Loyola University Chicago

School of Social Work

Course Descriptions

Fall 1st year

SOWK 800: Statistics

This course is the first in a two-semester sequence of statistics courses required of all social work doctoral students. The course covers basic statistical concepts of probability, sampling distributions, confidence intervals, and statistical inference. The focus for the course is the applied use of statistical methods for the analysis of social science data using SPSS and manual calculations. In addition to covering applied statistical concepts and their application to data, the course will also critically examine the question of causality. Furthermore, the course will promote critical thinking around how statistics can be used to both marginalize and empower racial, ethnic, and other identity and/or geographic community groups, and around ethics in quantitative analysis.

SOWK 801: Historical and Contemporary Issues in Social Work Practice

The course will provide a critical review and analysis of the historical development of social work practice and identify and explore contemporary issues that impact the current delivery of social work practice services. The course will also track the development of important themes and trends in social work, education, and research. Students will read from the professional literature ranging from the early 1900s to the present; critically evaluate the development of social work practice theory, knowledge, and skills as the profession sought to define what constitutes social work practice; examine the broader social, cultural, political, economic, and other contextual forces that shaped (and were shaped by) the development of social work practice and the provision of services to individuals, families, groups, and communities. Using an intersectional framework, students will identify, explore, and discuss contemporary issues through a historical lens that have a direct impact on social work practice. The issues may exist at the micro, mezzo, or macro level and may involve gaps in the professional knowledge base, new or not yet well-examined service needs to new or marginalized populations, new or not yet well-examined types of social work practice interventions, the impact of broader contextual forces on social work practice services, or other issues that impact the contemporary understanding and delivery of social work practice services.

SOWK 817: The Nature of Social Work Knowledge

This course aims to help students understand the variety of contemporary understandings of science in the social and behavioral sciences and foundational aspects of designing research to develop conceptual frameworks for social work practice.  Emphasis will be on science as a problem-solving process, with scientific knowledge development being a major link for the social worker between the roles of practitioner and researcher.  Important contemporary controversies and knowledge gaps are also studied. The readings draw from diverse metatheories currently used by social workers and afford students the opportunity to understand how to practice data differ according to practitioners’ and researchers’ choices of theory, data-gathering method, and interpretive perspective.

SOWK 818: Social Work Research Methodology: Overview of the Fundamentals

This course presents an overview and critical analysis of the research methods commonly used in social work and other related disciplines. The course will involve reading about these research methods, critically analyzing a variety of research reports, and applying research methods to an area relevant to the advancement of knowledge about social work selected by each student. The importance of critical thinking and knowledge development for the profession is emphasized throughout, especially as it applies to the advanced practitioner/scholar.

Spring 1st year

SOWK 802: Grand Theories and Perspectives in Social Work Knowledge

This course focuses on grand theories and perspectives which guide social work practice, research, and policy. Students in this course will critically examine the grand theories and perspectives which have influenced social work in the past, currently influence social work, and will likely shape the profession of social work in the future. Through examining and critiquing the grand theories and perspectives, students will be challenged to think about how these theories do and do not address social and economic justice while also acquiring more knowledge regarding how these theories and perspectives help students better understand their substantive areas.

SOWK 803: Advanced Statistics

Advanced Statistics is the second in a two-semester sequence of statistics courses required of all social work doctoral students. The course covers various multivariate statistical analysis techniques to test hypotheses that are most relevant to issues of social, economic, racial, and environmental justice. Knowledge of statistics is expected but extensive knowledge of math is not expected. It is expected students have familiarity with SPSS. A combination of teaching techniques will be used to include lecture/discussion, small group work, and lab reports. In a doctoral level course, it is expected students engage in a self-directed inquiry by engaging in activities that maximize learning beyond assigned course material and collaborative work with peers. The course will focus on practical topics and the application of these techniques to real-world research problems, and students will gain a good working knowledge of the assumptions and theory of multivariate statistical analyses.

SOWK 804: Qualitative Research

This course provides an overview of the fundamentals of qualitative research. It provides a detailed consideration of knowledge and skills in qualitative inquiry. It examines issues in the philosophy of science and paradigms for qualitative inquiry in social work. It emphasizes principles and procedures for qualitative inquiry design, including an introduction to data collection, analysis, and report writing, while attending to criteria for establishing trustworthiness. Particular attention will also be paid to developing skills in the evaluation of qualitative research methods, designing rigorous, high quality, studies, and the protection of vulnerable research participants in qualitative studies.

SOWK 820: Social Theory and Social Change

This course will explore the evolution and development of macro practice in the United States with a focus on theory and methods that undergird community practice and policy practice. These distinct methods, as well as different practice models associated with them, will be considered in the context of the social work profession specifically and social change broadly.

Course content will include a conceptual history of macro practice within social work, including the unique role of macro practice methods in carrying out the mission of the social work profession. We will examine how different social, economic, and political theories influence macro practice. The role of different forms of power, at the institutional and social level, as well as values and ethical dilemmas associated with macro practice and their relation to social work, will also inform the course. Importantly, we will consider the impact of macro practice on historically marginalized and oppressed groups and in addressing social problems in the United States, as well as when and how marginalized and oppressed groups have influenced social policy through collective action. Finally, the course will identify and interrogate the idea of “best practices” in macro practice—historically and in contemporary society—as it addresses key questions including What have been key trends in the development and use of macro practice? What methods of macro practice have been effective, and how do we know? What are areas for improvement and innovation in community practice and policy practice?

Fall and Spring 2nd year

SOWK 822: Organizational Analysis

Human service organizations, such as social service agencies, religious organizations, schools, and advocacy organizations, are central actors in the lives of disadvantaged populations and important tools for solving social problems. SOWK 822 explores the ways in which an organizational lens can be usefully applied in the context of social welfare-related research. The course will provide an overview of the ways in which scholars have approached the study of organizations and highlight theoretical traditions useful for understanding the work of human service organizations. It will also provide insight on how to use organizational theory in research, allowing for a range of methodological approaches

SOWK 808: Integration of Research, Practice, and Theory in Social Work Scholarship

This course focuses on the examination of research, practice, and theory as well as the integration of these focal areas in doctoral students’ substantive areas. Students will examine the research, theories, and practices that have been used in their substantive areas to gain further knowledge of the current state of their substantive areas and address key research questions. The integrated knowledge will be seminal in furthering students’ ideas for future research and scholarship in their substantive areas. Students will have the opportunity to brainstorm and articulate their ideas through several assignments that focus on the various facets of the research that has been done in their area (e.g., research design, sampling, data analysis), use of theory in one’s substantive area (both deductive and inductive), and current practices and potential novel interventions. Based on an increased understanding of the current state of the students’ substantive area, students will be challenged to think about avenues for moving the research, practice, and theory in their areas in future scholarship forward.

SOWK 805/SOWK 806: Research Practicum I and II

This is a two-semester course emphasizing research methodology, development, and acquisition of measurement tools if applicable, quantitative and qualitative analysis, ethical considerations, and dissemination of research.  Students will carry out team-based projects using both methods across both semesters working together with the instructors of the courses. The first semester will emphasize methodology, data analysis, and developing findings, while the second semester will focus on study write-up, revisions, and preparing manuscripts for submission to peer-reviewed journals. Research designs appropriate for research projects will be studied and can include quantitative such as experimental, quasi-experimental, relational, descriptive, and qualitative strategies such as ethnography, grounded theory, and case study. In turn, both quantitative and qualitative techniques such as surveys, interviewing, focus groups, observation, and others will be explored.  Students will have the opportunity to construct tools for both quantitative and qualitative approaches in preparation for their future dissertation endeavors or choose appropriate existing measures. Appropriate methods of quantitative and qualitative analyses are discussed. For quantitative approaches, students will be exposed to SPSS, a data analysis package, which will be used as a vehicle to review descriptive, bivariate, and multivariate statistics. For qualitative approaches, students will be exposed to N’Vivo for qualitative analysis.

SOWK 828/829: Teaching Seminar and Practicum I and II

These two courses are designed to provide doctoral students with a thorough overview of teaching within a university setting from social justice and anti-racist perspective and the practical experience of preparing and teaching a course. The first course focuses on theories of learning, the application of these theories to the teaching process, and the teaching process itself. Students will examine these processes and their applications as they apply to diverse student groups and in diverse settings (classroom, field, and agency settings). Both “courses” focus on expanding teaching skills specifically related to addressing diversity, oppression, and social justice issues in the classroom and within the academy. Topics related to monitoring and heightening self-awareness, meeting multicultural student needs, as well as creating and maintaining a brave and safe classroom culture and environment are emphasized. The second course includes a supervised learning experience with a teaching mentor and regular seminars on instructional methodologies, facilitating discussion and active learning in the classroom, strategies for evaluating student performance, and discussions on managing sensitive and/or challenging issues in the classroom, specifically issues related to social identities, diversity, oppression, and social justice. The teaching practicum seminars will provide an opportunity for students to discuss their progress in the practicum and receive feedback from their peers and the instructor as well as the teaching mentor and student evaluations.