The Challenges and Opportunities of Using a Competency Based Education Model in Social Work Education

Ramirez, Nelida
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Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, University of Regina

The ongoing expansion of neo-liberal globalization is affecting the milieu of both social work education and its practice and, in some countries, is actively promoting the adoption of Competency Based Education (CBE) models for education. To date, research addressing the question of whether CBE provides a useful theoretical framework in designing and implementing a curriculum for a Bachelor of Social (BSW) Work program has been sporadic. Given the importance of the ‘CBE question’ for education in general, and social work education in particular, the nature and process of current CBE curriculum designs for social work programs needs to be well understood, and the researchbase on this subject needs to increase. Considering the lack of research on the topic, this dissertation focuses on ascertaining why CBE models have been adopted in social work education internationally and analyses how the process of applying those models to curricula design and implementation has been carried out. Thus, the research seeks to answer the question: Does the CBE model serve as a useful theoretical framework to design and implement a Bachelor Social of Work program curriculum? The overall goal of this research is to advance to the dialogue and debate about the CBE issue within the social work academic community. It is, therefore, important to consider the views and opinions of professors who support utilizing CBE models and those who oppose it as well. The research also provides a conceptual framework concerned with key terms used throughout the dissertation. As well, the study presents theoretical information related to the major conceptual underpinnings of topics and contents related to the postsecondary education environment including its learning process, and approaches to curriculum development. The theoretical and philosophical foundations of CBE and classifications of competencies, CBE curriculum’s challenges, and criticisms of the CBE model are provided. Finally, an overview of the history of social work education in different countries is included. The research approach must be identified as a generic qualitative study. The methods used to gather research data included document analysis, face- to-face interviewing, and Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools, including e-interviewing or interview conducted by e-mail and a website blog. The data results were formally conceptualized and coded in several categories. These categories were created by scrutinizing and reflecting on the practical experiences furnished by social work educators who detailed the implications, challenges, and opportunities of using a CBE model for social work curriculum design. The conclusions of the research indicate that many factors are pressuring or providing the impetus for the use of CBE in curriculum design and implementation for social work programs. Given this context, it is vital for academics within social work faculties to analyze and discuss the opportunities and challenges presented by the need for curricula change and renewal. Such a proactive approach to meeting the challenge of change is in sharp contrast to a passive strategy of responding to both external and internal pressures for curriculum change and renewal.

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Special Case Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work, University of Regina, x, 298 l.