Liberation-based social work theory in progress: Time to practice what I teach

Social work education integrates theory and practice to bridge the micro-macro divide. The theoretical framework of intersecting identities reveals hidden inequities related to health consequences. The global pandemic, reflecting a colliding of personal and professional worlds, interrupted an elective social work course designed to: 1) develop transformative potential (i.e., critical consciousness of and critical action against white supremacy, anti-blackness, and racial oppression of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)); 2) model liberation-based social work education and practice; and 3) prepare students to be critical social workers in the field. The pandemic created an in-class opportunity for the professor, also the course’s designer, to practice what she teaches. This self-reflexive essay details the pandemic’s impact on a teaching experience and follows the professor’s journey to more fully understand systems, inequity, and her own transformative potential. The transformative potential development process included many learning experiences in the areas of relationship and community building; transformative consciousness development; accountability and responsibility; efficacy; and, critical action. The unforeseen global pandemic presented the professor with opportunities for deep reflection about liberation-based social work education and practice. By bringing the reality of how macro processes create micro consequences into the classroom in real time, the professor’s responses were tested against oppressive norms, standards and values versus those that honor a person’s humanity. An important discovery is that a critical social work educator teaches in ways that spark radical imagination to disrupt the oppressive status quo camouflaged as personal choice and business as usual.

Full citation:
Jemal A (2021).
Liberation-based social work theory in progress: Time to practice what I teach
Qualitative Social Work, 20 (1-2), 516-523. doi: 10.1177/1473325020981085.