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An often repeated starting point is that political issues should be studied in active ways that challenge students to analyze, discuss and act independently (e.g. Mendes 2003). In this, for instance, debate exercises (Gregory and Holloway 2005) and concrete change projects (Rocha 2000, 56) have been used. Students can be familiarized with the political practice in many ways, also by helping them to meet legislators, lobby and participate in visits to the parliament house (Sundet and Kelly 2002, 53).
In many courses, students have carried out tasks and projects in which they have analyzed different themes from socio-political perspective (e.g. Mendes 2003; Rotabi, Weil and Gamble 2004; Morrow 2011). The politics that target some special issue have been compared between different countries (see Rotabi, Weil and Gamble 2004, 79–80). The course tasks can challenge students to construct hypothetical social policies (Weaver and Nackerud 2005, 112) or to work with a current policy problem in a workshop produced together with local practitioners (Zubrzycki and McArthur 2004). Wolfer and Gray (2007, 41–2) propose the use of the decision case method to teach social policy advocacy since discussing challenging cases helps clarify complex situations and formulate a problem and actions.
In political practice, communicative skills are of course very important. These skills have been practiced for instance by class writing assignments (e.g. commentaries, letters to the editor and testimonies) as well as by creating brochures
For instance, a student may work with a client who encounters barriers in accessing appropriate treatment services. By helping the student to summarize and present the client´s experience, while protecting confidential information, the instructor can deliver an important lesson in advocating for public policies. Finally, testimony can be presented in class in mock 'hearings' and critiqued on content and presentation by the instructor and students. In this way, students may not only develop skills for writing and delivering testimony, but also the self-confidence necessary to appear before legislative body.
In social work education, field placements and other ways to put knowledge and skills into practice have a significant role. For instance Mendes (2003,
232) points out how important it would be to give students possibilities to use their social policy skills also in the real world. Hamilton and Fauri (2001, 330) challenge social work educators to work with 'professional associations, advocacy groups, and agencies' and so develop learning activities that engage students in the legislative and electoral processes. Weiss et al. (2006, 801–2) emphasize the importance of introducing social policy and policy practice into method courses and field placements in order to overcome the strict division between micro and macro practice as well as educators and field instructors.
In different courses, social work students have worked in many kinds of organizations by developing some special policies (Droppa 2007), they have conducted change projects (Rocha 2000, 56), they have analyzed the policies of their placement agencies (Gibbons and Gray 2005, 68) and they have been brought together for collective action on a policy advocacy related to a specific social problem (Heidemann et al. 2011). Field placements are not, however, described as being unproblematic. If political practice is not mainstream in social work practice, it may be difficult to find work places and supervisors – especially those that can be defined as belonging to the field of social work – that could support students in developing new skills (Fisher et al. 2002, 51).
It seems that by using active teaching methods it is possible to strengthen the interest of social work students in policy issues as well as their feeling of competency as policy practitioners (e.g. Rocha 2000; Saulnier 2000; Manalo
Table 5.2 Summary of the teaching methods of politically oriented social work
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