Theoretical considerations regarding social work education: do ethics matter and if so how do you teach them?

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Thompson, LJ & Pumpa,MR 2011, 'Theoretical considerations regarding social work education: do ethics matter and if so how do you teach them?', Proceedings of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia (PESA) Conference, AUT, Auckland, NZ, 1-4 December, Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia (PESA). ISBN: 9780646549934

Paper available on Open Access


The professional capabilities that are required of practicing social workers include an understanding of ethics and the capacity for ethical practice, yet rather than facilitating procedural knowledge transfer, this paper emphasises the acquisition of ethical knowledge as a process of critical, transformational and political education. This paper considers the trends towards internationalising Social Work in respect to student learning needs regarding Social Work ethics. It considers cross cultural politics against an implicit, static, relativist philosophical framework, for ethics. Relevant Social Work education, rather than being a process of learning professionally endorsed context-specific, ethical practices, might be a process of developing comfort with explicit examination of group power-relations within dynamic practice contexts. It might examine a, relationist philosophical approach by considering ontological questions that underlie the relationships between professionals and other stakeholders that are involved in ethical decision-making. By making explicit, a relationist framework there can be description and analysis of the power-relations between Social Workers and client populations as they change and develop. This approach promotes critical reflection as an essential process for personal and professional transformation, when dealing with the ethical complexities of cultural relativism, humanitarian evangelism and risk management.