CSWE uses the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) to accredit baccalaureate- and master’s-level social work programs. The EPAS supports academic excellence by establishing thresholds for professional competence. It permits programs to use traditional and emerging models of curriculum design by balancing requirements that promote comparability across programs with a level of flexibility that encourages programs to differentiate.

The educational policy and the accreditation standards are conceptually linked. The educational policy section describes each curriculum feature, and the derivative accreditation standards specify the requirements used to develop and maintain an accredited baccalaureate or master’s social work program.

EPAS describes four features of an integrated curriculum design: (1) program mission and goals; (2) explicit curriculum; (3) implicit curriculum; and (4) assessment.

1. The program’s mission and goals address the profession’s purpose, are grounded in the profession’s values, and are informed by its context.

2.  The explicit curriculum is the program’s formal educational structure and includes its courses and curriculum design. Core competencies (which define generalist practice or are applied in advanced practice) and field education (as the signature pedagogy of social work education) are the key elements of the explicit curriculum. Competency-based education is an outcome performance approach to curriculum design. Competencies are measurable practice behaviors that are comprised of knowledge, values, and skills. The goal of the outcome approach is to demonstrate the integration and application of the competencies in practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. 

The explicit curriculum at the baccalaureate level is designed to prepare graduates for generalist practice through mastery of the core competencies. The master's curriculum prepares graduates for advanced practice through mastery of the core competencies augmented by knowledge and practice behaviors specific to a concentration. The program’s mission and goals, as these reflect professional purpose and values and the program’s context, are consistent with the program’s competencies. The program’s competencies are operationalized in the explicit curriculum and in program assessment through measurable practice behaviors.

3.  The implicit curriculum refers to the educational environment in which the explicit curriculum is presented. It is composed of the following elements: the program’s commitment to diversity; admissions policies and procedures; advisement, retention, and termination policies; student participation in governance; faculty; administrative structure; and resources. The implicit curriculum is as important as the explicit curriculum in shaping the professional character and competence of the program’s graduates. Heightened awareness of the importance of the implicit curriculum promotes an educational culture that is congruent with the values of the profession.

4.  Assessment is an integral component of competency-based education. To evaluate the extent to which the competencies have been met, a system of assessment is central to this model of education. Data from assessment continuously inform and promote change in the explicit and implicit curriculum to enhance attainment of program competencies. (EP 4.0)