Radical challenges facing field education: The case for critical pedagogy

Christine Morley, Phillip Ablett, Lisa Hodge, Tina Kostecki, Shelley Turner

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Social work universally claims to be about social justice, human rights and the liberation of people. In Australia, this is embedded within the codes of ethics, practice standards and the accreditation and education standards. Although social work claims a proud history of advocacy and activism for progressive social change, the everyday practices of mainstream social work may fall short of these value-driven commitments because the ascendancy of neoliberal policy has
entirely transformed the welfare and higher education sectors. Significantly, field education plays an instrumental role in assisting social work students to integrate critical theory and practice consistent with the espoused social justice ideals of the profession. However, recent critics have argued that the ‘hidden curriculum’ embedded within field education may undermine this learning, within the context of hegemonic managerial organisations and supervision, in order to occupy a ‘safe’ professional (technique-driven) knowledge that does not threaten the neoliberal status quo. This paper draws on educators’ reflections of the operations of these covert technologies of power and raises questions about how field education may be delivered to support, rather than weaken critical social work education. A radical shift is required to reimagine field education as a vital contributor to social work as an emancipatory project.


ConferenceAustralian New Zealand Social Work and Welfare Education and Research Symposium
CityMt Lawley
Internet address


  • Social work education
  • field education
  • neoliberalism
  • hidden curriculum

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