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Human Services (HSRV) 311
Practice and Policy in the Human Services (Revision 2)

Revision 2 closed, replaced by current version.

Delivery mode: Individualized study with video component*.
*Overseas students, please contact the University Library before registering in a course that has an audio/visual component.

Credits: 3 - Social Science

Prerequisite: None.

Centre: Centre for Work and Community Studies

HSRV 311 has a Challenge for Credit option

Course website


This course provides an overview of the relation between human services' programs and activities as provided by practitioners and the policy making that designs the provision of human services. The course adopts a critical learning approach to the study of social policy as it affects the human services and considers the role of human services education in this emerging profession.

The framework used here for studying social policy emphasizes the place of values in policy making, and various models and structures that can be used in analysing, evaluating, and implementing social policies. In particular the practitioner's use of discretion and whistle-blowing are discussed in some detail for the ethical dimension they bring to bear on work in the human services.

Practitioners' involvement in policy making is discussed in relation to shared decision making, the formation of policy communities, and community governance as well as efforts to influence policy from the outside.


HSRV 311 is divided into three parts as outlined below.

Part 1: Goals in Human Service Education

Part 1 adopts a critical thinking approach toward the study of social policy. It also considers the role of education in the human services in providing opportunities for lifelong learning and professional development that contribute to the professionalization of the occupations in the human services sector. This approach is then applied to the most directly relevant subset of public policy, that of social policy.

Part 2: Social Policy Frameworks

In Part 2 attention is given to the several phases of the policy cycle from policy formulation through policy implementation, evaluation, and reformulation. We study responses to policies and practices from an ethical viewpoint. Our study of the frameworks of social policy incorporates the place of values in policy making, competing models of policy making, structures involved in policy-making, the analysis and evaluation of social policies, policy implementation, and whistle-blowing.

Part 3: Policy Making By and For Practitioners

Part 3 considers various ways that practitioners can increase their involvement in policy making. Human service workers may involve themselves in shared decision making, including participation in family group conferences. They may lend their expertise to policy communities, assist social change through the political work of pressure groups and social movements, or combine these activities in different contexts. The final unit in the course, Unit 13, pulls together the subjects from the earlier units to demonstrate the high degree of transferability of the analytical concepts developed in the course materials to examples drawn from human services practice and policy.


Your final grade in HSRV 311 Practice and Policy in the Human Services will be based on the grades you achieve on the four written assignments. To receive credit for the course, you must achieve an overall course grade of “D” (50 percent) or better. The following indicates the assignments for credit and their weighting toward your final grade.

Assignment 1 Journal Submission 1 Assignment 2 Journal Submission 2 Assignment 3 Journal Submission 3 Assignment 4 Reflective Assignment Total
10% 40% 20% 30% 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Pulkingham, Jane and Gordon Ternowetsky, eds. 1997. Child and Family Policies: Struggles, Strategies and Options. Halifax: Fernwood.

Wharf, Brian and Brad McKenzie. 2004. Connecting Policy and Practice in the Human Services. (2nd ed.) Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Other Materials

The course materials also include a study guide, a student manual, and a selected reading file.