The Intrepid Elective
Transforming Potential for Consciousness to Action in and With Social Work Education
Keywords:Critical consciousness, White supremacy, social work education, elective
The field of social work has a professional and ethical commitment to social justice. However, scholars have identified potential dangers that may threaten that commitment. To transform dangers into opportunities that strengthen social justice service, schools of social work could incorporate critical pedagogy within the Master of Social Work (MSW) curriculum. By training future social workers in critical social work practice, social work education becomes an advocate for marginalized populations. If not educated from an anti-oppressive framework, social workers have the potential to harm, oppress, and control rather than support and serve. The weight of this responsibility and firsthand social work education experiences led to the development and implementation of an elective course in critical social work informed by the Critical Transformative Potential Development (CTPD) Framework. The course follows a method that puts the CTPD theory into practice to bridge the micro-macro divide by engaging students in actively dismantling ideologies and practices of dominance. The course aims to produce anti-oppressive social workers who can better navigate social justice terrain. A student’s perspective on the course highlights strengths and areas for improvement. Future iterations of this class or similar courses of study could be adapted by and adopted for other social work education institutions. Because social work education is fertile ground to plant seeds that will grow social workers rooted in anti-racism and anti-White supremacy, there is the opportunity, with a radical education, to transform the field in a critical direction, better prepared to overcome the social justice challenges of the era.
Abrams, L., & Moio, J. (2009). Critical race theory and the cultural competence dilemma in social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 45(2), 245-261. https://doi.org/10.5175/jswe.2009.200700109
Androff, D., & McPherson, J. (2014). Can human rights-based social work practice bridge the micro/macro divide? In K. R. Libal, S. M. Berthold, R. L. Thomas, & L. M. Healy (Eds.), Advancing human rights in social work education (pp. 39-56). Council on Social Work Education. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315885483
Apgar, D. (2020). Increasing social work students’ participation in macro specializations: The impossible dream? Advances in Social Work, 20(3), 709-724, https://doi.org/10.18060/24045
Asher, N. (2010). Decolonizing curriculum. In E. Malewski (Ed.), Curriculum studies handbook: The next moment (pp. 393-402). Routledge.
Austin, M. J., Anthony, E. K., Tolleson Knee, R., & Mathias, J. (2016). Revisiting the relationship between micro and macro social work practice. Families in Society, 97(4), 270-277. https://doi.org/10.1606/1044-3894.2016.97.33
Berila, B. (2014). Contemplating the effects of oppression: Integrating mindfulness into diversity classrooms. The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry, 1(1), 55-68. https://journal.contemplativeinquiry.org/index.php/joci/article/view/5
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist, 32, 513-531. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.32.7.513
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological models of human development. In International encyclopedia of education, Vol. 3 (2nd ed., pp.37-43). Elsevier. https://impactofspecialneeds.weebly.com/uploads/3/4/1/9/3419723/ecologial_models_of_human_development.pdf
Bussey, S. R., Jemal, A., & Caliste, S. (2021). Transforming social work’s potential in the field: A radical framework. Social Work Education, 40(1), 140-154. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2020.1723536
Carruthers, C. A. (2018). Unapologetic: A Black, queer, and feminist mandate for radical movements. Beacon Press.
Cook, W. (2019). Social justice applications and the African American liberation tradition. Journal of Black Studies, 50(7), 651-681. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021934719875942
Council on Social Work Education. (2020, June 2). CSWE statement on social justice [Press release]. https://cswe.org/News/Press-Room/CSWE-Statement-on-Social-Justice
Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989(1), 139-167. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429500480-5
Columbia School of Social Work [CSSW] Activists. (2017). Demand a mandatory two-semester PROP class at CSSW. https://www.change.org/p/cssw-demands-demand-a-mandatory-two-semester-prop-class-at-cssw?redirect=false
Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2012). Critical race theory: An introduction (2nd ed.). New York University Press.
DiAngelo, R. (2018). White Fragility: Why it's so hard for White people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.
Diemer, M. A., Kauffman, A., Koenig, N., Trahan, E., & Hsieh, C. A. (2006). Challenging racism, sexism, and social injustice: Support for urban adolescents’ critical consciousness development. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 12(3), 444-460. https://doi.org/10.1037/1099-9809.12.3.444
Dunlap, E., & Johnson, B. D. (1992). The setting for the crack era: Macro forces, micro consequences (1960 – 1992). Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 24(4), 307-321. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.1992.10471656
Feagin, J. R., Vera, H., & Ducey, K. (2015). Liberation sociology (3rd ed.). Routledge.
Ferguson, I., & Smith, L. (2012). Education for change: Student placements in campaigning organisations and social movements in South Africa. The British Journal of Social Work, 42(5), 974-994. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcr143
Finn, J., & Molloy, J. (2020). Advanced integrated practice: Bridging the micro-macro divide in social work pedagogy and practice. Social Work Education the International Journal, 40(2), 174-189. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2020.1858043
Fisher-Borne, M., Cain, J. M., & Martin, S. L. (2015). From mastery to accountability: Cultural humility as an alternative to cultural competence. Social Work Education, 34(2), 165-181. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2014.977244
Fook, J. (2003). Critical social work: The current issues. Qualitative Social Work, 2(2), 123-130. https://doi.org/10.1177/1473325003002002001
Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum. (Original work published 1970).
Garcia, M., Kosutic, I., McDowell, T., & Anderson, S. A. (2009). Raising critical consciousness in family therapy supervision. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 21, 18-38. https://doi.org/10.1080/08952830802683673
Gillborn, D. (2006). Rethinking white supremacy: Who counts in ‘whiteworld.’ Ethnicities, 6(3), 318-340. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468796806068323
Grzanka, P. R., Gonzalez & K. A., & Spanierman, L. B. (2019). White supremacy and counseling psychology: A critical–conceptual framework. The Counseling Psychologist, 47(4), 478-529. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000019880843
Gutierrez, L. M., & Ortega, R. (1991). Developing methods to empower Latinos: The importance of groups. Social Work with Groups, 14(2), 23-43. https://doi.org/10.1300/j009v14n02_03
Haiven, M., & Khasnabish, A. (2010). What is the radical imagination? A special issue. Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action, 4(2), i-xxxvii. https://ojs.library.queensu.ca/index.php/affinities/article/view/6128
Harrison, J., VanDeusen, K., & Way, I. (2016). Embedding social justice within micro social work curricula. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 86(3), 258-273. https://doi.org/10.1080/00377317.2016.1191802
Hill Collins, P. (2000). Black feminist thought: knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Routledge.
Jackson, A. (2008). Theatre, education, and the making of meanings: Art or instrument? Manchester University Press.
Jemal, A. (2017a). Critical consciousness: A critique and critical analysis of the literature. Urban Review, 49(4), 602-626. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-017-0411-3
Jemal, A. (2017b). The opposition. Journal of Progressive Human Services: Radical Thought and Practice, 28(3), 134-139. https://doi.org/10.1080/10428232.2017.1343640
Jemal, A. (2018). Transformative consciousness of health inequities: Oppression is a virus and critical consciousness is the antidote. Journal of Human Rights and Social Work, 3(4), 202-215. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41134-018-0061-8
Jemal, A., & Bussey, S. (2018). Transformative action: A theoretical framework for breaking new ground. Electronic Journal of Public Affairs, 7(2), 37-65. https://doi.org/10.21768/ejopa.v7i2.4
Jemal, A., Bussey, S., & Young, B. (2019). Steps to racial reconciliation: A movement to bridge the racial divide and restore humanity. Social Work & Christianity, 47(1), 31-60. https://doi.org/10.34043/swc.v47i1.133
Jemal, A., Gardiner, M., & Bloeser, K. (2019a). Perceived race as variable: Moderating relationship between perceived discrimination in workplace and mentally unhealthy days. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 6(2), 265-272. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-018-0521-y
Jemal, A., Gunn, A., & Inyang, C. (2019b). Transforming responses: Exploring the treatment of substance-using African American women. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 19(4), 659-687. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332640.2019.1579141
Johnston, J. S. (2009). Prioritizing rights in the social justice curriculum. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 28, 119-133. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-008-9100-8
Kant, J. D. (2015). Towards a socially just social work practice: The liberation health model. Critical and Radical Social Work, 3(2), 309-319. https://doi.org/10.1332/204986015x14320477877474
Kendi, D. I. X. (2016). Stamped from the beginning. Avalon Publishing Group.
Leavy, P. (Ed.). (2015). Handbook of arts-based research. The Guilford Press
Lerman, L. (2003). Liz Lerman's critical response process: A method for getting useful feedback on anything you make, from dance to dessert. https://lizlerman.com/critical-response-process/
Moreno, J. (1953). Who shall survive? (2nd ed.). Beacon Press.
Moreno, J. L., & Fox, J. (1987). The essential Moreno: Writings on psychodrama, group method, and spontaneity. Springer.
Morgaine, K. (2014). Conceptualizing social justice in social work: Are social workers “too bogged down in the trees?” Journal of Social Justice, 4, 1-18. http://transformativestudies.org/wp-content/uploads/Conceptualizing-Social-Justice-in-Social-Work.pdf
National Association of Social Workers [NASW]. (2017). Code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English
NYU Silver School of Social Work. (n.d.). Action against racism. http://socialwork.nyu.edu/a-silver-education/social-justice-inclusion-and-belonging/action-against-racism.html
O'Connor, P., & Anderson, M. (2015). Applied theatre: Research. Bloomsbury.
Okun, T., & Jones, K. (2016). White supremacy culture. From Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups. ChangeWork. https://resourcegeneration.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/2016-dRworks-workbook.pdf
Owens, R. (2016). Remembering love: An informal contemplation on healing. In Radical Dharma: Talking race, love, and liberation (pp. 57-74). North Atlantic Books.
Reisch, M. (2002). Defining social justice in a socially unjust world. Families in Society, 83(4), 343-354. https://doi.org/10.1606/1044-3894.17
Reisch, M. (2007). Social justice and multiculturalism: Persistent tensions in the history of US social welfare and social work. Studies in Social Justice, 1(1), 67-92. https://doi.org/10.26522/ssj.v1i1.981
Reisch, M. (2016) Why macro practice matters. Journal of Social Work Education, 52(3), 258-268. https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2016.1174652
Rothman, J., & Mizrahi, T. (2014). Balancing micro and macro practice: A challenge for social work. Social Work, 59(1), 91-93. https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/swt067
Shelton, J., Kroehle, K., & Andia, M. M. (2019). The trans person is not the problem: Brave spaces and structural competence as educative tools for trans justice in social work. The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 46(4), 97-123. https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4356&context=jssw
Sprecht, H., & Courtney, M. E. (1994). Unfaithful angels: How social work has abandoned its mission. The Free Press.
Stoudt, B. G., Fox, M., & Fine, M. (2012). Contesting privilege with critical participatory action research. Journal of Social Issues, 68(1), 178-193. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2011.01743.x
Thompson, J. (2012). Applied theatre: Bewilderment and beyond. Peter Lang Oxford
Tisman, A., & Clarendon, D. (2018). Racism and social work: A model syllabus for graduate-level teaching. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 38(2), 111-136. https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2018.1442384
Tuck, E., & Guishard, M. (2013). Scientifically based research and settler coloniality: An ethical framework of decolonial participatory action research. In T. M. Kress, C. Malott, & B. Porfilio (Eds.), Challenging status quo retrenchment: New directions in critical qualitative research (pp. 3-27). Information Age Publishing.
Varghese, R. (2013). Transformation in action: Approaches to incorporating race and racism into clinical social work practice & curriculum (Dissertation). University of Massachusetts. https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1741&context=open_access_dissertations
Watts, R. J., Abdul-Adil, J. K., & Pratt, T. (2002). Enhancing critical consciousness in young African American men: A psychoeducational approach. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 1, 41-50. https://doi.org/10.1037/1524-9126.96.36.199
Watts, R. J., Diemer, M. A., & Voight, A. M. (2011). Critical consciousness: Current status and future directions. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 134, 43-57. https://doi.org/10.1002/cd.310
Wilkerson, I. (2020). Caste. Allen Lane.
Windsor, L., Jemal, A., & Alessi, E. (2015). Cognitive behavioral therapy and substance using minorities: A meta-analysis. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 21(2), 300-313. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037929
Windsor, L., Jemal, A., & Benoit, E. (2014a). Community wise: Paving the way for empowerment in community reentry [NIHMS576112]. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 37(5), 501-511. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijlp.2014.02.023
Windsor, L, Pinto, R., Benoit E., Jessell, L., & Jemal, A. (2014b). Community wise: Development of a model to address oppression in order to promote individual and community health. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 14(4), 402-420. https://doi.org/10.1080/1533256x.2014.962141
Wong, Y. R. (2020). “Please call me by my true names”: A decolonizing pedagogy of mindfulness and interbeing in critical social work education. In S. Batacharya & Y. R. Wong (Eds.), Sharing breath: Embodied learning and decolonization (Chap. 9, ebook). AU Press. https://read.aupress.ca/read/sharing-breath/section/b9887116-43a4-44c4-a5d9-9fde9b62e417
Copyright to works published in Advances in Social Work is retained by the author(s).