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Social Work: Companion Document to the ACRL Framework: 1. Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

Created by the ACRL/EBSS Social Work Committee, 2020

Social Work Perspective

Social Work Practice

In Social Work, Authority is Constructed and Contextual is exemplified in the process of Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) where a social worker formulates a research question, searches for empirical evidence, and integrates their findings with their client's values and culture to inform treatment. The social worker recognizes the authority of empirical research, the information resources it is contained in and contextualizes it according to their expertise and the needs, values, and culture of their client. 

Social Work Education

Social work students are taught that individual clients and communities are the authorities of their lived experience. They learn that this knowledge is a type of authority and must be considered alongside professional guidelines and research in order to provide effective treatment or advance solutions. Social work librarians introduce students to the process of academic scholarship and how to distinguish it from these other sources of knowledge.

Connection to Professional Standards (NASW)

National Association of Social Workers: Code of Ethics

Note: The following NASW Ethics can apply to any of the six Frames. It is not exclusive to Frame 1.

Ethical Standard 1.05(b) -- Cultural Awareness and Social Diversity

  • “Social workers should have a knowledge base of their clients' cultures and be able to demonstrate competence in the provision of services that are sensitive to clients' cultures and to differences among people and cultural groups.”

Ethical Standard 4.01(c) -- Competence

  • “Social workers should base practice on recognized knowledge, including empirically based knowledge, relevant to social work and social work ethics."

Connection to Professional Standards (CSWE)

Council of Social Work Education: Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards

Note: The following CWSE EPAS Competencies and Education Policy can apply to any of the six Frames. It is not exclusive to Frame 1.

The EPAS do not use the term “information literacy.” Rather, it outlines the following competencies and policies:

Competency 4: Engage In Practice-informed Research and Research-informed Practice

  • “Social workers understand that evidence that informs practice derives from multi-disciplinary sources and multiple ways of knowing.”

Examples of Learning Objectives and Activities

1. Learning Objective: Discuss how we “know” something by comparing personal experience, tradition, authority, popular media, and common sense to the scientific method.

  • Activity: Facilitate a discussion on scientific versus unscientific ways of knowing; drawing examples from history or current events.

2. Learning Objective: Identify examples of authority in the context of credible or trustworthy sources.

  • Activity: Introduce a case study and discuss the various aspects in which sources of information determine the treatment and services the client receives.