Wisdom and skills in social work education. Promoting critical relational social work through ethnographic practice

Jonathan Parker

Sara Ashencaen Crabtree

Taking the development of social work education in the UK as an example of some of the ways in which educational policy and practice is developing globally, techniques of resisting an increasingly technical-rational and instrumental focus are introduced. After a short historical excursus into changes in social work education and practice, two innovative models drawn from the authors’ research are explored. The paper suggests that a sensitive and critical approach to international field placements and the deployment of ethnographic practices allows social work students to develop a reflexive and critical approach to social work practice that privileges the relational and humane rather than impersonal, homogenising and stultifying systems.


Education – field placements – ethnography – practice wisdom