Hans Bernier and Kelly Smith
Hans Bernier, MPA, LSCW, Associate Director of Field Education, School of Social Work
Kelly Smith, DSW, M.Ed., M.S., Lecturer, School of Social Work
Project Title: Moment of Action
In summer 2020, amidst the backdrop of the global pandemic and resurgence of activism responding to anti-Black racism, we taught the Advanced Standing Integrative Seminar for incoming Master’s level social work students in the Online Campus. We developed an alternative to a Moment of Silence to create space and build resilience and classroom connections while processing the range of circumstances occurring in the community. The Moment of Action is a trauma-informed practice that helps students engage with diverse, collaborative efforts relevant to social work practice. Centering on mutuality as a guiding principle, the Moment of Action embeds inclusive problem-solving and decision-making. Additionally, Moments of Action levels classroom power differentials by building a community inclusive of students and instructors. Finally, the activities create opportunities to foster relationships that honor social work values and ethics—at the same time, empowering student choice in deciding to engage with or suggest Moments of Actions throughout the course.
The 25 Advanced Standing students included participants from all degree tracks, including Advanced Clinical Practice, Advanced Generalist Practice and Programming, Policy Practice, and Social Enterprise Administration. The course emphasized support modalities for individuals, families, small groups, organizations, communities, specific populations, and affinity groups. Integrating the social problems of our day and their interactions between the micro, macro, and mezzo systems also helped highlight the role of policy in problem identification and various intervention options.
Each Moment of Action centered on participation in optional activism, providing ways for students to collaborate in the social work community and share their voice on relevant issues in front of them. Activities for the Moment of Action were concrete responses to events happening on the national level or closely related to the school and student geographies. Connections were drawn to the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics and the Power, Racism, Oppression, and Privilege curriculum materials.
The consistency of the Moment of Action, paired with its flexibility to incorporate events in real-time, allows students to reflect on issues of importance before transitioning into the coursework. Protecting this time acknowledges the importance of social justice in social work scholarship and practice while also maintaining space for the course curriculum. Predictability and routines in the classroom also help support student resilience while facing the unprecedented uncertainty present during the summer of 2020. The Moment of Action culminated in students schedule-sending an email to their “future self” during their graduation week. This cumulative Moment of Action offers students space for self-reflection, recognition, acknowledgment, and a piece of advice. Specifically around their advocacy work throughout the course.
Many of the strategies that make residential courses successful directly apply in the virtual space. Reverse engineering the curricula with the learning objectives and creating takeaways allows students to participate in tangible ways. The Moment of Action supports students’ agency in class space by truly linking theory to practice and creating a real-world component. By providing a Moment of Action in every class, students could plan and connect elements from their work, community, and perspective without the need for additional outreach to the teaching team.
In referencing our end-of-course feedback, the students wrote about having space to start or share in difficult conversations. Overall, students found the resources helpful in deepening their understanding of the curriculum, explicitly highlighting the Moment of Action’s focus on social justice and connection to tangible next steps. Please find our Teachers College Winter Roundtable slides to learn more about incorporating Moments of Action into other courses: https://doi.org/10.7916/d8-77nc-2s04.
Voices of Hybrid and Online Teaching and Learning
Learn about the perspectives and experiences of teaching and learning during the pandemic.