Master Social Work Students’ Explicit and Implicit Articulation of Theory
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Theories that explain Human Behavior and the Social Environment are integral to social workers' conceptualization of their role and practice. Scaffolding the capacity to recognize, apply, and evaluate theory, however, is not easy. Learning how to comprehend and accurately apply theory can be a real struggle for graduate students enrolled in a Masters of Social Work (MSW) program. The purpose of this study was to identify and categorize patterns of how MSW students think about theory in the learning process. This qualitative analysis of 120 anonymous student responses to a case by students in an online MSW program explores the variety of theories students are explicitly identifying. The qualitative analysis offers insights into online Masters level social work students' ways of thinking and learning about theory. Bloom's taxonomy was applied to differentiate MSW students' use of theory. This study also demonstrates that students are not only applying theory explicitly, but often do so implicitly, perhaps without realizing so. By exploring how students construct their understanding of theory and how they vary between implicit theory usage and explicit theory articulation, HBSE educators can identify how to best prepare these students for their future careers.