Critical Youth Work

The academic component of NOISE for Social Work Students is two specially developed directed reading courses on Critical Youth Work. BSW fellows and MSW GAs complete these courses with the faculty adviser for their pod.

The BSW Course is AP/SOWK 4210: Critical Youth Work – A Praxis Experience in Theory, Practice and Policy

The MSW Course is GS/SOWK 5970: Critical Youth Work – A Praxis Experience in Theory, Practice, Policy and Research

Course Description and Goals:
Both experiential directed reading courses draw insights from critical traditions of social work to problematize contemporary theorizing of youth work while emphasizing an integration of theory, practice, policy and research. The courses explore theoretical and practice approaches to understanding and working with youth in a collaborative way that creates opportunities for multidirectional mentoring. In keeping with an experiential focus, both courses encourage reflexivity.

Course Objectives: At the completion of this course, participants will be able to:
1. understand the conceptual and theoretical underpinnings associated with core youth work concepts such as positive youth development, youth engagement, ‘at risk’, ‘marginalized’.
2. critically assess how contemporary neo-liberal discourses inform youth work
3. generate new understandings of youth work that are aligned with social justice.

Course Expectations and Format:
A variety of learning activities are used to meet the learning objectives of the course. The core learning activity is a NOISE fellowship in which students work collaboratively in a pod with high school youth, Social Work MSW and BSW students and Social Work alum to plan and carry out a social action project. This experiential process is integrated with readings on critical youth work.

Course Expectations – each student is expected to:
• participate and contribute actively to their pods
• read and reflect upon the assigned readings and be able to integrate these to the experiential work in their NOISE fellowship.

The course is structured around the following modules:

Module 1: Theorizing and Problematizing Critical Youth Work – Dilemmas, Challenges and Possibilities
Module 2: Theory into Policy: Youth Work and Policy Development (Local and Global)
Module 3: Theory into Practice: Promising and Best Youth Engagement Practices / Problem Areas and Gaps / Notes for Future Practice
Module 4 (for MSW students only): Engaging Youth in Research and Evaluation: Challenges and Possibilities

Click here for the 2012-2013 reading list
Click here for the 2013-2014 course outline – COMING SOON!

Key Concepts that Inform NOISE
• Critical youth engagement
• Community-engaged scholarship
• Critical experiential education

Critical Youth Engagement: Critical youth engagement is “the meaningful participation and sustained involvement of a young person in an activity, with a focus outside of him or herself.” Critical youth engagement (CYE) has five parts:
• CYE recognizes that young people have knowledge and power – especially about the world they live in, and the
injustices and problems they encounter and deal with.
• CYE has a critical analysis of the world – this means it takes seriously structural forces like racism,
sexism, homophobia, and classism – and helps young people understand how these forces work and impact our
• Youth are leaders in the projects. Adults are engaged as well, as allies, helping the young people make
informed decisions, problem solve, role play and rehearse, etc., but youth are the primary leaders in
generating ideas, facilitating meetings, and making decisions.
• CYE recognizes that young people’s lives can’t be divided up, and that if you’re going to fight with young
people for a better world, you have to do it on lots of fronts.
• CYE also, and maybe most importantly, says that research should be linked to action.

Community-Engaged Scholarship: Community engaged scholarship happens when traditional scholars – university students and professors – come together with community members as equal partners, and together all participants bring their experiences, knowledge, and insights to address real world problems ( Community-Engaged Scholarship is different from traditional scholarship because community-engaged scholarship:
• understands community members to have equally important information, skills, and ability to shape the
direction of a project
• applies everyone’s energy to addressing real-world problems
• is a two-way exchange that benefits the community as well as the university (instead of primarily benefitting
the university, like research sometimes does)
• focuses on producing action, as well as knowledge.

Experiential Education: Experiential education is an approach to learning that gives students some “real-life” experience as well as classroom learning. Usually, this means doing a student placement in an organization in the field – the student “serves” by helping out in some way, and “learns” from the experience.

NOISE adopts a critical experiential education approach, which is a bit different because it doesn’t just want to give the student work experience, but wants to be part of social change. It is interested in the root causes of the problems that communities face, and gives students the chance to do action (or service) work in collaboration with community members that takes those root causes into consideration.

Click here for resources on these key concepts that inform our NOISEmaking