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Unit information: Evidence-Based Practice in 2016/17

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Unit name Evidence-Based Practice
Unit code SPOLM5106
Credit points 40
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Dendy Platt
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit provides depth and breadth of understanding in relation to specialist areas. The key theme is the critical application of research-based evidence to inform practice.

The unit is structured in such a way as to allow optional choices to be made by students regarding parts of the units studied, so as to prepare them for practice in different settings, using appropriate methods of social work intervention. In part 1 of the unit, students choose from service-user focused options (Children and Families, Social Work with Adults, Social Work with Young Offenders, or Neighbourhood and Community Social Work), and all students take Mental Health Social Work. In part two, the focus shifts to methods of intervention, and students choose (depending on availability) from: Cognitive-behavioural Social Work, Psychoanalytic Approaches, Task-centred Practice, Groupwork, Family Work, Community Development, Motivational Interviewing, Solution-focused Brief Therapy and Person-centred Counselling.

The unit aims:

  • To familiarise students with the research and theory, necessary for evidence-based assessment, decision-making and intervention in key areas of social work practice.
  • To ensure that students understand the importance of working with other professionals, both within and across organisational boundaries, within these key areas of practice, and are able to do so effectively.
  • To introduce students to the range of ethical and other dilemmas that occur in practice, and to ensure that they are able critically to analyse these and develop ‘best practice’ solutions.
  • To acquire knowledge of the theory and research base underpinning two methods of intervention.
  • To develop the skills associated with the implementation of each chosen method, including assessment, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this unit will:

  • Have a critical understanding of theory and research necessary for evidence-based assessment, problem-formulation and case / project planning, and be able to apply this to work in their chosen practice setting.
  • Be able critically to analyse the role of social work in relation to other professional groups, with particular reference to their chosen practice areas.
  • Demonstrate a critical, research informed understanding of the needs and problems of service user groups, and of the effectiveness of interventions to address these.
  • Have a critical understanding of the statutory responsibilities of social workers, and be able critically to analyse tensions and conflicts between professional and organisational demands.
  • Be able to analyse critically the ethical dilemmas that can arise, and have the confidence and ability to take appropriate decisions/actions.
  • Be able to demonstrate skills in the implementation of methods of evidence based intervention.

Teaching details

Lectures with discussion, workshops and small group work.

Assessment Details

Students will undertake two summative assessment tasks:

1. Group presentation, assessed on a pass / fail basis only, based on the analysis of a case example. Students will be required to pass it in order to complete the unit and be eligible for the award of credit points, but it will not contribute to the overall mark.

2. Assignment, linking methods of intervention to the needs of a particular service user group. 4000 words.

The group presentation will enable students to demonstrate learning outcomes related to social work across different service use groups, and the assignment will normally enable them to link this type of understanding to appropriate therapeutic methods.

Reading and References

  • Aldgate, J. et al (eds) (2005), The Developing World of the Child. Jessica Kingsley, London.
  • Barnes, C. and Mercer, G. (2006) Independent futures: Creating User-led Disability Services in a Disabling Society. Bristol: The Policy Press.
  • Bell M. and Wilson, K. (eds). (2003), The Practitioner’s Guide to Working with Families. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Butcher, H., Banks, S., Henderson, P and Robertson. J. (2007), Critical Community Practice. Bristol: The Policy Press.
  • Phillips, J. Ray, M. and Marshall, M. (2006) Social Work with Older People. Basingstoke: BASW/Palgrave, 2nd ed.
  • Repper, J (2003) Social Inclusion and Recovery: A Model for Mental Health Practice