What you can learn about human behaviour in social work

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Professionals earning their master’s degree in social work must gain knowledge and experience in many different areas of study. This includes concepts like:

  • Methods of social work research
  • Diversity and oppression
  • Psychopathology
  • Social welfare policy and services

In addition, students also have the opportunity to establish an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the ways it can impact a patient’s response to certain situations, their overall quality of life, and their journey toward recovery.

As part of Rutgers’ online MSW program in Clinical Social Work, students complete generalist and specialized courses that cover many of the areas listed above, as well as other key subjects. One course that all online MSW students will take as part of their generalist coursework is Human Behavior and the Social Environment. This course, along with the other generalist and specialized courses, can help students establish considerable skills and a deep understanding of human behavior and development. Today, we’ll take a closer look at this course, and the types of educational goals and learning outcomes students can expect.

Human behavior in social work

Human behavior is a prime consideration and essential factor for social work professionals, both during their studies and after graduation as they work with patients and clients. To prepare, students will devote significant time to understanding the behavior of their clients, and the factors that can impact it.

For instance, professional social workers need to understand a client’s behavior, including the ways in which they respond to certain stressors or situations, and the reasoning behind these reactions. Studying human behavior and interaction is key to this pursuit, and will help students be more successful in their social work method.

This examination and understanding of human behavior encompasses the entire human lifecycle, and includes studying the impacts of certain social systems and the ways in which they can promote or deter the maintenance of overall health and wellbeing.

Such behavior and related elements form a top tier of social work, and their importance must be recognized as students further their higher education in the social work master’s program.

Studying human behavior in the Rutgers’ MSW program

Whether students take part in the Traditional online MSW program through the Rutgers School of Social Work or the Advanced Standing program, all students will study elements of human behavior. Those participating in the traditional online program will take Human Behavior and the Social Environment as part of their generalist courses during their first year of study. This course is typically taken during the first semester.

More information on the Advanced Standing curriculum is available here.

Human Behavior and the Social Environment

Human Behavior and the Social Environment focuses on theories, themes, and issues concerning the ongoing interaction between people as they grow, change, and develop over the life course and the social context in which this occurs. It covers assumptions about human behavior that may interfere with recognition of diversity in the ongoing interaction between individual, family, and group identity; social context; and social life. It also covers values and ethical issues related to biopsychosocial development.

The course helps students gain a theoretical and factual knowledge base for the ways in which human behavior impacts social work practice. This encompasses:

  • Biological, psychological, and social development patterns of individuals, families, and other groups, and how this impacts the ways in which they interact with one another, including in different environmental settings.
  • Human behavior theories and the ability to critically view these theories for individual clients and families.
  • The implications of social work research and policy on human behavior in social environments.
  • A key focus on the human behavior of vulnerable populations, and how certain social systems support or hinder the behavioral development of individuals and families within these populations.

This course will cover several key learning objectives that students will be expected to build skills around and demonstrate expertise in. Aligning with these objectives will help support student success in the social work field after graduation.

Some of these course objectives include:

  • Enabling students to see and understand that human behavior is a multifaceted concept determined by a range of internal and external factors.
  • Providing students with the necessary skills to identify social environmental factors that can impact human behavior, either positively or negatively. This includes environmental constraints like poverty, racism, ageism, etc.
  • Arming students with the knowledge to critically evaluate and integrate human behavior theories into their social work method to support individuals and family groups.
  • Boosting students’ awareness of the types of attitudes and values that can impact behavior, particularly for diverse and vulnerable populations.

This course can help students learn to apply the proper social work method and psychotherapeutic models for a particular situation, given the understanding of the social environment and patient behavior.

Students will examine certain professional roles and boundaries, and work to continually align themselves with social work best practices.

This course will also help social work professionals learn to apply critical thinking and leverage professional communication to support their opinion and judgments. Students will be taught to stay current in their knowledge of clinical theory and evidence-based practice to support the needs of their clients, and to do so in a way that enables proper evaluation, selection, and use of appropriate assessments, interventions, and social work methods.

A major goal of this course is to enable students to gain the necessary knowledge and expertise about human development and behavior in specific social environments. Students who successfully complete this course will be able to draw on this experience to assess the factors that impact individual, family, and group behavior, relate to this behavior, and critically evaluate these factors to support their patients.

Human behavior is a key concept in social work, and Human Behavior and the Social Environment can help lay the groundwork for success as a social worker.

To find out more about the Master of Social Work program, connect with an enrollment coach today.



Recommended Readings:

Online MSW: What You’ll Learn

Online Master of Social Work vs. Online Master of Counseling



Rutgers Online Master of Social Work

Rutgers Online MSW Brochure

Pearson Higher ED

Rutgers MSW Online program details

Rutgers MSW Syllabi