Date of Paper/Work
Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
Type of Paper/Work
This banded dissertation is an examination of the socialization of clinical social work students into the social work profession. It is comprised of three distinct products. Building on the theoretical and empirical research of other social work scholars, the products are guided by the structural functionalist and symbolic interactionist approaches to professional socialization. Each product explores how educators can assist clinical social work students in developing a professional identity scaffolded on social work’s defining characteristics.
Product One is a conceptual paper that demonstrates how theoretical and empirical knowledge of professional identity development can be incorporated into social work education. The author integrates the structural functional and symbolic interactionist theoretical approaches into a person-in-profession framework, modeled after social work’s person-in-environment lens. The person-in-profession framework guides clinical students to develop a professional identity rooted in social work. Further, the patchwork text pedagogical method is described as a teaching tool that can be used to incorporate professional identity development into course curriculum. A review of the social work literature on professional socialization is utilized to build patchwork text activities that encourage clinical social work identity development.
Product Two details a qualitative research study that sought to identify characteristics of the social work profession central to professional identity. This study utilized the structural functionalist literature on professional socialization, as well as the literature on professionalization, the process through which an occupation becomes a profession, to create an a-priori codebook describing the core elements needed for a strong professional identity. This codebook was used to identify characteristics of a social work identity within the National Association of Social Work (NASW) Code of Ethics and the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS). Qualitative thematic content analysis was then applied to the resulting data set. Five themes emerged around which a social work identity can be constructed.
Product Three is a presentation that describes utilizing the patchwork text method to strengthen professional identity. The presentation demonstrates how theoretical and empirical knowledge of professional socialization can be integrated into course curriculum. Presented at the multi-disciplinary Lilly Conference “Innovative Strategies to Advance Learning,” this presentation provided educators from diverse professional programs with an understanding of professional socialization and tools to build identity development into classroom activities.
This Banded Dissertation explores how educators can assist clinical students in creating a professional identity grounded in social work. Students, practitioners, and the social work profession benefit from clinical social workers who are deeply connected to the profession. The author’s commitment to practicing and teaching clinical social work guided by social work’s values, perspectives, and mission directed the search for fundamental characteristics of professional social work identity and methods to nurture such an identity in students.
professional identity development, professional socialization, social work identity, clinical social work
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License
Ashton, Kristin Lambert, "Professional Identity Development: Anchoring Clinical Students to the Social Work Profession" (2020). Doctor of Social Work Banded Dissertation. 62.