Do We Need a Paradigm Shift in Social Work Education? Make Empowerment Happen

Conference: The Paris Conference on Education (PCE2022)
Title: Do We Need a Paradigm Shift in Social Work Education? Make Empowerment Happen
Stream: Education, Sustainability & Society: Social Justice, Development & Political Movements
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Anna Broka, Riga Stradins University, Latvia
Anette Nielsen, University College South Denmark (Emeritus), Denmark
Doris Scheer, Independent Scholar, Germany


In our research paper presentation we argue that social work and social work education need to revise their theoretical base and teaching practice in order to address the deepening social divide locally and globally. Participatory social work and teaching approaches contribute to a just, coherent society and enhance professionalisation. Both foster innovative ways of learning, sharing knowledges and co-creation.
Our transnational project work has illustrated that empowerment, as conceptualised by Paolo Freire, is an underestimated concept in social work theory and teaching. Being aware that it evokes specific challenges, questions, and dilemmas, we intend to elaborate on how empowerment facilitates reflexivity, different ways of knowing and learning of students, teachers and service users alike. We take a closer look at the concepts and relations of and between empowerment, resilience and co-creation while questioning traditional approaches which often neglect the social change potential that these relations can unfold.
We claim that transformation of educational institutions involves action learning and teaching practices which recognise the expert knowledge of users in service design and delivery. Our reflections are contributing to a much wider debate which is needed for the social work discipline to be well equipped for new and already existing challenges such as the pandemic and globalisation. If social work wants to be an actively involved actor, who is dealing sustainably with such demands, it must be open for professional change which, as we intend to argue, entails a paradigm shift.

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