Dr. T.S. Chandrashekara
Faculty, Dept. of Social Work, Kristu Jayanthi College
Any learning to be permanent has to be based on practice. It is the practice, and the knowledge that comes from it, develops and even testifies the theories. It is argued that theory is the base for practice and also equally it is argued that practice is the base for theory. However I feel both are necessary; a sound theory can provide good inputs (specially in terms of knowledge) for effective practice and good practice can make theories more relevant. The author in this paper attempts to brief on how social work is a practice based learning specially highlighting how the theoretical knowledge has been effectively put into practice and how the practice has made the theories of social work appropriate and contributing for modification whenever required.
Social Work - A Practice Based -Learning
Social work is a helping profession, that strongly believes in the worth of the individuals. It emphasizes on addressing the problems Scientifically and there by strives to facilitate a relatively problem free patterns for individuals to grow, develop and live satisfactorily. It has scientifically developed and time tested methods and techniques to work with individuals (which include children, adults, senior citizens and differently abled), groups (both normal and therapeutic groups) and community. This profession believes in making, individuals, groups, communities and institutions to realize their worth/potentials in them and thereby to strive for their development.
Research is an important and integral part of social work education and practice. Through this method it attempts to explore and explain various dimensions of social issues and strives to workout interventions to deal with problems. The complexities of human relations, relative significance of institutions (both primary and secondary) in causing social problems, its effect on individuals, etc. are some of the lessons that can be learnt by conducting social work research. Research has to be an on going activity in social work practice as it helps in developing new insights into social problems and solutions offered to it. We can find social work inputs in administration especially in service organizations.
How this social work is learnt? Is it through theory or practice ? or in the first place, can social work be learnt? These are the questions normally arise, as the word social work is more misunderstood than properly understood. To me, social work should be learnt so as to make its application scientific. The process oflearning here includes application of theoretical knowledge in the fields of its operation. Through practice, the study, diagnostic and helping skills will be developed which makes the practice of social work a skill based profession. Effective practice depends on, and should necessarily depend on, theoretical knowledge. Otherwise the practice may become ineffective to address the changing nature of problems.
Theories provide inputs to understand the individuals who have problems, the nature of problem itself in terms of its components, and the social context in which the problems have arised specially the contributing and sustaining factors. This methodology of systematic and scientific understanding of problems is possible through sound and established theories. Hence, social work can be learnt through theories, but the question here is how best this learning can be put into practice, as practice greatly depends on KAS- (Knowledge, Attitude & Skills) of the practitioner. So, it needs to be understood that the practice of social work will not only aids in implementing the theories but also over period of time can contribute for the emergence and development of theories. I feel this should be the focus of social work learning as here learning takes place from the experience. Thus, social work learning can be considered a practice based learning.
Social work as a subject of learning may be taught by the academicians and the practitioners. Academicians may provide theoretical knowledge to the trainee social workers wherein all aspects of service delivery system would be explained. Similarly, this subject can also be taught by the practitioners as they can provide details on. how the problems are scientifically addressed to, specially in following the process of service delivery system - meaning the process of study of the problems, diagnosis ofthe problem, and working out intervention strategies to deal with the problems.
I strongly recommend that the subject of social work should be taught by persons who are practicing. But at the same time by an academicians who keeps practicing the subject they teach. Then only social work becomes practice based learning. Quantification of learning, formulating field based theories based on these learning, continued and periodical exposures of learners to this practice based learning and dissemination of these outcomes, I feel, necessary to make Social work - a practice based learning a complete reality. I opine that like medical profession here too the teachers should associate with agencies to practice their teachings and the practitioners should associate with academic institutes wherein Social work subjects are taught. This is necessary to strengthen the theory base for social work practice and practice for making Social work theories need based.