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Class Descriptions

Theories and Practices of Community Change: Concepts, History and Approaches


Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Foundation Essentials Required

Pathway Associations

Community ChangeRequirement (Host)
Interpersonal Practice
Mgmt & Leadership
Policy & Political
Program Evaluation
Older Adults
Children & Families

Course Description

This class will focus on the theories and practices for community change, with emphasis on the relationships between theory and practice (‘praxis’). It will familiarize students to a range of critical change theories and core concepts and help students to develop their own understanding of frameworks for community change. Students will engage with different theories in examining community change, which may include critical intersectionality, critical race, empowerment and liberation, social movement, and feminist theories, as examples.

It will also look to historical and contemporary examples of community and social change movements to explore theory and practice including US and global community change movements, and the work of organic intellectuals and social change leaders (e.g. Grace Lee Boggs, Ella Baker, Myles Horton, ACT-UP, Black Lives Matter, #metoo, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Zapatistas, #GirlsLikeUs, World Social Forum, Climate Change).

Throughout the class, students will also use these examples to examine and understand the major range of models and practices for engaging in community change, for example: community organizing, community development, community-based policy advocacy, and popular education, and be able to assess the differences, purposes, and theoretical basis for the practices.

For Community Change Pathway participants:
We strongly recommend that this course be taken before or concurrently with the other required pathway class.


Describe, compare, and contrast several types of critical theories about social and community change. (EPAS 7)
Identify theories relevant to particular goal and problem areas, and critique their strengths and limitations. (EPAS 7)
Critique different theories as to their assumptions, origins, relevance for different social problems, and relevance for marginalized and oppressed groups inclusive of a broad range of intersecting diversity dimensions. (EPAS 4, 5)
Apply particular theories to different areas of social work practice. (EPAS 7)


This course will use varied format including:
● Small group & whole group engaged learning activities
● Innovative designs- web-based, videos, flipped classrooms
● Discussion and interactive formats, e.g. book clubs, presentations, debates
● Historical case-studies to examine community change
● Praxis-focused, linking theory to practice and action.

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 community change theories that will help students explore the connections between race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic class, sexual orientation, and psychological and physical functioning, well- being and community change. Through the use of a variety of instructional methods, this course will provide students with tools to understand and apply theories to practice with diverse populations.

This course encourages students to develop critical thinking skills to explore theories and practices of community change. Students will gain an understanding of various concepts, history, and approaches that inform community change practices and how those frameworks engage issues of privilege, oppression, diversity, and social justice to promote or limit community change. Students will learn a range of classic and contemporary social justice theories and historical practices of community change using a framework of context, history, meaning, and possibility to examine theories and practices of community change.

Interprofessional/Interdisciplinary Education Description

Definitions/Criteria for Interdisciplinary or Interprofessional Practice Focus
This course supports students to examine the importance of interdisciplinary theories, scholarship and practices focused on community change in diverse settings.

Inclusion of ID/IPE content is supported by and directly relates to:
CSWE core competencies 2, 6, 8, 9 competencies
University of Michigan IPE Core Competencies, in particular: Values/Ethics and Intercultural Humility)
Inclusion of ID/IPE content is supported by and directly relates to:

The course draws on interdisciplinary theories, readings, and resource materials to support students in learning about theories for community change. In particular, the course draws from interdisciplinary frameworks and resources, including from social science (sociology, psychology, anthropology, urban studies), education, gender studies, policy and political theory, and history, to engage students in learning.

Students will be encouraged to actively contribute from their experiences, field placement practice, past practices, knowledge of readings, etc. to consider the impact of interdisciplinary frameworks for understanding community change within diverse populations and settings

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