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Faculty Roundtable Discusses Internationalizing Social Work Curriculum

Each spring, faculty members from across the United States and often several other countries accompany student groups to Social Work Day at the United Nations. Capitalizing on this, IASSW and the U.S. Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) teamed up to sponsor a faculty roundtable discussion on internationalizing curriculum. Held during the student conference on March 31, the faculty group explored the rationale for enhancing international content, then moved on to discuss good practices. In the United States, participants agreed that the main purposes are to address “astounding American ignorance” about the world and to deconstruct the missionary approach to international work. All social work students need to appreciate that social problems are interrelated, that answers can come from other places, and that social work is an international profession.
One step toward that goal is to use social work literature from diverse countries. Educators can work with university librarians to make international literature more available and accessible. Several participants described their success in co-teaching an online course for students at Yerevan State University in Armenia and the University of Connecticut. Technology offers increased opportunities for international connections. Some also suggested disseminating important global documents more broadly, including social work policy documents as well as essential human rights and development documents from the United Nations.
Standards and guidelines can also play a useful role in helping programs develop international content and ensure accountability for student learning. CSWE has begun the process of updating its Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards, and it may be appropriate to advocate for a specific competency on global learning. IASSW has also established a working group with IFSW to revise the Global Standards for Education for the Social Work Profession. This may be another avenue for strengthening global content and a focus on human rights and social justice. The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development is also due for revision to set priorities for the period following 2020. Participants noted the importance of translating the Global Agenda into practice-relevant knowledge and skills. Finally, the contribution of the projects initiated under CSWE’s Katherine A. Kendall Institute for International Social Work Education grants in generating new models for global education was noted.
The group recommended that this event be held annually and replicated at the 2020 IASSW/ICSW conference in Rimini, Italy, to engage a more diverse audience.