Course Descriptions

Core Courses

Two–year full–time MSW (Year 1):

GS/SOWK 5010 3.0 – Social Work Theories and Critical Practice Part I

Part I introduces students to social work theories and approaches from critical perspectives. Through readings, social work examples, role plays, and class discussion, students engage in critical reflection, self-reflexivity and examine personal and political conceptions of social work, professional roles and identity.

GS/SOWK 5011 3.0 – Social Work Theories and Critical Practice Part II

Part II builds on Part I by further developing students’ social work practice skills. Students critically reflect on various styles of communication, their beliefs and values, and power and privilege in communication. Through experiential activities and dyads, students participate in interactive skill building for communication within intentional personal, social and political change processes.

GS/SOWK 5020 3.0 – History of Social Welfare and Social Work from Critical Perspectives

Course participants will engage in a critical/reflective study of the history of social welfare and social work. It will examine social work values and responses to populations in the context of the changing social, political, economic and moral climates that have shaped social work practice at different historical junctures.

GS/SOWK 5030 3.0 – Oppression and Intersectionality

This course examines the interlocking nature of oppression, including colonial and state oppression of Aboriginal people. Questions of identity, subjectivity, and representation will be examined to move toward understanding practices of resistance and transformation.

GS/SOWK 5040 3.0 – Social Welfare and Social Policy

Students will gain a critical understanding of Canadian social policy and social welfare as shaped by economic, social, political, and globalization forces. Students will understand the social policy impact on social work practice and develop policy analysis and advocacy skills.

GS/SOWK 5050 3.0 – Understanding Organizations for Social Work Practice

A foundation is provided in the organizational structures of governmental, non-government and community agencies serving vulnerable populations. Students will understand organizational, managerial structures as well as the exercise of power and control and develop skills to effect change.

GS/SOWK 5310 6.0 – Practicum

Students engage in research or professional training within an approved agency setting, providing the opportunity to apply critical social work concepts, theories and intervention approaches to practice situations.

All MSW programs:

GS/SOWK 5150 3.0 – Critical Perspectives in Social Work

The meaning and practice of contemporary social work are explored through attention to changing knowledge paradigms and shifting values. The relationship of social work to power is examined as the basis for practice from a social justice perspective.

GS/SOWK 5250 3.0 – Graduate Research Seminar

In a small group format, the course introduces different research methodologies that are doable within the scope of the Practice Research Paper. Research formulation, design, and ethics for critical social work research are discussed.  Students are expected to formulate their research question, complete a literature review and submit a research proposal and research ethics by the end of the course.

GS/SOWK 5350 6.0 – Advanced Practicum

Students engage in research or professional training within an approved agency setting, providing the opportunity to apply critical social work concepts, theories and intervention approaches to practice situations. Prerequisite/Co-requisite - SOWK 5150 3.0.

GS/SOWK 5450 3.0 – Practice Research Paper Seminar (PRS)

Building on GRS, students learn the use of theory and literature in data collection, coding, analysis and the writing of research results through class activities in a small group format and individual meetings with the instructor. The Practice Research Paper is expected to be 40-50 pages in length, including the literature review completed in GRS or an extended critical literature review, research results and discussion.

GS/SOWK 5550 3.0 – Indigenous Worldviews and Implications to Social Work

This course blends academic learning with the use of storytelling to provide students with a critical understanding of the historical and current implications of colonial structures on the lives of Indigenous People to Turtle Island. It will at the same time provide students with foundational knowledge on how to engage in critical, self-reflexive practice based on holistic understandings of Indigenous social work theory.

IMPORTANT: Students must complete GS/SOWK 5150 3.0 before students can begin Advanced Practicum (GS/SOWK 5350 6.0).

Elective Courses

(Note: Not all elective courses are available in any one year.)

GS/SOWK 5905 3.0 — Spirituality and Critical Social Work

This course explores the interconnection between spirituality and critical social work and how the spiritual, personal, and political are intertwined. It engages students in reflecting on spirituality in social justice and identifies its impacts on individual growth, community functioning and social change.

GS/SOWK 5907 3.0 —Mindfulness and Just Relations in Social Work

This course introduces students to mindfulness as a political act and embodied ethics in social justice and critical social work. Students learn mindfulness practice through experiential exercises, observe and investigate their embodied awareness of internal and external phenomena and social realities, and engage in practical application of mindfulness in critical social work practice.

GS/SOWK 5908 3.0 — Social Work Professional Development Skills

This course will give students an opportunity to critically and reflectively examine .professional. aspects of social work in the areas of writing, direct practice and formal interactions towards the honing of their own personal/professional identity as future social workers.

GS/SOWK 5912 3.0 — Transformative Approaches in Mental Health

This course explores issues related to the psychiatric and mental health system from critical perspectives. Students are introduced to dominant policy, legislative and practice discourses on “mental health” and “mental illness” and their critiques. Counter-discourses and approaches to dominant ‘psy’ discourses, systems, and practices on “mental distress” are captured through an exploration of community mobilization and community-based advocacy and support networks.

GS/SOWK 5913 3.0 — Contesting Children’s 'Mental Health'

This course examines advanced critical social work theory, research, policy, and practice approaches for working with children and youth in the area of mental health.

GS/SOWK 5915 3.0 — Group Facilitation and Social Justice

This course introduces students to diverse approaches to facilitating groups in ways that foster democracy and justice within the group setting as well as broader social critique and transformation. Students will experience various approaches as both a facilitator and a participant, and will reflect on this experiential component of the class for their assignments.

GS/SOWK 5920 3.0 — Critical Gerontological Social Work Seminar

This course addresses aging issues in both policy and social work practice from a strengths-based critical social work perspective. The course examines policy and practice as an integrated source of creative interventions for critical social work.

GS/SOWK 5925 3.0 — Globalization and Social Welfare

This course examines the economic and political consequences of a global market economy and considers their implications for social policy and social work. The challenge of globalization for social welfare is explored with reference to national and international strategies in defence of social rights and social justice.

GS/SOWK 5930 3.0 — Critical International Social Work

This course provides advanced contexts to critically examine international issues from local and global perspectives. It focuses on analyses of race, space, identity, nationalism and professional imperialism in the current context of globalization, development and international social work.

GS/SOWK 5932 3.0 — Studies in Social Policy

Using contemporary issues as a base, this course examines approaches to understanding the context, formation and implications of social policies. The differential impacts of social policies are assessed, and the interrelationship between policies, services and practice is emphasized.

GS/SOWK 5933 3.0 — Social Exclusion: The Idea, Social Realities, and Responses

This course contributes a unique approach to the critical study of social work practice through an applied social policy concept. It will examine relationships between the popular notion of social exclusion and taken-for-granted assumptions of difference, and consequential social processes and outcomes.

GS/SOWK 5935 3.0 — Social Administration

This course provides a critical examination of social work administration and management in social service delivery. Emphasis is given to social service delivery in the current context of restructuring.

GS/SOWK 5942 3.0 — Critical Perspectives on Child Welfare

This course explores current debates in child welfare, including parents versus children's rights, justice versus welfare, legal versus professional mandates. Students are encouraged to critically examine the social context of debates, and develop a critique of practice based on this analysis.

GS/SOWK 5945 3.0 — Perspectives on Gender and Sexual Diversity

Issues are explored related to sexual orientation with respect to social work practice and policy development. The focus includes counselling and support of lesbian, gay and bisexual persons as well as the development and protection of communities.

GS/SOWK 5950B 3.0 – Selected Topics – Family Mediation

This course acquaints students with an understanding of the Family Mediation Process and the applicability of mediation to work settings. Mediation concepts and procedural approaches are approached with sensitivity to race, class, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age and ability.

GS/SOWK 5952 3.0 — Changing Nature of Community Work

The changing context and nature of community practice are explored with the goal of bridging divisions within social work practice. Discussions include understanding connections between systems and the informal sector; the complexity, fluidity, ecology and diversity of community.

GS/SOWK 5955 3.0 — Evaluation and Social Work

This course introduces students to a range of designs that can be employed in evaluating social work practice activities. This course enhances students' critical knowledge and skill in evaluation and helps students recognize the ethical and cultural issues that underlie evaluation research in social work.

GS/SOWK 5962 3.0 — Ethics in Social Work Practice

A critical examination of philosophical and ethical theories that stimulates reflection on the values and ethical decision-making in social work. This course includes analyses of case studies from practice and directs the examination and assessment of professional actions.

GS/SOWK 5970 3.0 — Directed Readings

Individual students or small groups read under supervision in one or two selected areas. Requires special permission.

GS/SOWK 5975 3.0 — Race & Knowledge Production

This course examines the ways in which racial categories and hierarchies become inserted into the knowledge and the practices social workers rely on and reproduce. To do this, we will historicize racialist thinking by examining its philosophical foundations and the myriad contemporary domains in which operates.

GS/SOWK 5980 3.0 — Violence in Families

Integrates theoretical and practical perspectives on violence in the family. A primary focus is working with survivors of violence. Emphasis is given to interventions with women and children.

GS/SOWK 5981 3.0 — Critical Social Work and Animals: Trans-species Social Justice

This course expands the focus of social justice, thus social work, beyond anthropocentricism. It helps students understand the significance of human-animal relations in social work and analyze and reflect on policies and social work practice considering such relationships. Students will be challenged to examine social justice and oppression beyond human-animal boundaries by familiarizing themselves with relevant critical theories.

GS/SOWK 5982 3.0 — Advanced Social Work Practice

This course analyzes the interlocking nature of power relations in social work settings by drawing on poststructural theory, specifically, discourse analysis. Discourse analysis is utilized to critically reflect upon student case examples from their social work practice experience. The course is designed to support students in making concrete connections between theory and practice in their everyday work settings.

GS/SOWK 5983 3.0 — Narrative Therapy and Critical Social Work

This course explores the possibilities and limits of using Narrative therapy as a critical social work practice. Students explore through experiential learning how narrative ideas may lend themselves to addressing social justice in every day practice with individuals, groups and larger communities.

GS/SOWK 5995 3.0 — Advanced Seminar on Social Work with Immigrants, Refugees and Diaspora

Local and Global Communities: This course addresses impacts of migration on individuals, communities and families. It examines theories and discourses of migration and diaspora, Canadian immigration policy, and social service issues related to immigrants, refugees and diaspora.

GS/SOWK 5931 3.0 — Leadership Communication in Social Work: Writing and Speaking Social Change

This course concentrates on the development of critical communication necessary for the non-profit sector. Students develop a campaign on a social issue / policy that includes: a research element, press release, public deputation, and a funding application. In small groups students develop their campaigns using the scholarly and grey literature and work with local agencies when possible to develop each skill.

Special Permission Courses

There are several courses for which you require special permission before you can enroll. They include:

Directed Reading Course (SOWK 5970 3.0)

  • Print off a Directed Reading form (Directed_Reading_Form_updated 2014) and complete the student information required on the form.
  • Approach a professor whose research interests are congruent with your own.
  • Once the professor has agreed to supervise you in the course, complete the form with the professor. Include a brief description of the course, i.e., a course syllabus with course objectives, assignments, and proposed readings.
  • Give the form to the Graduate Program Assistant for the Director's signature.
  • Once approved, the Graduate Program Assistant will issue a special permission, enabling you to enroll in the course using the online York Registration System.

Courses Outside of Social Work, at York University

  • Students wishing to take a course at York outside the School of Social Work must inform the Graduate Program Office as early as possible.
  • Check with the external graduate program to make sure you are eligible to enrol in their course.
  • If eligible, print off a Request to Take Courses in Another Graduate Program Form (.pdf document) and complete the student information required on the form.
  • Submit the form to the Graduate Program Assistant for getting Graduate Program Director's approval.
  • Once approved, the Graduate Program Assistant will return the form to the student; so that the student can submit the form to the host department, which considers issuing the permission for enrollment in the system.
  • If enrolled in the course, the student must submit the final form with approvals from both home and host programs to the home program's Graduate Program Assistant for record, as it is required for student's degree audit later.

Courses Outside of Social Work, at other Ontario Universities

  1. Students wishing to take a course outside of York University must inform the Graduate Program Office a minimum of 3 months before the course is to begin by way of the following instructions.
  2. Check with the external university to make sure you are eligible to take the course.
  3. If eligible, print off an Ontario Visiting Graduate Student Form (.pdf document) and complete the student information required on the form.
  4. Complete the form and attach a copy of the calendar description and a concise rationale for how the course fits your plan of study.
  5. Return the form to the Graduate Program Office for processing.
  6. The other university will contact you to inform you of final approval and how to enrol in the course.