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Fifty years of social work education: analysis of motivations and outcomes.

Butler-Warke, Alice; Bolger, Janine



Summary: This article uses the 50th anniversary of social work education provision at one of north-east Scotland’s universities as an opportunity to reflect on social work education outcomes and motivations for undertaking training. This empirical assessment is based on the detailed responses to questionnaires and interviews with social work graduates who studied between 1968 and 2012 to evaluate social work training and education among graduates. We use the Kirkpatrick model to evaluate social work education. Findings: We highlight the combination of prior experience with social work and a sense of altruism that served to motivate students to engage in training.We discuss the levels of preparedness for practice based on training and note that it is the combination of teaching and placements that benefits students most. We reflect on the centrality of a common set of social work values that arise from a period of introspection during education, and we show that these values are incorporated into both professional and personal life. Applications: We show that ‘big picture’ and evaluations of social work education are important in order to orient social work education in line with political and social change. We also suggest that educators should be cognisant of the importance of personal development and growth that are central to the training of social workers. Rather than seeing personal development as a by-product of social work education, we argue that training that strengthens social work values of justice and empathy is imperative.


BUTLER-WARKE, A. and BOLGER, J. 2021. Fifty years of social work education: analysis of motivations and outcomes. Journal of social work [online], 21(5), pages 1019-1040. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 22, 2020
Online Publication Date Mar 22, 2020
Publication Date Sep 1, 2021
Deposit Date Mar 31, 2020
Publicly Available Date Mar 23, 2021
Journal Journal of Social Work
Print ISSN 1468-0173
Electronic ISSN 1741-296X
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 5
Pages 1019-1040
Keywords Social work; Social work history; Social work education; Evaluation; Social work values; Curriculum
Public URL


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