Practice teaching as a part of social work education

In Finland , social work qualifications comprises both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees (the Act on Qualification Requirements for Social Welfare Professionals 272/2005; 3§). The task of social work education is to produce skills needed in both practical social work and social work research. The teaching of social work is practice-oriented. As a whole, the discipline of social work is heavily based on practical implications in which aspect it distinguishes itself from traditional social sciences.

Practice training may be part of the studies leading to higher university degree in Finland . It is enacted in the law that social work education includes compulsory practice training periods (Government Decree on University Degrees  794/2004, 15§). The actors of the Finnish National University Network for Social Work have agreed that the extent of the practice teaching is approximately 30 ECTS at a minimum in social work education. The practice teaching periods are located in both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work.

Practice teaching periods are organized in various ways in Finnish universities. The universities emphasize different aspects of practice teaching. Usually, however, the main structure of the practice training is of the same kind in every six universities organizing social work education. Generally, there are two practice teaching periods included in social work studies. The first one is located in the subject studies and the second one in the advanced studies. The main objective of the periods is combining theory, practice and research.

The periods usually take place in units for social work practice teaching, which are for example communal social offices, health care organizations and voluntary organizations. The primary core of the teaching is constructed from the collaboration between the student, social work teachers and social work training unit’s social worker who acts as a practice teacher. The student’s work guidance is linked up to the practices and research of social work is in a key position in learning process.

Because the practice teaching periods are obligatory and regulated in law, they are not separate from other social work courses in the studying program. Social work education and training periods have an important role in supporting the development of occupational identity of the students. Professional development is conceived as a cumulative process which grows throughout the studies (Karvinen-Niinikoski & Hoikkala & Salonen 2007, 18, 21.)


Government Decree on University Degrees 794/2004.

Karvinen-Niinikoski, Synnöve & Hoikkala, Susanna & Salonen, Jari 2007: Tutkintorakenneuudistus sosiaalityön koulutuksessa. Sosiaalityön valtakunnallinen hanke 2003–2006. Sosnet Julkaisuja 1. Rovaniemi.

The Act on Qualification Requirements for Social Welfare Professionals 272/2005.