency, a child protective services worker, a community advocate or policy consultant, a grant-writer or program consultant, working as a case manager for a specific population, substance abuse counselor, child or family therapist, etc.(10 POINTS)



Part 2. Identifying Your Practice Interests & Knowledge Needs



This class, along with all others you take while in MSW program at USC, is designed to prepare you for “specialized practice.” Specialized practice augments and extends social work knowledge, values, and skills to engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate within an area of specialization. Specialized practitioners advocate with and on behalf of clients and constituencies in their area of specialized practice. They also synthesize and employ a broad range of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary knowledge and skills based on scientific inquiry and best practices, and consistent with social work values. Finally, specialized practitioners engage in and conduct research to inform and improve practice, policy, and service delivery (CSWE 2015). 

This part of the assignment is designed to help you determine your preliminary area of specialization as a professional social worker. If you have already decided on an area of specialization, this part of the assignment can reinforce your decision OR it can allow you to change your focus or explore a secondary area of interest. This might be based on your personal experiences, prior work as a social worker or other professional, reading about social work and the Grand Challenges, or from exposure to coursework and your field placement as a USC SSW student.

3. In your reading, you have explored The Grand Challenges for Social Work that “represent a dynamic social agenda, focused on improving individual and family well-being, strengthening the social fabric, and helping create a more just society (American Academy of Social Work and Social welfare).” Check the box that is most aligned with your interests as a social worker, as described above. It is recognized that your interests and desired areas of specialization likely are aligned with several of The Grand Challenges. However, for this assignment, please select only one. Click here to review the 12 Grand Challenges: (5Points) 

o Ensure healthy development for all youth

o Close the health gap

o Stop family violence

o Advance long and productive lives

o Eradicate social isolation

o End homelessness

o Create social responses to a changing environment

o Harness technology for social good

o Promote smart decarceration

o Reduce extreme economic inequality

o Build financial capability for all

o Achieve equal opportunity and justice

Now that you have selected one of the 12 Grand Challenges, you are asked to reflect and think more specifically about your interests related to the Challenge and to narrow the focus to a more specific problem or issue. Go to the Grand Challenges website ( and click on the one you selected to access a series of working papers that drill down further. 

4. Based on any reading and additional thoughts, which aspect of this Grand Challenge interests you and is most likely to be an area in which you will focus your specialized practice as a professional social worker. In no more than TWO paragraphs, discuss this more narrow focal area and the reason for this interest. If using content (i.e. statistics, quotations, other reference materials) from the website or any other source, be sure to use proper citations. (15 POINTS)


5. In no more than one paragraph describe some things you already know about this area of specialization and the source of that knowledge (reading, personal experience, professional experience, etc.). (10 POINTS)


6. In no more than one paragraph, describe what types of things you think you still need to learn in order to advocate for, engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate within this area of specialization to enhance your competence. (10 POINTS)


Part 3. Formulating Practice Questions to Enhance Your Practice Competence& effectiveness



This final part of the assignment is designed to enhance your ability to formulate practice questions. When answered, the practice questions you formulate will enhance your practice competence and effectiveness. By the end of this part of the assignment, you will be one step closer to becoming the professional social worker you imagined and described earlier in the assignment and be better equipped to address an area of interest and specialization.

While there are a number of ways to conceptualize practice based questions, practice based questions can be focused around four general areas of inquiry: 1) Etiology and Theory – our understanding of the problem/issue, its etiology, theories of causation and contributing factors; 2) Scope and Impact -our understanding of the scope, incidence/prevalence and impact of the problem or issue, especially the impact on vulnerable populations ; 3) Policy Impact – our understanding of the impact of policy (social, economic, political, legislative, etc.) in terms of how it negatively and/or positively impacts the issue/problem; and, 4) Intervention/Program Impact – our understanding of the impact of programs and interventions, and which of them lead to the best outcomes for our clients. 

Questions related to theory or etiology might center around your lack of understanding of the causes of the problem or issue, and often without understanding causation, it is difficult to relate to the client’s problem. What factors might exist that make the problem worse or better? Can the issue be best understood from the perspective of multiple and intersecting theories? For example, what are the inter-related theories that explain chronic homelessness?

Questions related to the scope of the problem and its impact on vulnerable and other populations might relate to a lack of awareness of the breadth of the problem. How many people are impacted? For example, do we really know how many victims of human sex trafficking there are? Related to impact, one might ask what is the untreated prognosis of the problem or issue – if we do nothing to intervene, what are the negative outcomes for individuals, families groups, community or society? 

Questions related to policy will center on our lack of awareness of the impact of historical or contemporary policies, which could include legislation, judicial decisions, fiscal policies and other policies. For example, what policies perpetrate mass incarceration, particularly of men of color? What changes can be made related to policy to address this problem? 

Questions related to the impact of programs and interventions are the most familiar to social workers, especially clinical social workers. Questions such as which intervention is most effective for treating PTSD, and the identification of factors which lead to more successful outcomes are common questions in this area of inquiry. 

For each of the four areas of inquiry, formulate ONE practice question related to your professional knowledge needs in your chosen area. Formulate a question that, if answered, will significantly enhance YOUR professional competence. In other words, what do you need to learn in order to become a better, more ethical, and more effective social worker in this area of specialization?

Note that one of the four questions that you formulate will be the basis for Assignments 2 and 4. Throughout the semester, you will continue to refine the question that you select.



Practice   Question #1 – ETIOLOGY/THEORY:





Practice   Question #2 – SCOPE   and IMPACT:





Practice   Question #3 – POLICY impact :





Practice   Question #4 – Intervention/program   Impact:



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