International Semester Programme

Social Work for a Challenging Society (English)


Learning outcomes are defined course by course.

Global and Local Social Work - 5 EC

Social work covers a wide range of social interventions, involves various actors, and interacts dynamically with the broader society on a local and global level. This course focuses on gaining a deeper insight into social work by means of local, global and comparative perspectives. The principle question we will deal with is how global phenomena and trends can have an impact on social work in a local context in general and on the job floor in particular.

Study visits in Ghent, testimonials of social workers, and theoretical framing are all ways to better understand social work in a local context (definition, vision, professional field, and practice ...). The influence of and interaction with a dynamic societal, cultural, and economic context, and addressing current challenges are important elements of this story, as well as discovering the boundaries and opportunities of social work.

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Professional development - 3 EC

The professional context of a social worker is very dynamic and is continuously challenging. Professional development is a process that should be ongoing and involves the critical reviewing of practice to identify learning requirements. It serves as the crossroads where frameworks, social research, field experience, and personal growth meet to integrate into a unique and continually developing professional identity.

It also implies an awareness of and a well-founded vision of the challenges social work faces in today’s world. Students reflect actively on their own professional identity and how to respond to the rising challenges for our profession in a globalised and ever- shifting world.

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Storytelling - 3 EC

Social work starts by connecting with people in / and with their environment(s). Vulnerabilities and inequalities on an individual as well as structural levels are growing and new forms of needs are emerging. The professional positioning of social work demands both an examination of and a response to the complex configuration of needs produced by these effects. Storytelling or the narrative approach can provide a basic understanding of what works and what does not. Grasping the stories of people on the individual, group, as well as community level suggests qualified solutions as input in the decision-making process of social change. The course explores several methods and perspectives on this issue.

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SOcial innovation project - 8 EC

Social work is an action-oriented profession, innovative answers are needed due to new upcoming social issues. Starting from a concrete research question, a wicked problem, or challenging social issue students are collaborating in small groups to create an innovative output or answer. The project will be carried out in co-creation with a local professional organisation and coached by a lecturer.

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Online social work - 4 EC

If social work fails to embrace digital, it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant. Especially since the pandemic, social work professionals in welfare, e-mental health, and education are challenged to be active online. In online chat services, chatrooms, and on social media. Organisations are forced to explore new boundaries and develop strategies and methods to reach people online.

The constant flood of digital and other technological tools ads a new set of competencies especially for social work professionals. The use of this technology requires a great deal of technical mastery in addition to awareness of, and compliance with, rapidly evolving ethical issues and challenges.

The central question of this course: How can we strengthen organisations in their online processes of communication, care, and co-creation? This course focuses on the reflection on specific apps in either online and blended care or online social work with groups. In addition, students will gain some hands-on experience in the methodology of using online tools as social worker.

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Facing the reality of diversity and being able as a social worker to deal with this reality is the focus of this course. Diversity is defined very broadly but at the same time very tangible. We approach the reality of diversity from different perspectives and in diverse contexts/settings. The individual, as well as structural aspects of diversity as well as the societal and personal impacts, are discussed. Related issues such as exclusion, xenophobia, racism, polarization... Diversity is also challenging the social worker’s role and position and asks for innovative answers and the design of inclusive approaches.

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Policy influencing - 4 EC

Social problems are often structural problems. Addressing them at an individual level can be useful for the concerned individual, but will never rid society of the problem in itself. Social work functions within a society that is organised by rules and politics, which can vary over different societies and timeframes. Therefore, the social work profession must have a policy-oriented mission. The social worker must support dialogue and participation, not only between different groups of society but between individuals, groups, and society itself.

To reach the fundamental goals of social justice a social worker must relate to politics and will sometimes be required to influence government policy or shape it. Basic knowledge of how governments work and how one can act to influence their policy is a basic necessity for any social worker. In this course, you will learn how to make a policy analysis of a structural problem and plan actions to influence the policy in that situation. The main focus is on the European policy level.

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