Through weekly writing prompts, students reflect on connections between their graduate training and contexts for practice, considering organizing concepts of wellness and illness and normal and dysfunction, along with social categories of social difference. They focus on how their personal and professional subjectivities contribute to their observations and analyses of institutionally generated client concerns. Prerequisite: Completion of foundation year course work Masters in Social Work program.
Dates: May 23 - July 15, 2022; Friday 9am-1:30pm Synchronous on Teams; 2nd year/Concentration YR MSW students ONLY Wkly 1hr 15 min. Asynchronous discussion board/small grpwrk
When talking about social science practitioners whether in research, policy or direct practice, there seems to be at least several sets of historical and experiential texts mediating the work. These texts operate at intersections to formulate meaning, and the substance of questions and analyses as part of everyday practice. In the academy, the focus is primarily on two sets of texts: 1) professional texts, or practice knowledge and skills, and, 2) the text of institutions that form policies and protocols that arrange and account for the work of individual practitioners and their colleagues at work. The material of everyday work for these practitioners is provided by clients, typically, people who seek out the assistance of a practitioner to either conduct research inquiry, form policy initiatives, or, more regularly, remedy personal individual, couples or family concerns. Another central text, much less accounted for in the academy, is that of the practitioner’s own personal stories. These stories, mostly held by the practitioner as personal accounts of their lives, intersect with professional and institutional texts to form the basis for interpretation and engagement of the client’s reported problem, concern, and need. Meaningful examples of how to engage these various texts can be found in the work of Kim Crenshaw’s intersectionality of race and gender, the institutional ethnographic account of professional and personal standpoint of social workers by Gerald de Montigny, Judith Butler’s work on performativity and Jan Fook’s work on critical reflection. In this course, we will consider a series of questions aimed at amplifying an examination of the positionality and standpoint of the practitioner in professional contexts, considering how that positionality or standpoint of the practitioner is in play and at play along with the more obvious and studied professional and institutional texts central to practitioners’ education. In this case, the interest is in how personal beliefs intersect with long held beliefs in professional and institutional contexts to form an understanding of people who come to practitioners for help. Social categories of difference beginning with race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, ability, and national status, among others will be considered constituting features of the practitioner’s experience and meaning making. How meaning is generated about the self and other in institutional contexts using professional knowledge will be the point of entry for this course. Of further interest, in this course, is how practitioners come to make sense of others’ experiences (or stories) in relation to the sense they make of their own lives (or stories). In this sense, it is important for practitioners to thoughtfully consider their own stories, and the relationship between the meaning they make of their own and of others’ lives. While this checking back and forth is an on-going and, more often, implicit process, in this course, we aim to make it explicit. The point of consideration is to more fully be aware of all of what comes to bare on a practitioner’s observations and professional assessments and interventions. For example, at the point a student carries out a professional task of assessment in a mental health clinic, the student engages their professional training, the institutional mandates of the clinic, and the textual history of the client or patient. However, more hidden and less often accounted for in professional work, and this situation, is the personal standpoint or history and experience of the student-practitioner themself in carrying out the tasks of assessment, mental health diagnosis, and taking account of the particular issues and social categories of difference presented in the person of the client. An institutional ethnographic aim of this course is to account for the personal standpoint of the student in the consequential expert opinions they form about people’s lives. As a class, we will begin in the everyday lives of people who are student-practitioners of social work, the students themselves. Students will use short stories, letter writing, poetry, and other creative methods to construct narratives about themselves as people in practice settings at this particular time and space, focusing on how their own personal histories intersect with the problematics produced in the institutions they inhabit, the colleagues with whom they work, and the clients with whom they aim to help. Students are encouraged to consider their own personal stories in order to clarify and refine the intentionality in their professional practice and to emphasize the connecting elements of human suffering between expert helpers and people in need. Practices of narration (telling and listening) studied in this class will be discussed, further, as ways to explore with clients the complex stories that make up their lives.
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