The University of Chicago

School of Social Service Administration Magazine

New Book: Shaping a Science of Social Work A new book showcases the thought leadership of the University and SSA across the field of social work

Book cover for Shaping a Science of Social WorkShaping a Science of Social Work: Professional Knowledge and Identity provides a basic framework for a social work science within the context of academic disciplinarity and professional identity. This field defining book will be available on January 17, 2019 by Oxford University Press.

Drawn from discussions at the annual IslandWood retreats for social work scholars, this edited volume centers on a realist/critical-realist perspective by outlining the basic constructs, domains, and characteristics of a science that will inform the way social work is studied and practiced for years to come.

Twelve chapters written by leaders of the field offer detailed and rigorous analyses of essential issues such as values and value-based assumptions, philosophy of mind, importance of theory, challenges of rigor and relevance in social work science, and implications for the future of the profession. The book serves as an invaluable resource for academics and organizational leaders in social work practice and education.

Two of the chapters were written by University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration (SSA) professors and a candidate in SSA’s Doctoral Program. Jeanne C. Marsh, George Herbert Jones Distinguished Service Professor and Doctoral candidate Mary Bunn contributed chapter nine, “Science and Social Work Practice: Client-Provider Relationships as an Active Ingredient Promoting Client Change.” Bunn explains, “What we explored in this chapter is the role of practice, and particularly the client-provider relationship, in bridging science and service delivery. Historically, SSA has made particularly strong contributions to practice theory and research in this area. We recommend a number of strategies for elevating this topic in research moving forward and anticipate SSA faculty and doctoral students will be at the forefront of this rapidly developing area of research in social work and social welfare.”

Associate Professor Gina M. Samuels contributed chapter seven “Theory in Social Work Science” with Professor Susan P. Kemp of the University of Washington School of Social Work. “This chapter is a call to social work science to reinvest in developing theories foundational to our profession,” says Samuels. “SSA stands out from nearly every school of social work in its contributions to social work theory and to the critical and rigorous theoretical training of both masters and doctoral students. However, we argue for a specific approach to social work theorizing that advances epistemic and knowledge justice—imperatives for a science that disrupts rather than reinforces enduring structural problems in our society and foundational to a transformative praxis in social work.”

An additional five chapters were written or co-written by University of Chicago and SSA alumni who are now faculty at other institutions, including:  Susan Stone, AB '89 (College), AM '92 (SSA), PhD '00 (SSA), Catherine Mary and Eileen Clare Hutto Professor of Social Services in Public Education, University of California, Berkeley School of Social Welfare; Jerry Floersch, PhD '98 (SSA) Associate Professor, Rutgers University School of Social Work; Edwina Uehara, PhD '87 (SSA), Professor and Ballmer Endowed Dean in Social Work, University of Washington School of Social Work; and Lawrence A. Palinkas, AB '74 (College), Frances L. and Albert G. Feldman Professor of Social Policy & Health, University of Southern California, Chair of the Department of Children Youth and Families.

“From its inception over 100 years ago, the University and SSA have provided outsized thought leadership across the field and this is apparent in this important new volume,” says Marsh, who is also a former dean of SSA. “It’s at the core of our mission to develop new knowledge and promote a deeper understanding of the causes and human costs of social inequities, not only to help people achieve a better quality of life but to help shape the future of the profession and social work research.”