Teaching and Learning in Social Work Education: The Relational Way

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In education, the responsibility is not for something but towards someone. In the actual context of the delicate process of teaching, it is no longer sufficient to transfer knowledge and competences. The challenge is to create a space in which students can train in and experiment with personal and relational abilities, gaining self-awareness of their resources and limits. Overtaking traditional ideas about learning processes, the relational approach (Donati, 2010; Folgheraiter, 2007; Folgheraiter & Raineri, 2012) encourages educators to think of education in an innovative way. It is clear from the literature that the accuracy of a scientific approach to social work education is certainly important, but there is a range of different ways in which students can be engaged in learning (Scourfield & Taylor, 2014). In relational social work education (Cabiati, 2015), teaching and learning become a simultaneous process focused on social work principles, such as empowerment, peer facilitation, reflexivity, auto-evaluation, valorization and involvement of service users, and emotional elaboration. Innovative activities and group work stimulate the active engagement of students, permitting them to discover and work on their own personal motivations for becoming social workers. If “relational” means that both actors are in a truly mutual relationship, aiding each other (Folgheraiter, 2004), it is more appropriate to speak about a facilitator’s role than a teacher’s role and about group encounters rather than lessons. The idea is to establish a reciprocal exchange of knowledge, experiences, resources, emotions, and life stories between different actors, such as professors, service users, and students. In recent years, several research projects have been conducted for the purpose of collecting information about and better understanding the effects of this approach to teaching and learning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching and Learning: Principles, Approaches and Impact Assessment
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • relational approach
  • social work education


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