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Social Work Council on Social Work Education
by
Julia Watkins

Introduction

The nonprofit Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), founded in 1952 and located in Alexandria, Virginia, is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States. CSWE seeks to foster the high quality of social work education through preparation of competent professionals in social work, national leadership, and a forum for collective action. It sets and maintains policy and program standards, accredits bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in social work, promotes research and faculty development, and advocates for social work education. CSWE represents more than 3,000 individual members, as well as graduate and undergraduate programs of professional social work education. CSWE has hosted the Annual Program Meeting (APM) for social work educators, practitioners, and students since 1954. APM offers a venue for continuing education, presentation of research, networking, and discussion of current issues for social workers and allied disciplines. CSWE also sponsors CSWE Press, a niche publisher concerned with the philosophy, theory, and practice of teaching; the process and evaluation of learning; and the organization and structure of social work education.

Journals

The flagship publication of CSWE is the Journal of Social Work Education (JSWE), which began publication in 1964.

History

The following is an overview of issues leading to CSWE’s founding. Leighninger 2000 provides readings by social work pioneers of the early 20th century. Flexner 1915 is an early and influential speech on social work as a profession, which is analyzed in Morris 2008. Devine and Brandt 1921 describes developments in social work up to 1920. Hollis and Taylor 1951 is a groundbreaking study of social work education. Sheafor 2001 describes the development of social work education at the baccalaureate level; Donahoe 2000 focuses on the doctoral level. Kendall 2002 gives a history of CSWE up to the mid-1970s. CSWE’s roots lie in several previous organizations that reflected differing approaches to the preparation of social workers. Calls for professional education came as early as 1894 by Anna L. Dawes, who was frustrated at the lack of capable individuals who could superintend charities in her Massachusetts city; see Leighninger 2000. By 1910, schools for training social workers had opened in Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, and Philadelphia, according to Devine and Brandt 1921. The Association of Training Schools for Professional Social Work was formed in July 1919 and became the American Association of Schools of Social Work (AASSW). Disagreement about an appropriate curriculum originally hampered development of a unified approach to social work education; see Morris 2008. Neither was there consensus about the appropriate level of education. In 1937, AASSW limited its membership to graduate schools, prompting the establishment of the National Association of Schools of Social Administration (NASSA). According to Kendall 2002 and Sheafor 2001, NASSA’s founders believed mandating graduate-level education for social workers was ill advised, considering personnel shortages; they advocated a broader approach. Donahoe 2000 notes that the graduate community also disagreed regarding postgraduate preparation of advanced practitioners versus doctoral education. The issue of program recognition, or accreditation, brought matters to a head, because the competing systems of AASSW and NASSA were causing confusion in the education community. Seeking common ground, the two organizations and others formed the National Council on Social Work Education in 1946. This entity produced Social Work Education in the United States (Hollis and Taylor 1951), which recommended the establishment of a single organization to reflect the varied constituencies of the profession and provide all members with the opportunity to set and sustain accreditation criteria. This led to the dissolution of AASSW and NASSA and the establishment of CSWE in January 1952.

  • Devine, Edward T., and Lilian Brandt. 1921. American social work in the twentieth century. New York: Frontier.

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    This book traces the developments in US social work from the turn of the 20th century to 1920.

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  • Donahoe, Jana Newton. 2000. Advancing doctoral education in social work: The development of organizations of doctoral programs, 1948–1992. PhD diss., Univ. of Alabama.

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    This dissertation explores the history of organizations involved in doctoral-level education in social work from 1948 to 1992. Available online from the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database (UMI No. 9966687) by subscription.

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  • Flexner, Abraham. 1915. Is social work a profession? In Proceedings of National Conference of Charities and Corrections, 1915. 576–590. Chicago: Hildmann.

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    In this famous and still-discussed speech, Flexner states that social work is not a profession because it lacks the qualities of science. Available online for purchase in Research on Social Work Practice 11.2 (2001): 152–165.

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  • Hollis, Ernest V., and Alice L. Taylor. 1951. Social work education in the United States: The report of a study made for the National Council on Social Work Education. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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    This major study provides recommendations on the needs of the social work profession.

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  • Kendall, Katherine A. 2002. Council on Social Work Education: Its antecedents and first twenty years. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education.

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    Written by CSWE’s first executive secretary (later executive director), this book provides the history of the Council on Social Work Education from its predecessor organizations to its work in the mid-1970s, including identification of contentious issues.

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  • Leighninger, Leslie. 2000. Creating a new profession: The beginnings of social work education in the United States. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education.

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    This work provides seminal writings from 1894 to 1935 that reflect the evolution of US social work as a profession.

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  • Morris, Patricia McGrath. 2008. Reinterpreting Abraham Flexner’s speech, “Is social work a profession?”: Its meaning and influence on the field’s early professional development. Social Service Review 82.1: 29–60.

    DOI: 10.1086/529399Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article analyzes Abraham Flexner’s 1915 speech, exploring its misinterpretations and effect on the professional development of social workers and the social work curriculum.

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  • Sheafor, Bradford W. 2001. Three decades of baccalaureate social work: A grade card on how the professionalization of the BSW has played out. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work 6.2: 25–43.

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    This lecture assesses the thirty-year movement to professionalize the baccalaureate-level social worker.

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The Establishment of CSWE and the Social Work Curriculum

Issues of CSWE’s early years are featured in this section. Pins 1965 discusses efforts regarding social worker recruitment. CSWE’s Office of Social Work Education and Research gathers and interprets data on social work programs. Boehm 1959 is part of a multiyear study of the social work curriculum, which is reviewed in Towle 1959 and further analyzed in Brennen 1984. Council on Social Work Education 1962 mentions the master’s degree statement adopted by CSWE; Council on Social Work Education 1971 addresses the question of advanced standing as applied to students, which is further discussed in Bremner and Zastrow 2008. As a new organization, CSWE focused on personnel, accreditation, curriculum, and other matters pertaining to the professionalization of social work. CSWE’s bylaws stated its purpose in simple language—“to promote the development of sound programs of social work education”—and provided for several standing commissions, including one on accreditation. Major early foci of CSWE were addressing personnel shortages, as noted in Pins 1965, and systematic gathering and publication of statistics on social work programs and students by Office of Social Work Education and Research, CSWE. Schools of social work in the accreditation process were to be measured against a CSWE policy statement on curriculum, replacing the AASSW statement. Therefore, another important project was a comprehensive study of the social work curriculum, the scope of which is summarized in Boehm 1959. The multiyear study resulted in publication of Objectives of the Social Work Curriculum of the Future in 1959. According to Kendall 2002, “The study recommended that professional social work education should consist of three stages of learning spread over two undergraduate years and two graduate years” (p. 175). This conception provoked much discussion; Brennen 1984 and Towle 1959 cover this reaction. A CSWE Curriculum Committee, however, maintained the two-year standard of graduate-level education, and the board of directors adopted the policy in October 1962. A revision of the master’s degree policy statement in 1969 allowed schools to determine the courses and other modes of learning that met their institutional needs and cultures. In 1971 the board of directors approved a change to the accreditation standard that addressed the length of graduate social work education, allowing them to “admit specified categories of students with advanced standing”; see Council on Social Work Education 1971. Advanced standing—an effort to give social work students a seamless path from bachelor’s to master’s degree without repetition—still provokes debate, as discussed in Bremner and Zastrow 2008.

Accreditation Matters in Social Work

This section discusses the evolution of CSWE’s social work accreditation. Council on Social Work Education 1961 reports on the adoption of Social Welfare Content in Undergraduate Education; Gibbs 1995 and Sheafor and Shank 1986 cover this guide as well as curriculum and personnel of these programs. Council on Social Work Education 1982 provides the first curriculum policy on baccalaureate-level programs and discusses the replacement of the 1969 statement on master’s degrees. Turner 2005 features the role of the Canadian Association for Social Work Education, which replaced CSWE as the accreditor for Canadian social work programs. Council on Social Work Education 2008 provides the current standards used by CSWE to accredit baccalaureate- and master’s-level programs in social work. Initially, accreditation under CSWE applied solely to master’s programs, because those programs prepared individuals for professional social work practice, which at that time was thought to occur only at the master’s level. The board adopted Social Welfare Content in Undergraduate Education, meant as a guide for institutions developing such programs, in October 1961 (Council on Social Work Education 1961, p. 2). After the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation granted CSWE the authority to accredit baccalaureate programs, CSWE adopted standards in 1974 that addressed curriculum content, personnel, and structure of undergraduate programs in social welfare, as discussed in Gibbs 1995 and Sheafor and Shank 1986. Another curriculum policy revision adopted by the board of directors in 1982 provided “the first statement of curriculum policy for social work baccalaureate (BSW) programs,” according to Council on Social Work Education 1982, p. 5, and replaced the 1969 master’s degree statement. CSWE has never accredited associates or doctoral social work programs, which generally lead to paraprofessional or research and teaching positions, respectively. As Turner 2005 describes, CSWE also accredited Canadian programs in masters of social work until 1970, when the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work (now the Canadian Association for Social Work Education) assumed that accrediting function. However, CSWE still accredited Canadian MSW programs when requested to do so, until 1983. CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation formulates standards and policies for accreditation and has the authority to accredit, to impose conditional accredited status, to deny accreditation to, or to withdraw accreditation of baccalaureate and master’s degree programs in social work. The most recent revisions of the CSWE Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards occurred in 2001 and 2008 (see Council on Social Work Education 2008). As of June 2011 there are 473 accredited baccalaureate social work programs, 209 accredited master’s social work programs, 23 baccalaureate social work programs in candidacy, and 19 master’s social work programs in candidacy.

Diversity

This section identifies key actions by CSWE, as reported on the Katherine A. Kendall Institute for International Social Work Education, CSWE website, that address issues of diversity in programs and practice. Younghusband 1960 provides recommendations on improving preparation of social workers in corrections. Council on Social Work Education 1971 reports on revisions to accreditation standards, including the addition of age and sex to the nondiscrimination standard. Council on Social Work Education 1977 reports on the affirmative action standard on women. Trolander 1997 discusses CSWE’s actions to address racism and sexism. Council on Social Work Education 1997 reports on the amending of the nondiscrimination standard to include sexual orientation, followed by the recommendations in Martin, et al. 2009 on content in social work education programs that deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues. Council on Social Work Education 2009 and Council on Social Work Education 2010 provide recommendations on the preparation of social workers to work with military personnel and their families. Serving specific populations has always been integral to CSWE’s priorities. In 1955 the American Jewish Committee and CSWE developed curriculum materials to address “intergroup relations” (Trolander 1997, p. 114). In 1960, Dame Eileen Younghusband produced “Report on a Survey of Social Work in the Field of Corrections,” which provided recommendations for improved preparation of social workers in corrections. With the 1969 revision of its 1962 accreditation standard, CSWE became “the first among national accrediting bodies to have an affirmative action standard” (Trolander 1997, p. 120). It added age and sex to its mandatory standard on nondiscrimination in 1970, according to Council on Social Work Education 1971; adopted a specific affirmative action standard on women in 1977, according to Council on Social Work Education 1977 and Trolander 1997; and amended its nondiscrimination standard in 1997 to include sexual orientation. Increased focus on properly reflecting the social work workforce and populations served resulted in more-diverse representation on CSWE committees; a series of task force reports on ethnic groups; the CSWE Commission for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice (with councils on disability, racial/ethnic/cultural diversity, sexual orientation/gender expression, and women’s issues); and the establishment in 1974 of the Minority Fellowship Programs to promote fuller representation of social work professionals in mental health. More recently, CSWE joined with Lambda Legal to produce Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression in Social Work Education: Results from a National Survey (Martin, et al. 2009), in an effort to improve content in social work programs related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues.

Technology and Public Policy

This section deals with CSWE actions pertaining to technology and public policy. Council on Social Work Education 1967 reports on teaching via “telelecture.” Council on Social Work Education 1995 features the Distance Education Guidelines of the Commission on Accreditation, which is further discussed in Wilson 1999. The need for further research on distance learning is discussed in Regan and Freddolino 2008; Kulkin, et al. 2008; Thyer, et al. 1998; and Thyer, et al. 1997. Other issues of interest to CSWE have included technology and public policy. For example, regarding technology, CSWE featured at its 15th Annual Program Meeting in 1967 a demonstration on teaching by telephone, or “telelecture.” Although no formal accreditation standard exists on distance learning in social work education, CSWE issued the Commission on Accreditation’s Distance Education Guidelines in 1995 as a resource for social work programs seeking to use interactive television, and more research is needed on the subject, according to Kulkin, et al. 2008; Thyer, et al. 1998; Thyer, et al. 1997; and Wilson 1999. Public policy has been an important CSWE activity, reflected from CSWE’s earliest years, when representatives of federal government entities served on CSWE’s board of directors. CSWE advocates for issues important to social work education by interacting with Congress, the various agencies within the federal government, and other organizations throughout the social work and higher-education communities. In 2008 the CSWE Leadership Institute was developed to assist social work professionals in serving as members of national and state education commissions and as deans, chairs, and similar positions in the higher-education community.

  • Council on Social Work Education. 1967. Demonstrations of teaching media. Social Work Education Reporter 15.1: 8.

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    This article reports on various presentations at CSWE’s 15th Annual Meeting that featured new media for courses in social work education, including “telelecture.”

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  • Council on Social Work Education. 1995. Commission on accreditation guidelines for distance education. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education.

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    Provides guidelines for programs in social work education seeking to employ distance education components—specifically, interactive television—in their programs.

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  • Kulkin, Heidi, June Williams, and Bonnie Ahn. 2008. Exploring baccalaureate social work students and web-based learning. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work 13.2: 97–113.

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    This article examines the attitudes of undergraduate students to web-based instruction.

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  • Regan, Jo Ann, and Paul Freddolino. 2008. Integrating technology into the social work curriculum. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education.

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    This book provides resources, ideas, and techniques for implementing solutions for teaching with technological tools, including online courses, distance education programs, and distributed learning environments.

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  • Thyer, Bruce A., Thomas Artelt, Martha K. Markward, and Cheryl D. Dozier. 1998. Evaluating distance learning in social work education: A replication study. Journal of Social Work Education 34.2: 291–295.

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    This article reports on two courses that used live and televised instruction with students in medical social work and discusses implications.

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  • Thyer, Bruce A., Gerald Polk, and James G. Gaudin. 1997. Distance learning in social work education: A preliminary evaluation. Journal of Social Work Education 33.2: 363–367.

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    This article reports on an MSW course featuring both live instruction and distance learning, comparing outcomes from the two approaches and discussing implications.

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  • Wilson, Scott. 1999. Invited commentary: Distance education and accreditation. Journal of Social Work Education 35.3: 326–330.

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    This article addresses elements of CSWE accreditation standards and guidelines issued by CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation that apply to distance education.

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Dissent

This section focuses on disagreements with CSWE’s approach or priorities. Kendall 2002 discusses interactions between CSWE and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors was established to provide a more intense focus on baccalaureate-level social work, which the founders felt was insufficiently covered by CSWE, and is discussed in Leighninger and Stuart 1999 and Stuart and Leighninger 2000. The ramifications of CSWE’s 1983–1984 fiscal crisis are discussed in Beless 1989; Council on Social Work Education 1985; Hokenstad 1988; Sheafor 1985; and Stuart, et al. 1993. Not all have agreed with CSWE’s approach or priorities. NASW, which had paid dues to CSWE and supplied representatives to CSWE governing entities since the founding of CSWE, severed its formal connection to CSWE in 1971, although the two organizations continue to work together on initiatives of mutual interest to the present day (Kendall 2002). Perhaps echoing the previous American Association of Schools of Social Work (AASSW)–National Association of Schools of Social Administration (NASSA) tension, the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors (BPD) was established in 1975 to provide more intense focus on and services to baccalaureate-level social work programs, which, its founders believed, CSWE and others were neglecting in favor of graduate-level programs; this is discussed in Leighninger and Stuart 1999 and Stuart and Leighninger 2000. Today, BPD and CSWE partner on initiatives related to the enhancement of social work education. CSWE’s 1983–1984 fiscal crisis, triggered by investment losses and the move of the CSWE headquarters from New York to Washington, DC, caused members of the National Conference of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work to threaten to withhold their CSWE dues in protest. Council on Social Work Education 1985; Sheafor 1985; and Stuart, et al. 1993 discuss this situation. It ultimately led to governance changes in CSWE through a revision of its bylaws, according to Beless 1989 and Hokenstad 1988.

LAST MODIFIED: 05/23/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195389678-0023

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