SW 660 Human Behavior and the Social Environment I

As a component of preparing students for clinical practice in an urban, multicultural and diverse environment, the first semester of the one-year (two-semester) foundation HBSE course examines the person-in environment matrix with a specific focus on diversity. This semester will focus on developing understanding of the complex interactions of biological, psychological, spiritual, economic, political, and socio-cultural forces operating at different system levels. 

We will examine theory and empirical evidence to provide a multidimensional perspective on these systems. Included in this study is an exploration of contemporary challenges and mechanisms of oppression facing individuals, families, social groups, communities, social networks, formal organizations, and social institutions in a multicultural society.

We will also look at the fundamental ways in which the lifelong development of individuals is shaped by the fact that personal growth occurs within given social-cultural systems and institutions during particular periods of history and by the fact that individuals act back on these social-cultural systems and institutions in a reciprocally influencing manner.

Many theories of person-and-environment exist today, each one spurred by a different ideology or worldview. Applicable theories range from psychodynamic approaches to modern social systems theories, to feminist theories and social constructionism. Focusing on the intersectionality of race, gender and class allows us to critically examine past theoretical frameworks in the context of these newer ideologies. Diversity, social work ethics and values, and the profession’s fundamental interest in promoting social and economic justice and in addressing the needs of populations at risk, underlie much of this understanding. 

The application of this HBSE foundation knowledge to the process of assessment in social work will be illustrated. HBSE I contributes to the foundation knowledge necessary for the emerging self-awareness of the student-practitioner. It also lays the groundwork for students to consider the changing configurations of persons and environments across the life course that is the focus of HBSE II.