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DSW Course Descriptions

Our DSW students graduate with advanced training in social work practice that allows you to go on to become innovative stewards of the discipline.

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Course Descriptions

Category One: Ethical and Historical Frameworks

Introduction to Advanced Social Work Practice (3 hours): This course is focused on preparing the entering DSW student to understand what is meant by Advanced Social Work Practice, and the social, political, and economic contexts in which social work leadership, translational research and social work education and instruction are embedded. Topics include the structure of higher education in the US, contemporary policy and administrative challenges, issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education, and the infrastructure that guides research, including accountability to funders and university standards of the ethics and rigor of knowledge development.  An introduction to common theoretical and conceptual ideas is presented, along with the development of shared definitions of terms used in the arenas of both higher education and organizational leadership.

Category 2: Leadership and Administrative Practice Knowledge, Theory and Skills

Funding Human Services and Social Change: Financial management and budgeting (3 hours): This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of managing the financial aspects of an organization. Students will develop the skills necessary to understand and develop balance sheets and program budgets that promote equity and inclusion. Students will also develop necessary skills for identifying funding sources and writing grant proposals appropriate for human service provision and anti-oppressive social change efforts.

Evidence informed leadership and management (3 hours): This course will cover various theories of leadership and management. Students will learn to engage in leadership practices across the social ecology, including leadership of agencies that serve individuals and organizations focused on structural change. Students will develop a style of leadership that is strengths-based, and trauma-informed and which promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion. Topics would include theories of leadership & team building (best practices), multi-system competency (macro-micro) community engagement, the use of public discourse & technology (communications), strengths-based practice and trauma informed care (trauma awareness).

Community engagement and advocacy (3 hours): This course will cover various aspects of engaging with the community, with a focus of ensuring that organization activities serve the diverse interests and needs of their constituents. The course will cover models of engaging in advocacy that centers the needs and strengths of diverse, equitable and inclusive communities, such as community organizing. Policy practice will be considered as a form of advocacy.  The course will also cover approaches to identifying community strengths and needs.

Human service program development and design (3 hours): This course will cover the life course of a program, beginning with employing existing evidence for the development of the program its design. Students will develop the necessary skills to design and develop programs to address particular needs of culturally diverse individuals and communities.

Grantwriting (1.5 hours): This course will discuss the fundamentals of grantwriting, including identifying appropriate funding sources, capturing the strengths and needs of the constituents served by the program in ways that meet funders’ requirements, and leveraging existing evidence to write a compelling proposal.

Creating social momentum through public communication (1.5 hours): This course will cover utilizing the multitude of modern media tools to gain public support for social welfare initiative that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Topics will include describing community strengths and needs in ways that compel constructive action and making relevant research and evidence accessible to a popular audience.

Category 3: Research and Inquiry

Research and evaluation forbuilding evidence, assessing outcomes, and promoting equity. (3 Hours): This course is an in-depth introduction to the process of conducting research.  A comprehensive approach is taken to covering the full research design process, considering quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches, and the evaluation of program outcomes. The course also integrates topics related to structural bias, systemic oppression, and strategies for anti-oppressive research, and addresses ethical issues in the conduct and dissemination of research.

Assessing and using evidence to design and improve multi-level interventions in social work (3 Hours): This course develops students’ knowledge and skills for identifying, assessing, and critiquing the empirical evidence on current interventions and practices in social work. The focus is on conducting multi-dimensional, value-critical inquiry about “best practices” relevant to social work and applying the results of that inquiry toward designing and improving interventions or practices that are multi-level.  The course introduces the foundations of evidence-based practice, systematic review of the literature, critical evaluation of empirical studies, and structured data synthesis to assess the quality of evidence. In addition to covering approaches for rigorous methodological critique, the course emphasizes value-critical frameworks for assessing research in relation to anti-oppressive principles.  

Understanding translational and implementation science (3 Hours): This course provides students with the foundation for understanding and applying implementation science principles and practice. Using a critical perspective with a focus on identifying and using effective strategies for translating research into practice, the course introduces key concepts of implementation science and a variety of theories and frameworks for guiding implementation efforts. Students gain knowledge and skills in identifying implementation facilitators and barriers and developing and supporting key implementation strategies. Implementation is examined from an equity lens to consider how implementation processes can promote racial equity and social, economic, and environmental justice.  The course also covers evaluation of implementation, including measures designed to examine implementation processes and outcomes.

Category 4: Pedagogy and Instruction

Integrative and critical approaches within educational theory and pedagogy(3 hours): This course is focused on providing DSW students with a strong theoretical foundation for effectively teaching adult learners in social work courses at all levels of higher education. Topics will include theories of pedagogy/andragogy; educational psychology; classroom and teaching strategies; understanding, assessing, and supporting a diverse array of learning styles; pacing; effective use of classroom time; ethics in teaching and learning; creating positive classroom dynamics; critical pedagogy and anti-oppressive and indigenous teaching models; and tools for evaluating teaching. Specific emphasis will be placed on attending to diversity, equity, and inclusion within classroom settings, and developing skills to facilitate conversations on issues of oppression and privilege.

Diversity and accessibility in curriculum design and development (3 hours): This course is focused on reviewing and designing course curricula and materials, as well as understanding the delivery of social work education in the context of the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Education Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS). Particular attention will be given to issues of diversity and accessibility when designing course curricula. Topics will include developing curricula that incorporate social work knowledge, skills, and values; methods for assessing curricular outcomes; syllabus and assignment construction; topic selection; lesson planning; alignment of individual courses to the overall curriculum; ensuring range of topics in alignment with curriculum; mapping individual goals of courses to overall learning objectives; assurance of well-articulated, high quality course goals mapped to curricular goals; assuring the sequencing of courses so that learning is conceptually built over time; establishment of standards for evaluating curricular achievement; ability to assess classroom climate; continuous quality improvement so that program can be responsive to needed changes; and relationship of the curriculum to the overall institutional mission. Special attention will be paid to promoting the advancement of underrepresented students, the impact of stereotype threat, gender gaps in the academy, structural inclusion issues and their impact on accessibility, and the role course structure can play on student persistence and advancement.

Advising, mentoring, and supervision (3 hours): This course is focused on preparing DSW students with the knowledge, skills, and values needed to advise, mentor, and supervise individuals in higher education or as advanced practitioners. Course content will be framed in the context of reflexivity and anti-oppressive social work practice. Topics will include professional/academic vs. holistic advising; the mentor/mentee relationship and its role in student success; strategic mentoring and established best practices in mentoring; formal vs. informal mentoring processes; conflict resolution in mentoring; learning communities; establishing supervisory plans; goal-setting; peer observations; performance-based mentoring; research behind mentoring; career readiness; engagement; the lifespan of the mentoring relationship; mentor selection; evaluating supervisory relationships; and conflicts of interest in mentoring and supervision. The course will include theoretical models for the mentoring relationship, including a review of mentoring approaches specific to underrepresented minority students, including organizational strategies, faculty strategies, and a review of mentee strategies.

Category 5: Capstone Portfolio Seminars

Capstone Seminar I (1.5 hours): This seminar focuses on the foundational knowledge necessary for successful completion of the Capstone process, and simultaneously advances this goal by facilitating a multidimensional, in-depth student analysis of one area of social work practice, programming, condition or community setting. The course requires the development of a comprehensive conceptual framework and rationale for an innovative project that the DSW student will plan and execute in Capstone Seminar II and report on in Capstone Seminar III. This area of social work focus can center around an individual, family, group, or community; and should be linked to a social policy, program, or condition. The DSW student will undertake an immersive examination of the practice condition—detailing the problem (historical and contemporary), practice approaches, differential theoretical applications, established and emerging intervention strategies and the status of research evidence supporting such interventions.

This conceptual framework includes a problem analysis, policy or practice contributions and/or impacts, social justice and ethical implications, a review of the theoretical and research literature (including gaps), preliminary thoughts about a proposed innovation or project to help advance practice around this problem/condition/or situation, and preliminary ideas about how the practice/program/community would incorporate an evaluative component, including applicable research strategies to measure impact.  A passing grade in Capstone I is required to advance to the next level of classes.

Capstone Seminar II (3.0 hours): This seminar provides the student with guided acquisition of knowledge, skills, and support in writing and executing a scholarly and innovative research project (i.e. the Capstone). The course builds on the Capstone Seminar I and extends the work to a solidified plan or for research, innovation, or further analyses to address the identified problem. This work will require that the student continue to organize and analyze information gathered in the first Capstone course and create a systematic prototype that addresses the social welfare related problem of focus. This prototype must contain an evaluative component related to implementation processes and expected outcome measurement.  This will allow the DSW student to display knowledge and make judgements about what aspects of a social problem require changing, and how these changes can be made given the state of the research, ethics of the profession, and historical, social, policy, community and practice contexts. The proposed program design and research methods for implementing and evaluating the innovation are a critical component of Capstone II. Within the course, students will form a Capstone Committee, develop a plan for peer and /or expert review of the project (including human subjects review, if applicable) and develop a timeline for implementation and evaluation.

The oral comprehensive exam is a required part of this course. The oral exam provides the opportunity for the DSW student to confirm that the proposed project is innovative, relevant, and well-designed in terms of implementation plan, individual components of service change or delivery, and contains a rigorous research plan for evaluating program impacts.  The student must receive a passing grade on the Oral Exam to proceed to the final courses in the program.

In Capstone Seminar III (1.5 hours), the student presents the final project for consideration by the committee. During this class, students prepare for their defense, provide one another with peer feedback, create or finish power point summaries of the project, and review checklists to make sure all components of the Final Project are complete. 

Such components would consist of proper formatting and all required components of the project which would include:

  1. Title and Authorship Page
  2. Abstract
  3. Dedication
  4. Foundation of the Study and Literature Review
  5. Project Design and Analysis
  6. Application for Professional Practice and Social Change
  7. Conclusion

Note: A successful defense of the Capstone Project (that is, earning a majority of passing votes from the committee members) is required to earn the degree. The Capstone Project will be submitted to the Graduate School for the same requirements of manuscript preparation as required for matriculating PhD students.

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