Just released! We are excited to publish the results of our 2020 survey that explored the impact of the GCSW on social work education. Compared to the 2018 survey, findings indicate a significant increase in the number of social work training programs that incorporated study of the Grand Challenges into curricula. Furthermore, these programs have been cultivating partnerships with other academic fields to advance interdisciplinary study of the Grand Challenges.
Three in five respondents reported integrating the Grand Challenges into coursework. Eliminate Racism and Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice were the most frequently featured challenges. The report also found that three in eight respondents were working with other disciplines to integrate the Grand Challenges into coursework—particularly in health, social science, and humanities departments.
Authors: Amy Ward, DSW, LCSW; Darla Coffey, PhD; and Ron Manderscheid, PhD
One major purpose of the Grand Challenges for Social Work (GCSW) is to transform social work education at all levels. That is why the leadership of GCSW commissioned two surveys of social work training programs nationwide to determine how study of the 13 most potent societal challenges of our time – which GCSW refers to as the Grand Challenges – is being incorporated into curricula. This paper reports the results from the second survey, in 2020, which not only assessed the integration of the Grand Challenges into curricula but also identified interdisciplinary collaborations taking place in higher education to address the Grand Challenges.
The results strengthen the call to action for GCSW to be a leader in promoting the importance and relevance of educating future social workers on society’s biggest challenges.
Of the 527 accredited BSW, MSW, MSS, PhD, and DSW programs surveyed 123 (23.1%) responded. Three in five (59.3 percent) reported that knowledge about the Grand Challenges was being integrated into their coursework. That is a significant increase of 18 percent from two years earlier, when only half the schools surveyed said they were incorporating the Grand Challenges into their curricula. The challenges most often included were Eliminate Racism and Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice. Those least frequently included were Eradicate Social Isolation and Build Financial Capacity for All. The Grand Challenges were most likely to be integrated in the foundation, practice, and policy aspects of social work programs.
Of particular interest, three in eight programs (37%) reported working with other disciplines to incorporate the Grand Challenges into coursework. The most frequent such linkages were with health, social science, and humanities departments. But almost all the programs (97.3%) said they had no dedicated funding for this work. Majorities are seeking help with curricula design (88.5%), webinars and meetings (69.4%), and technical assistance, consultation, and support (50.9%).
Compared with the 2018 survey, the 2020 survey clearly shows momentum increasing for the study of the Grand Challenges to be a part of social work curricula at all levels – and that the GCSW is having a positive impact on social work education. But the field will need to mobilize further to bring this initiative to its full potential.