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Writing Across the Curriculum


SWK 312: Social Work Practice II
Writing in the Majors Guidelines
Professor Manuel Munoz

Role of Writing

Much of social work practice is about communication. Whether in direct work with clients or collaborating with colleagues and other professionals, social workers need to be well versed in the art and skills of oral and written communication. Social workers pay careful attention to what is said and how things are written. “If it is not documented, it did not happen” is a well-known caveat in the social service field. Writing in the field of social work documents the nature of our work with clients, sustains continuity of care, maintains funding for services, and has legal implications for social workers as providers and for the profession. In addition, social workers use writing to analyze, evaluate, reflect on, and document best practices while also contributing to our professional identity. As part of the curriculum within the social work program, students will analyze and strengthen their oral and written communication skills. Special attention will be placed on how to write clearly and accurately since the content and form of professional writing have consequences for all aspects of social work practice.

Disciplinary Writing

Social workers have to become familiar and proficient with different types of writing that are used in the profession. The style a social worker will use in writing a grant proposal is not the same style as one would use in writing chart notes. In this course students will become familiar with the following genres or types of writing:

Writing to initiate, sustain or increase funding for programs. This type of writing includes proposals and reports to funders and governing bodies, and communications to the community at large. This type of writing requires the social worker to clearly state a position or express a need or develop a solution to a problem in a well-organized essay format based on comprehensive research. Generally the social worker will present an issue, support an argument, advocate for some type of change or call attention to a condition or situation in an effort to inform others. At times, the writing attempts to be persuasive while also being informative and presenting the issue in a clear, factual manner. This style of writing is most closely related to the style of writing one does when writing a term paper.

Writing in relation to the social worker’s direct work with clients. This type of writing includes, but is not limited to, case notes, biopsychosocials, reports to different entities (e.g. courts, schools, and other social service organizations), letters to advocate for client services, and interdisciplinary reports. This type of writing is more technical; it can include professional jargon and terms with the goal of clearly documenting the needs of clients and the care that social workers provide in their helping efforts.

Writing that translates formal or disciplinary writing into documents for their clients or the general population. This type of writing makes topics and issues that social workers are engaged in (e.g., the definition of domestic violence and the effect it can have on children) more accessible to the communities within which we work. This is probably the least technical writing that social workers might engage in; however it is very important because it is usually how people in the community are introduced to and informed about the type of work that social workers do.  

The following low- and high-stakes writing assignments have been developed to strengthen and enhance writing skills consistent with the different type or writing expected in the field towards the goal of helping students learn to communicate their ideas clearly, concisely, and in relation to the goals of their work with clients, their families, and their communities.

Low Stakes:

  • Double-entry logs (in response to four theoretical readings): students will distinguish between the primary thesis of the writings of the authors they are studying and their own opinions. Students will have the opportunity to examine and become increasingly self-reflective about the development of their own opinions through the application of the concepts in the readings.
  • Movie notes: students will take notes, similar to how a social worker might take notes when interviewing clients, about a character in a movie that will be used in completing a practice biopsychosocial.

High Stakes:

  • Theory/practice summaries: In this assignment students are expected to summarize four theories of human behavior and apply these theories to their work within a case scenario. The goal here is to succinctly present the main concepts of the theory and how it informs our work with clients.
  • Biopsychosocial (5-7 pages): This is a document that social workers need to become familiar with as it is used in every field of practice and agency setting. It serves as a guide for our work with clients as it depicts what we know about the client and our understanding of how to best meet their needs.

Expectations of Students in a WIM Course

In this course students will:

  • Learn about the different types of writing social workers engage in.
  • Practice writing in ways that are consistent with the expectations of the social work profession.
  • Use writing to enhance learning and comprehension of texts and technical information as follows:
    • Complete informal, in-class writing assignments that prepare them for completing the formal assignments.
    • Work in small groups to review and revise their writing especially as it relates to completing assignments.
    • Complete their work based on the instructions of the assignment and its intended audience.
    • Draft and revise written work based on the professor’s comments and their own critical reflection.

Expectations of Faculty in a WIM Course

In this course faculty will do the following in support of strengthening student writing:

  • Strive to be as transparent as possible in connecting the writing assignments and activities to the goals and expectations of the types of writing social workers do.
  • Provide clear expectations for the assignments.
  • Give feedback in a timely manner to provide opportunities for revision.
  • Provide opportunities to practice the different types of writing social workers engage in.
  • Provide students with examples of exemplary writing in the field.
  • Provide opportunities for students to evaluate and assess their own writing through the lens of social work practice.

Criteria for Assessing Student Writing

Throughout the semester student writing will demonstrate:

  • An understanding of the purpose of the assignment as well as the audience for which the assignment is being written.
  • Technical and mechanical “correctness.”
  • Consistency with professional practices and standards.
  • An ability to apply the lens of social work practice to a variety of writing tasks.