Suitability for Professional Practice: Assessing and Developing Moral Character in Social Work Education

Cathryn Holmstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers the importance of an explicit focus upon the ‘character' of socialwork applicants and students in debates regarding suitability for professional educationand practice. Drawing upon the growing body of literature concerning gate-keepingdecisions and the literature exploring the relevance of virtue ethics for social work, thisarticle examines the benefits of an approach that foregrounds the assessment anddevelopment of moral character. The discussion is located within the context of the mostrecent reforms to social work education within England, whilst recognising theinternational relevance of these debates. It is argued that incorporating an approachinformed by virtue ethics has the potential to bridge traditional fault-lines within selectiondebates that have focused upon the tensions between a widening access perspective and afocus upon academic ability. Crucially, this article examines the curriculum and pedagogicissues arising from a commitment to provide opportunities to develop moral character andvirtue. The article argues that a dual focus upon selection and pedagogic issues, with anexplicit focus upon character throughout, is critical to the development of wise, effectiveand virtuous social workers who are able to exercise sound judgment and wisdom across arange of practice contexts
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-468
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Work Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Social Work Education (ISSN: 0261-5479) on 23/10/2013, available online:


  • Admission
  • Selection
  • Suitability
  • Moral Character
  • Virtue
  • Social Work
  • Social Work Student


Dive into the research topics of 'Suitability for Professional Practice: Assessing and Developing Moral Character in Social Work Education'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this