Exploring literacy in social work education: a social practices approach to student writing

Rai, Lucy (2004). Exploring literacy in social work education: a social practices approach to student writing. Social Work Education, 23(2) pp. 149–162.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0261547042000209170


The literacy of social workers has been highlighted as a concern by the strengthening of both entry and assessment literacy requirements of the new social work degree in the United Kingdom. This paper challenges the traditional perception of student writing, the specific focus of this paper, as being associated with basic literacy and skill acquisition, by presenting a `social practices' approach to student writing in social work education. Whilst in no way contradicting the belief that literacy is central to professional social work competence, and thus an essential aspect of social work education, this approach provides a social and cultural framework for educators to reflect upon what it means for students to engage in writing in social work courses. The paper focuses in particular on meaning making experiences of non-traditional (including Black and Minority Ethnic) students engaging in academic writing. The paper is based upon research which explores the experiences of a socially and ethnically diverse group of social work students engaged in academic writing on a diploma in social work programme. Whilst representing work in development, it suggests that the recognition of issues such as language history and identity are of significant importance for social work programmes striving to ensure that non-traditional students are not disadvantaged in their academic writing.

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