University of Chester

Programme Specification
Professional Education Higher Specialist Award Social Work Practice Education MEd
2014 - 2015

Master of Education

Professional Education Higher Specialist Award Social Work Practice Education

Professional Education Higher Specialist Award Social Work Practice Education

University of Chester

University of Chester

Faculty of Health and Social Care campuses.

Postgraduate (Taught)


Classroom / Laboratory,

3 years

6 Years

Biannual - February - September




17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Health and Social Care Health and Social Care

Specialist standards and requirements for post-qualifying social work education and training: practice education (GSCC, 2006).

National professional standards framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education (HEA, 2006).

Guidance on assessment of practice in the workplace (GSCC & TOPSS, 2002).

General Social Care Council

Faculty of Health and Social Care, Postgraduate Programme Assessment Board

Friday 1st May 2009

The overarching aim of the programme is:

To produce a competent, independent educator capable of promoting the development and delivery of professional education across a variety of settings within an inter-professional and inter-agency context which meets GSCC requirements (GSCC, March, 2006, paras 14-21).

This programme specification constitutes a variant programme specification to the MEd Professional Education programme to which all students, including registered social workers, will be enrolled. This programme specification comprises the requirements which registered social workers will need to comply with in order to be awarded the MEd/PG Dip Professional Education (Higher Specialist Award Social Work Practice Education). The programme will enable registered social workers to acquire knowledge and skills in the development of practice learning opportunities for pre and/or postqualifying students either directly themselves or through the leadership of others.

Specific programme aims are to:

  • Facilitate students to develop an enquiring, reflective, critical and innovative approach to education and practice.
  • Promote the students' scholarship in the development of pedagogical and professional theory and practice.
  • Prepare students for their individually focused roles as professional educators and promote academic, professional and personal development.
  • Develop students' ability to implement and facilitate a range of teaching opportunities which includes service users and carers in delivering teaching across a range of professional education settings. 
  • Develop students' ability to implement a range of assessment and evaluation strategies across a range of education settings.
  • Enable students to participate in and lead curriculum design, planning and evaluation.
  • Offer a dynamic and quality postgraduate educational experience relevant to the students' employment roles.
  • Enable postgraduates to innovate and apply contributions to the evidence base underpinning professional education and communicate conclusions clearly.
  • Develop leadership and facilitation skills, which will enable professionals to lead change and influence professional education across the inter-professional agenda.
  • Prepare students to support, mentor or to manage others, carry out practice research, management or education leadership to explore issues from their own practice and respond to feedback, including from service users and carers.

Higher Level Knowledge and Understanding
The ability to:

  • Apply key concepts, principles, theories and policies to professional education.
  • Articulate the uniqueness of their own role in professional educationand the diversity of other inter-disciplinary roles and how this can be utilised to empower individuals, groups and communities.
  • Demonstrate a research-based approach to the ongoing development of their role and the dissemination of information.
  • Evaluate professional, legal and ethical issues within the context of education.

Thinking or Cognitive Skills

The ability to:
  • Demonstrate self-direction, independence of thought, and the ability to think logically and critically within the role of professional educator.
  • Access, analyse and process information applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship.
  • Utilise higher level analytical skills when evaluating professional education, from both professional and service user perspectives.
  • Demonstrate independent learning ability when working as a reflexive and autonomous professional educator.
  • Demonstrate originality when exercising innovative and creative thinking strategies to develop curricula.

Practical Skills

The ability to:
  • Exercise innovation and personal responsibility when comprehensively applying a range of relevant assessment, intervention and evaluation strategies.
  • Communicate effectively with individuals, groups and communities.
  • Demonstrate innovation in curriculum development.
  • Demonstrate the application of evidence-based practice in professional education.
  • Demonstrate leadership within collaborative, inter-disciplinary working practices and partnerships to promote a learning culture.

Key Skills
  • Communication
  • Application of number
  • Information literacy and technology
  • Improving own learning and performance
  • Working with others
  • Problem solving

The ability to:
  • Demonstrate self-direction in both formal and informal learning environments.
  • Communicate effectively at both individual and organisational levels.
  • Be competent in the use of IT to develop and implement professional education programmes.
  • Work autonomously and collaboratively, and demonstrate leadership, to develop and implement professional educationprogrammes.
  • Demonstrate higher literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Apply an evidence-based approach and critical appraisal skills to the ongoing development of the role of professional educator anddisseminate knowledge.

Transferable Professional Skills

The ability to:
  • Demonstrate self-direction in both formal and informal learning environments.
  • Communicate effectively at both individual and organisational levels.
  • Be competent in the use of IT.
  • Work autonomously and collaboratively, and demonstrate leadership.
  • Demonstrate higher literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Demonstrate application of the research process and evidence-based practice.

This is a part time Masters in Professional Education. Students can take a flexible approach to completion and have up to 6 years to obtain the qualification.

All modules are rated at 20 credits at level 7, and to be awarded an MEd/PG Dip Professional Education (Higher Specialist Award Social Work Practice Education) the student must successfully complete the appropriate 180/120 credits. The modules have internal integrity and are linked together to form a coherent programme of learning. Modules are designed and delivered in accordance with FHEQ, using their stated credit level descriptors as a reference point. The programme is linked to the higher education accreditation system, with existing mechanisms for the award of credit for appropriate learning and prior experiential learning. No student may seek an award for completion of the modules comprising this programme without having registered for the qualification aim and having engaged with all the appropriate programme admission procedures. Students would be able to exit at the postgraduate diploma stage with the higher specialist qualification.

The content of the programme takes into account the need for professional educators to develop higher levels of expertise in both practice and academic settings in the following domains:

  • Effective working relationships.
  • Facilitation of learning.
  • Assessing and accountability.
  • Evaluation of learning.
  • Creating an environment for learning.
  • Context of practice.
  • Evidence-based practice, values based framework.
  • Leadership.

For each 20 credit module, the time required to produce assessable work is calculated as 200 hours, inclusive of time spent in class contact with lecturers. These hours will include relevant learning in both academic and practice settings.

The contact hours (direct teacher/learner interaction) are within the recommended range for level M modules i.e. 20-35 hours of student contact.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
NM7012 7 Leadership Development and Change 20 Comp
NM7016 7 Professional Education (Theory and Practice) 20 Comp
NM7036 7 Learning and Assessment in Professional Education 20 Comp
NM7037 7 Curriculum Design and Development 20 Comp
NM7059 7 Dissertation 60 Comp
NM7069 7 Research 20 Comp
NM7072 7 Assessment and Evaluation of Learning 20 Comp

Postgraduate Diploma
To exit with a PG DipProfessional Education(Higher Specialist Award Social Work Practice Education), a student must achieve 120level 7 modules by completingsix compulsory modules:

  • Assessment andEvaluation of Learning (20 credits).
  • Learning and Assessment in Professional Education (20 credits).
  • Professional Education (Theory and Practice) (20 credits).
  • Curriculum Design and Development (20 credits).
  • Leading and Developing Professional Education (20 credits).
  • Research (20 credits).
(If students exit with aPG Cert Professional Education from the MEd Professional Education programme,they will not be eligible for the Higher Specialist Social Work Award.)

Students can be admitted to the MEd/PG Dip Professional Education (Higher Specialist Award Social Work Practice Education) with either the MEd itself as the qualification aim or to the Postgraduate Diploma Professional Education (Higher Specialist Award Social Work Practice Education) as the qualification aim. The admission criteria will be:

  • Successful completion of a degree or equivalent. The classification of the first degree will normally be a 2:2 or above.
  • If an applicant does not have a first degree but they are able to provide evidence that they are capable of study at Master's level, then consideration will be given to their application.
  • Registered social worker.

The Faculty of Health and Social Care operates a well defined AP(E)L system, and students may claim specific credit exemption against modules in the programme in line with the university's procedures. The university permits up to 50% AP(E)L at Master's level. Students wishing to apply for accreditation of prior credited/certified or experiential learning (AP(C)L/AP(E)L) may apply for exemption from parts of this programme for up to the maximum credit value allowed. AP(C)L and AP(E)L learning may only be awarded where evidence of achievement is provided and, where appropriate, has been assessed in relation to module and level equivalence. An applicant seeking to make a claim should consult the Acccreditation of Prior Learning (APCL/APEL)L section of the Quality and Standards Manual Handbook E, The Admission of Students and complete the form 'Application for accreditation of prior credited/certified learning' or 'Application  for Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning' (both available at Candidates should give careful consideration to the experience which they have acquired throughout their career and the courses which they have attended with a view to deciding whether they might be eligible to make a AP(C)L or AP(E)L claim by mapping closely onto the learning outcomes of this programme (GSCC, Jan. 2005, para 69; GSCC, March, 2006, para 29). The Faculty AP(E)L Co-ordinator will be happy to advise students about making a claim for which detailed advice will be made available on an individual basis and where the university will be flexible in its approach to the process. Consideration will also be given to recognising prior certificated learning to candidates who have completed the Practice Teacher Award or the PQ6 requirement under the previous Post Qualifying Award framework. Because that work will have been completed at level 6 it would only be possible for it to count against one module at level 7.

Candidates will need to be in employment, which could include self employment, for the duration of the programme. If a candidate works for an employer they must have the agreement of that employer to undertake the programme and must have access to learners in the work place.

The Framework for Higher Education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Quality Assurance Agency, 2001) is designed to provide and promote academic standards via benchmarking and specifications.

Postgraduate awards are awarded to students who have demonstrated:

  1. A systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study, or area of professional practice.
  2. A comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship.
  3. Originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline.
  4. Conceptual understanding that enables the student:
  • To critically evaluate current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline.
  • To evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.

Typically, holders of the qualification will be able to:

  1. Deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  2. Demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level.
  3. Continue to advance their knowledge and understanding, and to develop new skills to a high level.

They will also have the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring:

  1. The exercise of initiative and personal responsibility.
  2. Decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations.
  3. The independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

Students will experience a variety of teaching and learning methods designed to facilitate the achievement of all learning outcomes at level 7 within a student-centred approach, and to foster personal and professional development.

A variety of teaching and learning strategies will be used to meet the programme learning outcomes. Emphasis, however, will be placed on small group work, discussion, seminar presentations, work-based learning, e-learning, problem-based learning, action learning sets, micro teaching and learning through the practice of teaching. Self-directed and peer-learning will be encouraged throughout and, consistent with the philosophy of the programme, peer and self assessment will be used in the formative assessment process to complement lecturer assessment. Inter-professional learning is fostered within the programme.  Visiting lecturers and expert professionals will be required in order to facilitate this process, and to ensure that examples and scenarios are drawn from the range of professional areas represented within the student group.

Student support and direction will be provided by interactive discussion and individual feedback, which at level 7 will promote development of the critical thinking skills required to critically analyse professional education issues. The negotiation of individual learning contracts will provide a framework for meeting an individual professional's perceived learning needs.

Students will be exposed to a variety of assessment methods designed to ensure that the content, outcomes and level of the modules are measured in a fair and transparent manner. Examples include assignments, seminar presentations and reflective accounts. Knowledge and intellectual skills will normally be assessed through coursework and students will be asked to demonstrate cognitive ability through written assignments, seminar presentations and reflective accounts. All aspects of the assessment strategy will be used to evaluate transferable/key skills and, where relevant, mapped against national benchmarks.

Assessment methods for each module together with a statement of where GSCC (March, 2006) requirements will be met are:

Learning and Assessment in Professional Education

Formative assessment:

  • Seminar presentation to peers.

Summative assessment:

  • Negotiated assignment relating to educational role (3000 words) (60% weighting).
  • Completion of practice document (2000 words equivalent) (40% weighting).

The teaching, mentoring and assessment of practitioners undertaking the core practice education component within the specialist award (GSCC, March, 2006,  para 20)Teaching, mentoring and assessing other senior practitioners (GSCC, March, 2006,  para 20)

Assessment and Evaluation of Learning

Formative assessment:

  • Learning contract.

Summative assessment:

  • A critical review of a current evaluation or assessment strategy in an area of professional education, and the formulation of an action plan for future development (5000 words, 100% weighting).
Directing teaching and assessment to focus on the needs, perceptions and experiences of students and learners and the relationship between students, learners and the subject matter. Using knowledge, experience and awareness, the practice educator may then lead others in the design, direction and development of teaching and assessment (GSCC, March, 2006,  para 17).

Curriculum Design and Development

Formative assessment:

  • Action plan for portfolio development.

Summative assessment:

  • A cumulative portfolio of relevant curriculum development activities, to include the development of an outline module/programme/learning event proposal, with relevant content identified and mapped to appropriate benchmarking statements. Supported by a critical commentary (equivalent to 5000 words).

Using knowledge, experience and awareness, the practice educator may then lead others in the design, direction and development of teaching and assessment (GSCC, March, 2006,  para 17).Managing the contribution of other people in the learning and assessment processes and systematically working with groups or cohorts of learners (GSCC, March, 2006,  para 20)

Contribute to teaching in partner universities and colleges. For both the social work degree and the PQ awards, direct practitioner input to formal teaching is essential to ensure an exchange of theory and practice (GSCC, March, 2006,  para 20)

Leadership Development and Change

Formative assessment:

  • Students must complete a review of the learning culture within their organisation.

Summative assessment:

  • Systematic self-analysis of personal leadership style/skill and corresponding action plan (2000 words, 40% weighting).
  • Using a model of reflection, critically evaluate the planning, implementation and outcome of a change scenario in your organisation (3000 words, 60% weighting).

Lead groups of colleagues, teams, other communities, and/or represent their employer, in local, regional and national training networks (GSCC, March, 2006,  para 16).

Professional Education (Theory and Practice)

Formative assessment:

  • Evidence of undertaking two peer reviews, providing evidence of continual professional development mapped against relevant professional standards within portfolio.

Summative assessment:  

  • Reflective commentaries on the implementation of three teaching/learning events which should be linked to an action plan demonstrating evidence of personal development and to relevant professional standards (5000 words equivalent). 

Contribute to teaching in partner universities and colleges. For both the social work degree and the PQ awards, direct practitioner input to formal teaching is essential to ensure an exchange of theory and practice (GSCC, March, 2006,  para 20)Coordinate or manage practice learning and assessment and support systems, delivering and quality-assuring training programmes, across teams, within departments and between organisations and universities or colleges (GSCC, March, 2006,  para 20).


Summative assessment

  • Write a research proposal.

Draw on best practice from the educational and professional vocational field. enhance and promote the learning experience for the benefit of the learner and ultimately the organisation in which the learner is employed (GSCC, March, 2006,  para 18).


  • Dissertation.

This programme clearly offers students the opportunity to achieve the characteristics of a postgraduate, and it is assessment criteria based upon QAA and University of Chester documents which define these characteristics:

Assessment element

Postgraduate criteria


Demonstrate critical reasoning with regard to complex issues, which shows an ability to explore and develop alternative solutions.


Critical evaluation of key concepts of knowledge. Extensive systematic reading and demonstration of insight and originality.

Theory/practice link

Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of relevant knowledge and applicable techniques which are at the forefront of professional practice.


Demonstrate synthesis and be able to deal with complex issues in an original manner.

Problem solving

Demonstrate a systematic understanding and critical awareness of current and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of professional knowledge and practice.

Evaluating evidence and argument

Ability to deploy accurately, creatively and imaginatively established techniques of analysis and enquiry.

Reaching sound judgements

Ability to critically evaluate current research, methodology and scholarship and, where appropriate, propose new hypotheses.


Excellent communication skills which can reach a wider audience.

On completion of the programme graduates will have experience within the following domains for supporting teaching and learning (GSCC, 2002):

  • Organisation of opportunities for the demonstration of assessed competence in practice.
  • Enable learning and professional development in practice.
  • Manage the assessment of learners in practice.

The programme is an approved higher specialist award programme preparing practice educators to undertake a strategic leadership, management or teaching role within social work practice education.

The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.

This programme incorporates the higher specialist standards prescribed by the General Social Care Council (GSCC) under its new Post Qualifying Framework for Social Work Education and Training. Social workers attaining the Post Qualifying Award in Higher Specialist Social Work are required to satisfy the GSCC requirements for this level of professional practice. The higher specialist award emphasises strategic leadership, teaching and management, and it is aimed at those wishing to engage with practice education at a senior level. Examples of roles include mentors engaged with the assessment of social work practitioners undertaking core enabling award, practice educators involved with partner universities in relation to both the social work degree and post qualifying social work programmes, co-ordinators and managers of practice learning, and practice educators who are involved in training and development functions within regional and national training networks.


General Social Care Council. (March, 2006) Specialist standards and requirements for post qualifying social work education and training: Practice education. London: GSCC.

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