Social Work



Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

Type of Paper/Work

Banded Dissertation


Advisor not provided.


This banded dissertation furthers the scholarship of teaching and learning in the area of social work student professional identity development. The three scholarship products presented address how programs define and teach professional behavior through the explicit and implicit curriculum as defined by the Council on Social Work Education’s Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards and apply a developmental model to foster student professional identity development.

Product 1 is a conceptual article that introduces a model for undergraduate social work student professional identity development based on the Chickering and Reisser (1993) theory of student development. Conceptual links are made between this theory and the implicit and explicit curriculum. A new social work student professional identity development model is presented.

Product 2 is a systematic literature review that provides a current picture of theory and available empirical data related to the development of professional identity of social work students. Literature published from 2002 to 2016, since the last systematic review of the topic, was analyzed. A total of 34 publications, a mix of empirical qualitative and quantitative studies, and conceptual articles were included. Findings presented characteristics of professional social workers as defined by social work students and educators, as well as components, models, and teaching recommendations for student professional identity development.

Product 3 is a peer-reviewed poster presentation based on the systematic literature review, Product 2 of this banded dissertation. The poster was presented at the 2016 Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Annual Program Meeting (APM). Findings of the systematic literature review were reported including definitions of professional identity development in social work education, factors impacting professional identity development, and strategies for developing a professional social work identity. An integrated model to help social work educators enhance professional identity development and professional socialization through the explicit and implicit curriculum was presented. A summary of presentation evaluations, a reflection on learning, and an annotated bibliography are included in this report.

Educators are encouraged to create intentional spaces for work on professional identity development. There are many practical starting points for educators to integrate identity work inside and outside of classrooms presented within this banded dissertation such as reflective writing assignments, art projects, and guided discussion. Research on professional identity development for social work students has multiple possibilities including testing models of identity development in the implicit and explicit curriculum and measuring identity development through the field practicum experience. Literature on the process of professional identity development specific to social work students is necessary to better understand how CSWE accreditation standards related to professional identity are being met by social work education programs. Additional research is needed to develop a more comprehensive social work student professional identity development model that is tested with students and educators over time.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.