Distance M.S.W. Program

Course Descriptions

SOWK 500 - Principles & Philosophy of Social Work (3 credits)

This foundation course is offered in order to set the larger framework for professional practice. The goal of the course is to provide students with an understanding of the nature, history, traditions, and issues of professions in general and most importantly of social work. It also provides the student a chance to evaluate his or her goodness-of-fit with the values and ethics, the purposes and focus, the sanctions for practice, the knowledge base required, and the people served by social workers.

The professional need for the course is seen in diminishing the parochialism often found in social work practice through a focus on the commonalities that bind social workers into a single profession. The educational need for the course is seen in providing a conceptual and practical umbrella for whatever course of professional activity the student wishes to pursue. This foundation course provides the larger picture necessary to: 1) place its companion foundation courses in theory for social work practice (SOWK 515), social work practice (S0WK 511), social welfare policy (SOWK 520), and social work research methodology (SOWK 600) into context; 2) create the conceptual base for the first year field placement (SOWK 588); and 3) provide the underpinnings for all advanced practice courses.

SOWK 511 - Generalist Practice- Small Client Systems (3 cr.)

This course provides grounding in the generalist social work practice perspective with a focus on practice with individuals and families within a social systems framework. Basic practice skills will be introduced including communication skills and techniques, relationship skills, and use of self. This course provides the first foundation practice content for the graduate social work program. The overall goal of this course is to provide opportunities for students to build and integrate beginning social work practice skills with the theoretical concepts that support them. These skills are applied to individuals, families, and small groups within the context of social systems and the generalist perspective.

SOWK 512 - Small Client Systems Skills Laboratory (1 cr.)

This course is designed to develop foundation practice skills for the graduate social work program. Professional social work practice is grounded in the helping relationship, central to generalist practice with all client system levels. The establishment and maintenance of relationships are also central to the problem-solving approach (engagement, assessment, planning, intervention, evaluation, disengagement) to planned change. This course is focused on skill development through experiential learning opportunities within the classroom.

SOWK 515 - Theoretical Foundations for Social Work (4 cr.)

This course examines the application of theoretical approaches to the understanding of human behavior across a variety of social work situations and levels of analysis. A focus is placed on theories that are used by the social work profession to explain and assess functioning at micro, mezzo, and macro levels, recognizing that theory evolves out of historical, political and cultural contexts. Strength and resilience, diversity and oppression, and the impact of economic and social forces are emphasized as important influences on human behavior. An emphasis is placed on the application of theory within the context of an advanced generalist perspective for social work practice. This course also investigates the interrelated roles of theory, research, and practice within social work, and discusses the philosophical and theoretical foundations of knowledge within the social work profession.

There are three overall goals of this course. One is to provide students with a theoretical foundation for understanding human behavior across system levels. The second is to provide students with an opportunity to begin to develop a personal theory for practice across system levels, based upon critically evaluating and integrating human behavior theories. Third, students will be introduced to the interrelationship of research, theory and practice, and will be given a background in theory and knowledge building within the social work profession.

SOWK 520 - Social Welfare Policy Analysis (3 cr.)

This course aims to help students develop a perspective for understanding social welfare policies and the impact of these policies on people and their families, groups, and communities. The course builds on students' knowledge of social welfare services and provides historical and current analysis of the social welfare institution in the context of the American socioeconomic system. The concept of human rights is introduced as a bedrock for social justice. Difficulties inherent in defining social justice are presented as an important area for discussion. Most social work practice takes place in the social welfare arena and consequently social workers are in an advantageous position to serve as policy analysts and advocates for policy change. This School of Social Work, as well as the profession through the requirements of the Council on Social Work Education, recognizes the responsibility of all social workers to contribute to the policy process as part of their professional practice.

SOWK 588 - Foundation Field Placement (1-6 cr.)

Being placed in a CSU School of Social Work approved social service agency, students are provided the context to put their social work knowledge, values, methods, and skills to use in professional practice. The MSW foundation field placement is comprised of 270 hours (approximately 16 hours per week) of supervised agency practice experience over one semester plus one week (total of 17 weeks) in the spring semester.

In completing this course, students will be prepared for entry-level social work practice positions. The MSW field experience expects students to engage in agency assignments and opportunities for generalist practice across all client systems with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities; to integrate the classroom learning into the field assignments; to carry out assignments that develop foundation social work skills; and to develop their practice within the context of social work foundation practice behaviors.

Assignments, across all levels of practice, will develop foundation social work skills and will contribute to the student's knowledge, understanding, and capacity to successfully demonstrate generalist social work practice behaviors.

SOWK 600 - Methods of Research I (3 cr.)

This is the first course of a two semester sequence that introduces students to the types of research methods and data analysis used by social workers. The organizing theme of the two courses is the relationship between social work research and practice. SOWK 600 is an introductory course that examines the purposes of social work research, the methods of quantitative and qualitative inquiry, and the processes involved in conducting research studies. For example, the specification of research problems, utilization of the literature to assist with the generation of research questions, and methodological issues such as research design, sampling, and measurement will be covered in this course. SOWK 600 will feature lectures, small-group discussions, large-group sharing, and class time to work on course assignments.

SOWK 601 - Methods of Research II (3 cr.)

This is the second course of a two-semester sequence that introduces you to the research designs, methods, and analyses commonly used by social workers in the field. You will apply quantitative and qualitative data analysis techniques and interpret and report research findings as it relates to social work practice. During this course, you will be asked to synthesize all you have learned by writing a research proposal.

SOWK 602 A&B - Macro-Level Social Work Practice Research (2 cr. each semester)

This two-semester course is designed to increase student competencies in macro-level practice research methodology. The focus is on the design and implementation of needs assessment, program evaluation or community research. Assignments, when feasible, are related directly to the student's field practice placement and are to be integrated with that agency or community's needs. The CSU Graduate School Research Committee Process is adhered to, with two members from the School of Social Work and one outside member from another academic unit within the University. Students will normally work in groups of two or more; a petition process is necessary if a student is required to work individually.

SOWK 611 - Generalist Practice: Large Client Systems (3 cr.)

The purpose of the course is to provide students with an understanding of the history, values, theory, processes and skills for generalist social work practice at the level of action groups, organizations and communities. Students are introduced to social work practice knowledge and skills that assist purposive organizational and community change, including assessing needs, identifying and analyzing organizational and community structures and systems, and developing an action plan to organize resources for effecting change. A theoretical framework is provided to generate awareness of the social, political and professional issues related to practice with communities, organizations and action groups. Particular attention will be given to understanding, valuing, and working with members of diverse populations in a practice context that advances human rights and social and economic justice.

SOWK 630 - Advanced Generalist Practice with Individuals (2 cr.)

This advanced course focuses upon micro-level assessment and intervention skills for direct practice in intensive direct-service settings.

SOWK 631 - Advanced Practice with Communities (2 cr.)

This second year course in the advanced practice sequence focuses on intervention within the community context. Building upon the role of community change agent, the purpose of the course is to engage students in the identification and use of practice knowledge and intervention strategies to be used with "intermediate systems" that mediate the relationships of individuals, families, groups, and larger society. The course builds upon the generalist foundation in the first year and helps the student analyze varying practice situations, moving toward a stronger role as community expert. Theories of community practice and skills to work with a variety of systems levels are the principal foci. The themes of primary prevention, social development, and normalization and empowerment are emphasized throughout as are the implications and applications of social work values and ethics.

SOWK 632 - Advanced Practice: Manager/Administrator (3 cr.)

Emphasis in this course is placed on human and financial resources management, supervision, leadership development, program design and planning, organizational change, resolution of ethical dilemmas associated with administration/management, and the role of the human services agency administrator in promoting evidence-based and culturally centered practice is emphasized throughout as are the implications and applications of social work values and ethics.

SOWK 633 - Advanced Practice: Social Welfare Policy (2 cr.)

This course builds upon the historical and philosophical social welfare policy framework addressed in the generalist curriculum. It expands upon general models for social welfare policy analysis, policy practice, and policy advocacy. Aspects of social welfare policy analysis are illustrated by examining the policy analysis through in-depth application of an analytic framework to a current social policy or program area.

SOWK 634 - Advanced Practice with Families and Groups (3 cr.)

This course builds upon the foundation practice skills and human behavior courses focused on assessment and intervention skills for direct practice with groups and families. Students will use experiences from their field internships to enhance learning in this course.

SOWK 688 - Concentration Field Placement (1-8 cr.)

Being placed in a CSU School of Social Work approved social service agency, students are provided the context to put their social work knowledge, values, methods, and skills to use in professional practice. The concentration field experience is comprised of 675 hours of supervised advanced generalist practice experience, over two semesters in the fall and spring semesters.

The MSW concentration field placement provides an advanced generalist experience in supervised direct and indirect service activities across all client systems with assignments with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. This final field experience expects the student: to build on foundation practice skills and competencies, and with the application of knowledge, theory, and skills acquired in the advanced generalist concentration coursework; to carry out more intricate or demanding assignments that develop concentration social work skills; and to develop their practice within the context of the more complex concentration social work competencies.

All coursework assignments in the concentration year are designed to be carried out, implemented, or completed in the field placement agency. This important element of the field program allows for a complete integration of the classroom learning with field experience. The course focuses on concentration level practice behaviors that address each of the Council on Social Work Education's Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (CSWE EPAS, 2008). Assignments, across all levels of practice and building on foundation practice behaviors, will develop concentration level social work skills and contribute to the student's knowledge, understanding, and competence at the concentration level of practice.