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Standard 21

System Learning Support Services

Candidates demonstrate the ability to assess, design, advocate for, and deliver direct and indirect services to affect culturally sensitive educational outcomes at the systemic level.   These activities are based on knowledge of the mission and function of the school, school district and community, and how these systemic factors contribute to learning outcomes in both positive and negative ways.


PPS credential candidates must demonstrate knowledge of large system factors and their impact on learning outcomes. They also acquire the ability to design and deliver system level learning support services, including skill to engage other professionals and family members in addressing the needs of pupils. Classroom and field internship experiences provide knowledge about the school setting as a context for social work practice as well as the roles and effect that key people in social systems have on the performance of pupils in schools. Specific classes which provide this knowledge and practice are depicted in Matrix 21-1.

Knowledge of large system factors and their impact on learning outcomes

The MSW curriculum is grounded in social systems theory and its complementary ecological approach as a framework for social work practice. Thus, students gain a thorough understanding of groups and organizations as social systems as well as the ways in which systems influence and impact upon each other. Policy and foundation classes which address these areas of knowledge include Social Welfare Policy I (S Wrk 200); Social Welfare Policy II (S Wrk 203), HBSE: A Multi Systems Approach (S Wrk 212); and, HBSE: Cultural Diversity and Oppression (S Wrk 213). One example of this foundation content is illustrated in the following assignment from S Wrk 200, Policy Area Presentations. The advanced practice courses concerned with large systems utilize this foundation in social systems theory and present knowledge and practice skills for intervention.

S Wrk 246, Social Work Practice with Formal Organizations, provides specific content on the structure and functioning of large organizations. Topics which are addressed include decision-making, personnel and staffing, planning, communication, supervision and leadership. S Wrk 274, Advanced Social Work Practice in Schools, complements this content with information that is specific to public schools. Organizational information such as governance structures, funding, regulatory policies and procedures, programs, eligibility for special education and the rights and obligations of schools, parents and pupils are all covered in this course. Candidates review systems theory and apply it to practice in a school setting. They also learn to analyze the school setting as an organization and demonstrate this ability in a written assignment for the course. This assignment, the School Practice Paper, requires the candidate to demonstrate understanding of school structure, school climate, formal and informal leadership, decision- making roles of school personnel, rules and regulations, school support services and other relevant aspects of organizational functioning.

S Wrk 247, Social Work Practice with Communities, provides the knowledge and practice skills for understanding and working with the community in which schools are located. Topics include assessment of community needs, entry into the community, identification of community leaders, analysis of sources of power and power differentials, and knowledge of available resources in the community. For example, see the course content on the Assessment of Community Needs, Part 1.

This knowledge base prepares candidates for intervention at the community level through social planning and community organizing. They also develop knowledge about community organizations that serve the school population and the resources available to address needs such as housing, health and mental health services, income maintenance, family planning, juvenile justice and child welfare. This knowledge facilitates appropriate utilization of community resources as well as appreciation of the impact of these organizations on learning outcomes for pupils. PPS candidates are required to complete community practice assignments as part of the field practicum in schools, S Wrk 283. They also interface regularly with community organizations through consultation, collaboration, advocacy and program planning.

Ability to design and deliver system level learning support services

PPS candidates acquire the knowledge and skills to design and deliver social work practice at the larger system level in support of pupil learning. A major focus of the social worker in schools is to engage the various and sometimes conflicting social systems of the school on behalf of pupil needs. There is both a knowledge base and field practice component to the development of this important skill. The knowledge base begins with a thorough understanding of systems theory and its application to the school setting as described above. Built upon this foundation is specific knowledge and theory needed to perform various social work roles: advocate; mediator; broker; consultant; counselor; program planner. Curriculum which provides the practice knowledge and theory for these traditional social work roles is found in the following classes: Seminar in Foundations for Social Work Practice I and II (S Wrk 220 and S Wrk 221); Seminar in Advanced Social Work Practice with Individuals (S Wrk 224); Seminar in Advanced Social Work Practice with Groups (S Wrk 225); Seminar in Social Work Practice with Couples and Families (S Wrk 227); Seminar in Social Work Practice with Formal Organizations (S Wrk 246); and, Seminar in Social Work Practice with Communities (S Wrk 247). For example, S Wrk 220 is the first foundation practice course in the program. At the beginning of the course, students are introduced to The Generalist Problem-Solving Model.

Based on the assessment of both small and large system factors influencing learning outcomes, PPS candidates design programs and develop service plans to address identified problems. Because most presenting problems are the result of the interaction of various systems level factors, the candidate must learn to intervene at multiple levels to effect change. Thus, the pupil who is referred for problems with attendance is assessed to determine the reasons for missing school. The service plan may involve intervention at the small system level, including individual counseling, family intervention and consultation with the teacher. However, the candidate also learns to address the larger systems level factors, which may affect attendance. These factors include classroom management, school climate, school safety and implementation of policy and procedure. Therefore, the service plan may also include development of a school task force to address improving school climate, training school staff on appropriate implementation of attendance policies, or organizing a community group to report truant students in the school neighborhood.

The School Social Work courses, S Wrk 274 and S Wrk 275, provide extensive knowledge about the school setting, education policy and practice strategies for school social work. Specific policies related to education are reviewed, such as attendance, pupil rights and special education. Organizational issues such as school climate and school violence are examined. Target groups of at-risk pupils are addressed and practice strategies for addressing the myriad of system level factors influencing pupil learning are addressed in the S Wrk 275 assignment, Class Presentation . At the beginning of S Wrk 274, candidates are oriented to the school setting as a practice context. Specific strategies for establishing positive working relationships with all relevant constituencies are presented. The importance of joining, gaining trust and establishing the viable role of the school social worker are emphasized.

Classroom knowledge of these large system factors is strengthened by concurrent enrollment in the school field practicum, S Wrk 282/283. The learning experience for both semesters of the advanced field practicum is guided by the learning agreement and the PPS learning agreement addendum. The learning agreement for each semester prescribes learning assignments that are aligned with the concurrent advanced practice courses. In the fall, PPS candidates complete field assignments in organizational assessment, program planning and observation of an administrative meeting. See the S Wrk 282 learning agreement assignments under Multi Systems Social Work Practice. In the spring, field experiences are completed in community needs assessment and application of a community practice model to address an identified need. The PPS learning agreement addendum is structured around 11 competency areas, most of which have implications for system level support services. Specific field internship assignments are outlined for each competency area to ensure that candidates have ample experience to gain proficiency in each competency area.

The assignments described above provide PPS credential candidates with the opportunity to gain important knowledge and experience in engaging parents, pupils and families in need, and developing new programs and services to meet the needs of school, pupil, family and community. In carrying out these various social work interventive roles and services, candidates gain a broad range of knowledge of the community services and resources available to pupils, families and schools. These resources include mental health, medical services, housing, juvenile justice, social services, child welfare, employment development, recreation and services for persons with disabilities. Special attention to the needs of ethnically and culturally diverse groups is addressed extensively in both the classroom and the field practicum to enhance cultural competency in service design and delivery. Formal evaluation of candidate performance in the provision of system level learning support services occurs at the end of each semester. Candidates must demonstrate satisfactory performance in 80 percent of the required areas in order to receive credit for the field practicum.


 MATRIX 21-1








School Social Work


System Level Learning Support Services

200, 203

212, 213

220, 221 224, 225 227, 246 247

280/ 281 282/283

260, 261 292 298/299

274 275

274 275

Factors to consider:








Knowledge of large system factors and their impact on learning

200, 203

212, 213

246, 247





Ability to design and deliver system level learning support services



220, 221 224, 225 227, 246 247



274 275



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