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YSED205 Ethical Principles and Practice of Youth Work

Unit rationale, description and aim

To be a competent youth worker, students need to know the core values, theories and frameworks that inform and drive ethical youth work practice. This unit explores the core values and purpose of youth work. The unit examines a range of theories, approaches, models and frameworks appropriate for different youth work settings and roles. The unit makes concrete links between theory and practice in the youth work sector. The aim of this unit is to examine the principles of participation, empowerment, advocacy, decolonizing anti-oppressive practice and has a sustained focus on reflective and ethical practice.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe some of the major ethical issues facing workers with young people in a range of contexts, and the best practice approaches to address them (GA1, GA3, GA5) 

LO2 - Critically reflect on their personal ideology, values and orientation to youth work practice and how these relate to, or differ from, the profession’s key principles, values and ethics (GA3, GA4, GA5) 

LO3 - Critically analyse aspects of youth work practice, identifying ethical and theoretical considerations and best practice principles (GA4, GA5, GA9) 

LO4 - Explain the principles and theoretical frameworks that inform contemporary youth work practice (GA4, GA5, GA9) 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:  

  • Principles and theoretical perspectives that inform contemporary youth work practice. 
  • Approaches, including, advocacy, empowerment, participation, decolonizing and anti-oppressive practice.  
  • Major ethical issues for youth workers e.g., power imbalances, confidentiality, trust and boundaries 
  • Reflective practice.  

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This 10-credit point face-to-face unit provides hands-on learning, including collaborative learning. It takes the form of a face-to-face class incorporating activities through which students will gain a deep understanding of principles and theoretical perspectives that inform contemporary youth work practice. Key learning activities in tutorials will include debating, learning to ‘read’ and interpret major ethical issues for youth workers, writing and other primary sources, reading, writing, group discussion, finding scholarly sources, and problem-solving. The lectures provide students with content and analytical frameworks necessary for understanding and analysing approaches, including advocacy, empowerment, participation, decolonizing and anti-oppressive practice and assist students to synthesise a broad range of material.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

There are three assessments for this unit that are designed to enable you to meet the Learning Outcomes. Each assignment is designed to prepare you for subsequent tasks.  

Written Piece: The purpose of this assignment is to critically reflect on ethical youth work practice and to integrate lecture content within the learning experience. 

Digital Narrative: This assignment enables the student to consider the role that youth workers play in young people’s lives and to identify how theory fits into this. It is designed as a group work task, because a lot of youth work practice is done with others, so students are being prepared to work collaboratively and responsibly with others. 

Journal Work Book: The purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate how students have applied the knowledge gained in the unit, and their critical reflexive ability on the experience of being a youth worker. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Written Piece 

Students are required to write an essay on ethical considerations in a specific area of youth work practice 


LO1, LO2,  

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5 

Digital Narrative 

Students are required to work as a group to answer the question ‘what is youth work’ in digital form and in what ways theory is important to it, identifying ethical and theoretical considerations and best practice principles.  


LO3, LO4 

GA4, GA5, GA9 

Reflective Piece: Journal Workbook 

Students are required to write a reflective journal based on weekly questions, and case studies, that chronicles their learning through the semester. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4,  

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA9 

Representative texts and references

Alldred, P, Cullen, F, Edwards, K & Fusco, D 2018, The Sage handbook of youth work practice, Sage, London. 

Banks, S 2012, Ethical issues in youth work. 2nd edn, Routledge. London.  

Curran, S, Harrison, R & Mackinnon, D 2013, Working with young people, 2nd edn, Sage, London.  

Martin, L 2009, The invisible table: Perspectives on youth and youth work in New Zealand, Dunore Press, Palmerston North, NZ. 

Sapin, L 2013, Essential skills for youth work practice. 2nd edn, Sage, London.  

Sercombe, H 2010, Youth work ethics, Sage, London. 

White, R 2010, Youth work and youth issues, Australian Clearinghouse of Youth Studies. Hobart, Tas. 

White, R 2011, Youth work and social diversity, Australian Clearinghouse of Youth Studies, Hobart, Tas. 

White, R. (2009), Concepts and methods of youth work, Australian Clearinghouse of Youth Studies. Hobart, Tas. 

Wood, J & Hine, J 2009, Work with young people: Theory and policy for practice, Sage, London.  

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