The Effective Social Worker

by Neil Thompson and Sue Thompson

Exercises for Understanding Social Work 4e

Chapter 1: Making Sense of Social Work
Chapter 2: The Legal and Policy Context
Chapter 3: The Knowledge Base
Chapter 4: The Skills Base
Chapter 5: The Value Base
Chapter 6: Achieving a Good Practice
Chapter 7: Facing the Challenge


Chapter 1: Making Sense of Social Work

Exercise 1.1

This exercise is designed to help you develop your own perspective on social work. Consider the following questions and use the space below to make some notes.

  1. What is it about social work that interests you or appeals to you?
  2. What do you think you have to offer to social work, and what rewards or benefits do you feel it offers you in return?
  3. What sort of society do you think we would have if we did not have social work?
  4. If you were a client, what would you expect from your social worker?

Exercise 1.2

The general public tend to have a very limited understanding of what social work is and what it is intended to achieve. If you were asked to make a presentation to a community group about the role of social work in contemporary society, what key points would you want to include in that presentation?


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Chapter 2: The Legal and Policy Context

Exercise 2.1

How does the idea of working in the legal field make you feel? How confident do you feel about this? If you have positive feelings, how can you make the most of them as a social worker? If you have negative feelings, what steps do you need to take to feel better equipped to rise to the challenges of social work? What support will you need?

Exercise 2.2

For this exercise, you will need to identify three pieces of legislation that are relevant to social work practice, and, for each one, find out:
  1. What are the main duties this Act places upon social workers?
  2. What are the main powers this Act bestows upon social workers?
For this exercise you may need to consult some of the literature mentioned in the ‘Guide to further learning’ section, or you may need to seek advice from an experienced social worker.


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Chapter 3: The Knowledge Base

Exercise 3.1

Consider a possible piece of social work intervention (placing a child with foster carers, assessing an older person’s needs or writing a report for court, for example). What elements of knowledge would be relevant to the situation you have chosen? What would you need to know? There are no ‘right’ answers to this. It is simply an exercise to get you thinking about the knowledge base.

Exercise 3.2

What does the term ‘spirituality’ mean to you? How would you describe your own spirituality?
How do you think spirituality is relevant to social work? What implications does this have for our practice?


Chapter 4: The Skills Base

Exercise 4.1

Consider the 16 sets of skills outlined in this chapter. For each of these, think about your own level of skill development. How confident do you feel about each of these areas? In what ways do you feel you need to develop? [Please note: there are no ‘right answers’ to this exercise. It is simply an opportunity for you to reflect on your skills and begin to consider ways of developing them.]

Exercise 4.2

What do you see as your three strongest areas of skill? What do you see as the three areas of skill where you have the most development to do? What steps do you need to take to build on your strengths and build up your areas for development? What support do you feel you will need?


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Chapter 5: The Value Base

Exercise 5.1

The basis of this exercise is an opportunity for you to consider your own values. What are the principles you believe in? What values underpin your approach to people and their problems? You may find it helpful to discuss these issues with someone you know well and whose views you trust.

Exercise 5.2

Values influence thoughts, feelings and actions. Choose a value (such as respect, equality, the value of learning) and consider how it might influence you in relation to each of these three aspects:
  • Your thoughts
  • Your feelings
  • Your actions
What might this teach us about values in social work?


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Chapter 6: Achieving a Good Practice

Exercise 6.1

What do you understand by the term ‘working in partnership’? What might make it difficult to achieve the aim of effective collaboration? What might you be able to do about those difficulties?

Exercise 6.2

Reflective practice, as we have seen, involves both reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action. For the purposes of this exercise, we are going to concentrate on reflection-on-action. Think about a recent situation where you tried to help someone in some way (in a personal or professional capacity) and then answer the questions below:
  • What did you do?
  • In dealing with the situation, what did you do that was helpful?
  • What, with hindsight, could you have done better in the situation?
  • What have you learned from this situation that will help you in future?


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Chapter 7: Facing the Challenge

Exercise 7.1

Consider the various obstacles to achieving good practice outlined here. Which, for you personally, would be the most significant? Which one are you most likely to struggle with? What steps could you take to deal with this? What tactics or strategies could you possibly develop?


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