UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A critical exploration into professional socialization in social work education Ikebuchi, Johnathan Haruo


A review of the literature on professional socialization in social work indicates that social work education produces inconsistent results in terms of assisting students to acquire values of the profession presented to them within their course of study, and in forming a professional social work identity. Values have been considered central to developing social work professionals. However, historic schisms and conflict within the profession surrounding its primary practice methods used to actualize its mission and goals, often characterized as a micro-macro practice debate, have led to divisions in the profession with respect to accepted identities and ambiguity about what social work values should be held in esteem. Social work values are prioritized differently and tend to cluster differently around various theoretical and practice methods. Thus, there is a range of value orientations presented to students by the profession. It is also argued that there is a field of internal and external influences on personal change and the socialization of students. Factors internal to students that they bring to their education, and factors external to students within the profession and in the teaching and practice environments where students learn make socialization challenging and problematic. Transformative adult learning theory, as conceptualized by Jack Mezirow, is presented as a theory to demonstrate the difficulty of transforming values in general, and a possible method to assist in socialization, if all messages from the profession surrounding values and identity were clear and unified. A review of the major reasons, motivations and personal histories that bring students to social work is undertaken. Social work education, specifically field education located within the context of a hostile neoliberal socio-economic and political climate and its effect on the socialization of students is critiqued. Non-conscious and unconscious psychological processes of students in learning and change have been overlooked within the study of professional socialization in social work. This omission is salient to this discussion. Suggestions for future research are discussed.

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