Critical Questions on Critical Social Work: Students' Perspectives

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This research study explored the perspectives of social work students (n = 118) in the final semester of their studies regarding the implementation of critical social work in their future practices. Using performance ethnographies to collect data, students were asked to share their perspectives about implementing critical social work both in individual interventions and as a way to change the practice of mainstream social work organisations. Research ethnographies were analysed using a descriptive phenomenological approach, in an attempt to describe the shared essential experience of participants. Results demonstrated that students are influenced by several lines of thinking that come into direct conflict with one another: (i) they feel that critical social work is essential for individual interventions while also feeling that critical social work is not a priority for individual interventions and (ii) they feel that critical social work should and could change mainstream social work organisations while also feeling that critical social work should not and could not change mainstream social work organisations. These results contribute to a better understanding of the barriers in implementing critical social work, as well as the dilemmas and questions that should be addressed in social work education. Implications for social work education are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2130-2147
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.


  • anti-oppressive practice
  • critical practice
  • social work education


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