Teaching Matters

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Teaching Matters 2018 | Presentation Details | 2018


Designing the future of social work in Tasmania through collective effort and shared responsibility


Sonya Stanford, Social Work


Excellent teaching happens by design

Presentation Type



Flexible Learning Space 1




There is widespread agreement that social work education is under intense pressure arising from debates about its sustainability, relevance, quality, rigour, academic standing, and leadership (Neden, et al., 2018; Connolly, et al., 2017; Karger, 2012). Adaptive curriculum and pedagogic strategies over the past 20 years have not resolved the crises that threaten the credibility and ongoing viability of social work education programs. A fundamental change to how things are done has never been so urgent.

Social Work at UTAS sought to address the local experience and dynamics of the disputed territories of curriculum, field education and teaching methods by framing these issues as design challenges to be resolved through a co-design approach. In 2017 over six months, workshops employing creative data collection strategies were held state-wide with 90 people. Participants were past, existing and potential social work field educators, professional association members, current and graduate social work students, and staff. Each workshop focused on the question: ‘What becomes possible for the future of Tasmanian social work through collective effort and shared responsibility?' Next, design principles – such as embracing ambiguity, creative confidence, and optimism (VCOSS, 2015) – were applied to resolve tensions between identified aspirations and fixed institutional contexts. Two approved course proposals later; burgeoning interest in new partnerships focusing on the nexus between research, teaching, and field education; and increased projected enrolments, indicate that co-design has the potential to build a new and sustainable educational paradigm. Meaningful and cooperative collaborations are therefore essential for achieving the paradigmatic shift required in social work education to ‘future proof' the profession.


Burkett, I. (2012). An Introduction to Codesign. Knode.

Connolly, M., Williams, C. and Cooper, L. (2017). Editorial. Advances in Social Work & Welfare Education, 19 (1): 5-9.

Karger, H. (2012). Lessons from American social work education: caution ahead. Australian Social Work, 65 (3): 311-325.

Neden, J., Townsend, R. and Zuchowski, I. (2018). Towards sustainability in Australian social work field education, Australian Social Work, 71 (3): 345-357.

Victorian Council of Social Services. (2015). Walk alongside: Co-designing social initiatives with people experiencing vulnerabilities. VCOSS, Melbourne, Victoria.

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