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Community service learning in complex urban settings: challenges and opportunities for social work education

Claes, Erik and Schrooten, Mieke and McLaughlin, Hugh and Csoba, Judit (2021) Community service learning in complex urban settings: challenges and opportunities for social work education. Social Work Education. ISSN 0261-5479

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Abstract

Urban diversity poses significant challenges for social work education in Europe’s major cities. These challenges manifest themselves in an accumulation of conflicts, inequalities, and fracture lines between individuals, networks, cultures, but also different groups and their institutional and political environments. This current challenge for the education of the next generation of social workers is also related to the rapidly changing environmental conditions and complexity of the urban diversity. Urban society is increasingly fragmented and diverse requiring new knowledges and tools to support future social work practice. The aim of the paper is to analyze the potential of Community Service Learning (CSL) as an approach that can be effectively applied in complex urban settings. CSL is an experiential learning format that integrates academic and experiential learning within a community service context. The participative training model identifies three basic principles: civic engagement, cooperative and multiple learning, and the importance of critical reflexive learning. This paper builds on existing CSL literature and represents ongoing discussions in an Erasmus+ project, exploring social work education in complex urban settings.

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