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Class Descriptions

Theories and Principles of Socially Just Policies


Credits: 3
Prerequisites: SW508

Pathway Associations

Community Change
Interpersonal Practice
Mgmt & LeadershipElective
Policy & PoliticalRequirement (Host)
Program EvaluationElective
Older Adults
Children & FamiliesElective

Course Description

In this course, students will be exposed to various theoretical frameworks informing policy development and gain an understanding of basic economic principles frequently employed in policy debates and discussions. With this knowledge, students will be able to identify, in a more sophisticated and nuanced way, policies that promote social justice and those that do not; understand how certain theoretical frameworks and ideas have been used to oppress and empower different groups, and identify points of interventions within existing institutions.

One part of the course will cover different concepts of justice, fairness, and equity as they apply to public policy. Students will also interrogate ideas about neoliberalism, capitalism, globalization, and financialization and their influence on policies. Students will be introduced to concepts from economic theory that often used to promote or thwart the development of certain policies. This includes the concepts of supply and demand; market failure; and public goods.


Describe and identify various theoretical frameworks that undergird public policy debates (EPAS 4, 5, 6, 7, 9);
Understand the basic nature of supply and demand, markets, public goods, and other economic concepts (EPAS 3, 4, 6, 7, 9);
Apply the principles of social, economic, and environmental justice to critically analyze public policies (EPAS 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9);
Determine opportunities to advance social justice within existing political and policy institutions (EPAS 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9);
Identify how economic theories inform public policy debates and describe the consequences for social justice (EPAS 3, 4, 5, 7, 9)


This course will use multiple methods including but not limited to: lectures, case studies, readings, guest speakers, discussions, written assignments, individual and group exercises. The course will be offered primarily in person with the possibility of a hybrid structure.

Intensive Focus on Privilege, Oppression, Diversity and Social Justice (PODS)

This course integrates PODS content and skills with a special emphasis on the identification of theories, practice and/or policies that promote social justice, illuminate injustices and are consistent with scientific and professional knowledge. Through the use of a variety of instructional methods, this course will support students developing a vision of social justice, learn to recognize and reduce mechanisms that support oppression and injustice, work toward social justice processes, apply intersectionality and intercultural frameworks and strengthen critical consciousness, self-knowledge and self-awareness to facilitate PODS learning.

This course encourages students to develop critical thinking skills so that they can understand the ways in which various economic and political theories are used in the policy process and how those frameworks can promote social justice or can oppress individuals and groups (Critical Contextual Thinking; Critical Awareness). Students will use principles of social justice to examine current public policy debates and to interrogate various institutions and economic models (Critical Contextual Thinking; Critical Awareness; Conflict, Dialog, and Community). Using knowledge gained in the course, students will be able to identify points of interventions within existing institutions to promote socially just policies (Actions Toward Social Justice Vision).

Interprofessional/Interdisciplinary Education Description

ID/IPE content in SW 638 supports students to understand and value the importance of interprofessional and interdisciplinary collaboration and teamwork in Social Work practice across a variety of populations, settings and roles.
Inclusion of ID/IPE content is supported by and directly relates to:
CSWE core competencies 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9

University of Michigan 5 IPE Core Competencies: (Values/Ethics, Roles and Responsibilities, Interprofessional Communication, Teams/Teamwork and Intercultural Humility)
This pathway required-course intentionally integrates interdisciplinary or interprofessional practice content including:
CSWE Competencies addressed in this course are: #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ,9
IPE Core Competencies addressed in this course are: Values/Ethics, Roles/Responsibilities, Interprofessional Communication, and Intercultural Humility

ID/IPE content that will be addressed and evaluated in the following ways:
1. Interdisciplinary and/or interprofessional practice are required content areas in the course with integration of relevant required readings, class lecture and discussion including:
Lectures and discussions on socially just policies from the perspective of philosophy, economics, political science, queer theory, and other disciplines and frameworks.
In-class activities, discussions, and assignments will highlight the need to work collaboratively across disciplines and support students in developing their communication skills to effectively do so.

2. Students will be encouraged to actively contribute from their experiences, field placement practice, knowledge of readings, etc. to considerations of the impact of interdisciplinary and interprofessional care related to diverse populations and settings.

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