Gatekeeping in BSW Programs:
A Review of the Research
Nancy P. Kropf
Baccalaureate programs in social work education have the responsibility to provide educational experiences, socialization, and opportunities to prepare students for entry into social work practice. In addition to the educational function, programs are also expected to serve as “the keeper of the gate” to the social work profession (Moore and Urwin 1990:114). Under BSW accreditation standards, all programs must have procedures to determine the suitability of the students for entry-level practice (Council on Social Work Education [CSWE] 1994). Gatekeeping involves two different processes: restricting entry to a program (i.e., denying admission) and termination of the educational process (i.e., dismissal, screening a student out of the major). The issues related to gatekeeping are important but complex and continue to generate much concern and debate in the profession.
In an effort to begin exploring these issues in more detail, this chapter provides a review of the research and literature on gatekeeping in baccalaureate social work education. The first section describes the emerging reasons for an increased interest in gatekeeping. The second section identifies gatekeeping points in the curriculum. Finally, implications for programs and further research are presented to provide additional consideration and clarification about this important educational and professional responsibility.