Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Study Abroad and Values Development in Social Work Students

Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Study Abroad and Values Development in Social Work Students

Article excerpt

Literature Review

Literature in three areas is relevant to this study: social work values, values development in social work, and study abroad.

Social Work Values

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW, 1999) Code of Ethics cites six core social work values on which effective and responsible practice is based: Service, Social Justice, Dignity and Worth of the Person, Importance of Human Relationships, Integrity, and Competence. These values are each defined in ethical principles and explicated more fully in the Code of Ethics. The seven ethical principles require social workers to "help people in need and to address social problems; ... challenge social justice; ... respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person; ... recognize the central importance of human relationships; ... behave in a trustworthy manner [integrity], ... and practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise" (Ethical Principles Section).

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW, 2001) Code of Ethics for Social Work is very similar to the NASWCode. The BASW Code outlines five core values and principles: Human Dignity and Worth, Social Justice, Service to Humanity, Integrity, and Competence. The NASW value of the Importance of Human Relationships has no parallel in the British code.

Pumphrey (1959), who authored a landmark study of social work values that served as the basis for Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) curriculum requirements around values and ethics, defined values as "formulations of preferred behaviors held by individuals or social groups. They imply a usual preference for certain means, ends, and conditions of life, often being accompanied by strong feeling" (p. 23). Rokeach (1968) noted that values have motivational cognitive, affective, and behavioral components. It is the behavioral component of values that is addressed in codes of ethics that guide professional practice. Towle (1954) linked the affective components of values with practice behavior when she emphasized the importance of developing "feelings and attitudes that will make it possible for the student to think and act appropriately" (p. 8). The universal recognition within the profession of the importance of professional values development is evident in the CSWE (2001) requirement that all social work programs include content on social work values and ethics in their curricula.

Values Development in Social Work Education

Reamer (1999) has asserted that social work values must be at the center of social work education. Noting that personal values have a great influence on how students view clients and the work they do with clients, Reamer emphasized the importance of social work students clarifying their personal values in relation to the values of the profession. An important function of social work education is to facilitate the process of professional values development, which requires students to engage in self-reflection with respect to both their personal and professional values. This process of values development is a part of socialization into the social work profession that begins within the educational context, but which is an ongoing process.

Bargal (1981) proposed a five-stage model of social values development as a part of the socialization process for social work and other human service professions. According to this model, many factors affect values development, both before and after exposure to social work education. Before a student enrolls, antecedent factors such as socioeconomic background, early life experiences, and personality factors, as well as anticipatory socialization that occurs before a student actually enrolls in a social work program, influence values. Once students graduate and begin work, Bargal asserts that work in a bureaucratic organization and crystallization of a professional world view affect values development. …

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