December 27, 2010

UCLA MSW Program: Curriculum Reinvention

Faculty at UCLA conducted a major overhaul of the MSW curriculum. My cohort, the class of 2012, are the guinea pigs to the reinvented curriculum. Since I was not a student in the program last year, I have no basis for comparison, however I did want to give a quick rundown of each class, in addition to the structure of the program in the first quarter.

Weekly Schedule
M: Field Placement (8-5)
T: 240A (9-12), 280A (2-5)
W: Field Placement (8-5)
Th: 230A (9-12), 201A (2-5)
F: Field Modules (8 total)

201A: Human Behavior in the Social Environment
While this is considered a much more "fluffy" part of the curriculum, this discussion-oriented class is difficult because you are forced to process your biases and feelings towards individuals/groups. The point of the class is gain self-awareness (in my opinion you are screwed if you lack this coming into the program), or at least heighten it. The first hour and half of class is devoted to speakers, and the second half to class discussion. A different theme is covered each week, with topics ranging from religion/spirituality, gender/sex/sexual orientation, community responses to oppression, able-ism and ageism. I ended up loving this class, not only because it was a break from the other more theory-based classes we had, but the group dynamic and professor were seriously awesome. If you have the opportunity to take a class from Professor Jorja Leap, do not hesitate.

Average reading/week: 50-60 pgs
Texts: Racism in the United States: Implications for the helping professions; course pack reading 
Major Assignments: Self Assessment Term Paper (12-15 pgs); Ethnographic Term Paper (12-15 pgs)
Caveats: Due to limited discussion time, our class was not able to process all topics covered.
Additionally, readings were not always relevant to class discussions.

230A: Micro Social Work (Individuals, Families and Groups)
I found this class particular useful, both for my internship at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and for the major and career path I intend to take (micro, mental health). The first two phases of the "Helping Process," and its constituent parts are covered, with Phase I including Exploration, Assessment and Planning, and Phase II including Implementation and Goal Attainment. For students who want to become clinicians, this class is particularly helpful in providing a skeleton or a basic structure to one-on-one therapy. We only skimmed over Evidenced-Based Practices, as this will be more of the focus in next quarter's class (230B).

Average reading/week: 40-50 pgs
Texts: Direct Social Work Practice: Theory and Skills; course pack reading
Major Assignments: Midterm and Final Vignette Case Study
Caveats: While we practiced therapy role-plays with each other in class, I wish we were required to submit them on videos each week. I elected to do this as an extra-credit assignment, and found it extremely useful to see myself on camera.

240A: Macro Social Work (Organizations, Communities, and Policy Settings)
This class provides students with an overview of the core concepts related to macro social work, by connecting the dots between policies and the populations we work with. All four sections are required to carry out one macro group project, with my section investigating barriers to receiving mental health care among the elderly population in the San Fernando Valley. The macro project is an overwhelming focus of the class, as students are required to go out into the field and collect data (hold focus groups, distribute surveys, etc.). My group ventured out to Pacoima and Van Nuys to speak with agencies and their older adult clients, in order to understand barriers to receiving care. This project continues through the next quarter, and the final project is presented to the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health.

Average reading/week: 30-50 pgs
Texts: Social Work Macro Practice; course pack reading
Major Assignments: Policy Brief, Macro Project Report and Presentation
Caveats: I felt the macro project took up way too much of our class time. I also felt it lacked structure and direction.

280A: Knowledge Acquisition, Evidence-based Practice and Research in Social Welfare
As someone with extensive research background (I worked in market research for 3 years), I found this class relatively easy. My cohort only attended the class for the first five weeks of the quarter, and will finish the other five classes at the beginning of spring quarter. While it was nice to have a free afternoon the second-half of the quarter, I would have preferred to continue taking the class through the end of the term. The course primarily covers evidence-based practice (EBP), in addition to basic survey and experimental design.

Average reading/week: 30-60 pgs
Texts: Practitioner's Guide to Using Research for Evidence-based Practice
Major Assignments: Evidence-based Practice Term Paper (10-15 pgs)
Caveats: Discontinuity of the 10 week class

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