Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Professional Socialization: A Bridge between the Explicit and Implicit Curricula

Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Professional Socialization: A Bridge between the Explicit and Implicit Curricula

Article excerpt

Professional socialization has emerged as a notable construct for social work as it is explicitly highlighted in the Council on Social Work Education's (CSWE; 2008) revised Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS). EPAS denote a tripartite curricular structure including the explicit curriculum (EC), the implicit curriculum (IC), and the field as social work's signature pedagogy (CSWE, 2008). This tripartite structural formulation and the definitions of each of its elements is still fairly new and requires further clarification as schools of social work begin to build on and within it. Each of the three elements is characteristically different but none functions independently. Taken as a unified whole, it becomes clear that particular factors must bridge the three together, and professional socialization is primary among them.

EPAS clearly identifies professional socialization as a facet of the signature pedagogy; in this way, the field practicum can be understood as the primary seat of professional socialization for social work (CSWE, 2008). Though professional socialization is identified discretely in the signature pedagogy, there is not a clear sense of how the construct itself is defined overall, and no clear lines are drawn between the professional socializing element of the signature pedagogy and its relationship to the EC and IC. Much like the field as signature pedagogy, the IC as an explicit concept is also in its nascence (Holosko, Skinner, MacCaughelty, & Stahl, 2010). How the IC is conceptualized is idiosyncratic to individual schools of social work (Holosko et al., 2010), with a particular focus on the critical importance of relationships, communication, and differing normative structures. The importance of relationships, normative structures, and elements of recruiting that factor into the IC are in fact aspects of professional socialization. Given that social work as a profession has a distinct professional culture, the IC is grounded in and meant to support the values, attitudes, and norms relevant to social work as a profession. These elements of a profession's culture serve as the context within which professional socialization occurs. Vehicles for this socialization are both implicit in the culture of social work and individual schools of social work and explicit in the content and structure of social work education; professional socialization occurs in both the school and field settings, and in essence, the signature pedagogy has both EC and IC ties.

As each element of the tripartite structure becomes more clearly defined, the reciprocal relationship between the three components will require careful attention. This article identifies the professional socialization of social workers as one of the primary means of bridging the EC and IC and sheds light on opportunities to make the most of both. Professional socialization has been inherent to the social work profession and to social work education since its inception and has largely remained implicit (Miller, 2010). In an effort to provide conceptual clarity to the definition of professional socialization for social work, Miller (2010) has explicated a theoretical framework, which begins to make the implicit explicit and also unravels some of the key factors that relate to the professional socialization of social workers

PROFESSIONAL SOCIALIZATION

Professional socialization is central to social work's ethos, yet, perhaps because of its inextricability, its definition is presently ambiguous. It occurs as an outcropping of educational content, structure, and relationships (Holosko et al., 2010; Miller, 2010; Shuval, 1980), both explicitly and implicitly in the classroom, field, and beyond. As social work has professionalized over time, unity and adherence to a traditional mission have been debated (Specht & Courtney, 1994). Professional socialization, though accepted as an integral aspect of social work education (Barretti, 2004b) and in essence, grounded in the traditional mission, has been the focus of little systematic research. …

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