Theoretical & Conceptual Base: Critical Thinking and the Reflective Practitioner
The MSW is not grounded in a singular practice philosophy or model but instead in an approach focusing on a critical understanding of theories and concepts as applied guides to professional social work practice, and that reflects among other things principles of ethical decision-making. This intellectual endeavour uses a comprehensive framework that encourages critical thought and of reflective practice. Clear and critical thinking is of benefit to students and to clients and society. By developing awareness of, and respect for, the reflective character of professional practice graduates of the MSW program are set on a career course in which they are constantly revising how they perceive, how they judge, and how they act – these are elements of responsible and effective practice with any client system.
The critical thinking frame presents the student with a more conscious understanding of:
- the process of observing, selecting, and evaluating information and knowledge as produced by theoretical scholarship, empirical research, practice wisdom, and clients’ subjective reality;
- the differences between personal and professional judgment, appreciating their interaction;
- the process of evaluating the beliefs, attitudes, values, and ethical decision-making guidelines in formulating professional decisions;
- the process of enhancing efficacious observation, reasoning, and judgment in the formulation of professional decisions;
- the process of selecting and evaluating courses of action that are most likely to be ethical and effective, in the best interest of clients and society; and
- the process of reflecting on the political and ideological context of observation, judgment, critical thinking, inquiry, and action.
- Reflective Practice
- The notion of inventiveness and artistry as integral components of effective social work practice is a key aspect of social work's educational and theoretical tradition. The self- inventiveness that characterizes social work theory and the profession of social work has been identified consistently as the artistic or creative component of social work practice. One of the purposes of advanced education for the profession, therefore, is to develop in graduates an appreciation for the creativity and inventiveness that is a necessary component of the interactive service delivery process, and to develop their skill and confidence in this uniquely personal aspect of their work. This is accomplished in the context of the core practice courses, the field internship, and PATHWAY.
- Educating reflective social work practitioners means developing and preparing students to exercise reflection-in-action skills to:
- approach a practice problem as a unique case, with a focus on discovering its particular features and, from this discovery, design an intervention;
- recognize that there is difficulty in finding and framing the practice problem and that, because each case is unique, it cannot be dealt with by merely applying standard theories or techniques;
- recognize that there are competing views of the nature of social work practice, about the best ways of addressing specific problems, and about what role the practitioner should play in their solutions;
- appreciate that effective practice is an artistic performance where the social worker responds to the complexity of client problems in what seems like a spontaneous way;
- understand that this performance is based on selective management of large amounts of information, and the capacity to hold several ways of looking at things at once without disrupting the flow of interaction; and
- appreciate that this art is a kind of reflective conversation with a unique and uncertain situation, of which the social workers make themselves a part, so that they may reframe the problem and discover what consequences and implications can be designed to follow from this reframing.