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Home arrow Sociology arrow Holistic engagement : transformative social work education in the 21st century
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Teaching Macro Practice, Engaging in Whole Self-Inquiry

Beyond clinical applications, this enhanced and integrative focus in education and practice has significant implications for community, organizational and institutional practice settings. Holistic social work education can advance social justice and cultural competence, as well as assist practitioners in responding to global realities in transformative and relationship-centered ways. Pyles (2014) has advocated for the use of transformative, reflective practice in community organizing, introducing a form of self-inquiry that encourages students/practi- tioners to ask the question, “Who am I in this moment?” Upon asking the question, the practitioner tunes into biopsychosocial-spiritual data in the self, others, and the context to gain more clarity and presence, arguably leading to more effective and sustainable practice.

Research actually supports such approaches: One study has shown that when social justice workers utilize contemplative practices to nourish themselves, their practice is more effective and sustainable (Duerr, 2002). Indeed, the idea of the contemplative organization is emerging in the nonprofit field, whereby contemplative practices are used as a technique and an organizing principle (Duerr, Nortonsmith, & Vega-Frey, 2004). For example, the US-based economic justice organization, Jobs with Justice, seeks to cultivate “organizational methods and processes that create a mindful, present, authentic, focused, honest, and listening organization that is more effective in achieving its mission” (Duerr et al., 2004, p. 5). Providing social work students, especially macro students, with opportunities to engage in such practices and build skills such as self-inquiry is more important than ever given the conflicts and cultural divides in community organizing contexts, social services cutbacks, and major organizational changes such as downsizing and mergers.

In addition to the use of contemplative practices in the macro classroom, educators are sharing the popular education techniques that originate from Latin American social movements, such as the drama exercises that come from the Theatre ofthe Oppressed (Boal, 1992; see also Freire, 1970; Harlap, 2014). These techniques have helped move communities toward greater clarity about oppression and how it manifests in the body, mind, heart, and spirit, revealing social justice solutions that originate from the most marginalized. Theater applications with social work students are most commonly used to teach clinical practice skills, but they also are used to enhance understanding and build skills related to oppression and social justice practice (Hafford-Letchfield, 2010; Lee, Blythe, & Goforth, 2009; Moss, 2000), including policy analysis skills and advocacy skills (Hafford-Letchfield, 2010). Thus, holistic educational practices in the macro classroom can bring the challenge of democratic participation into reality.

 
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