Ethical reflections in welfare practices (MSO295)

Whether you work in child protection services, migration, mental health, or other welfare services, ethical knowledge and ethical skills are important. Broadly speaking, ethics is about matters of right and wrong conduct, good and bad qualities. This course seeks to advance the student's understanding of the interaction between ethics and the exercise of welfare work in different welfare services and country contexts. The student's background, history and professional practices will be used as a frame of reference in classroom discussions.

Course description for study year 2023-2024. Please note that changes may occur.


Course code




Credits (ECTS)


Semester tution start


Number of semesters


Exam semester


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This course will focus on the interaction between student's practice experiences, theories, and reflections. The aims are to provide knowledge about ethical theories, enhance critical reasoning and to increase the ability to reflect upon welfare practice logics in different contexts. To study contextual practices, students will critically reflect upon practice experiences and incidents raising ethical dilemmas.

 Content of the course relates to the following themes:

  • Ethical theories
  • Contextual Practices
  • Critical reasoning and Ethical reflection
  • Emotional work
  • Social justice and injustice
  • Child participation
  • Human rights perspectives

This course is divided in different subjects:

  • Ethical theories
  • Critical incident reflection
  • Field visits

Learning outcome


  • Knowledge on ethics and human justice theories
  • Knowledge on critical reasoning and ethical reflection
  • Knowledge on the interaction between ethical theories and welfare practices


  • Analytical skills in applying different theories and approaches into practice
  • The ability to critically reflect upon the contextual construction of welfare practices
  • Enhance the ability to reflect upon ethical dilemmas and apply knowledge to describe how to understand and manage ethical dilemmas in welfare practices
  • Develop intercultural communication skills through the multidisciplinary and international classroom (study group)


  • Advance the students' competence to understand and demonstrate how to use theories and methods when reflecting upon welfare practices
  • Advance the students' professional competence to manage, justify and control his/her own educational development

Required prerequisite knowledge

Completed a bachelor’s degree in social sciences or humanities


Form of assessment Weight Duration Marks Aid
Home exam 1/1 1 Weeks Letter grades All

The exam is a semester assignment that will be handed out in the beginning of the course. The assignment should be handed in electronically by December. The language for the exam is English. In the individual written essay, the students will reflect upon a critical incident and/or a practice experience that raises ethical dilemmas and critically reflect on the dilemma in light of two ethical theories to broaden their understanding of the incident/experience. Word count: 4 000 words (+/- 10 %) including table of contents, notes, references, and bibliography. Reference style: APA 7th.

Coursework requirements

Mandatory registered presence
Presence is mandatory (MP) in parts of the course programme (i.e., field visits, seminars and other marked with MP in the lecture plan). Mandatory requirements: 75% presence. If students do not fulfil the MP requirement, students will have to pass an assignment given by the course coordinators to take the course exam.

Course teacher(s)

Study Program Director:

Brita Gjerstad

Course coordinator:

Siv Oltedal

Method of work

Lectures, seminars, group work and individual work adapted to different modes of study. All students are expected to read the syllabus and participate in student group- and classroom discussions. Comparative practices will be exercised within a multidisciplinary and international classroom when students are sharing and reflecting on different life experiences. Throughout the course, there will be group sessions where students will complete assignments related to the final individual exam. Students will receive feedback on their work from other students and from the course leaders. The course coordinator will facilitate a digital learning platform (Canvas).

Open for

All students. Open to students at the University of Stavanger, international students and external candidates. 

Course assessment

There must be an early dialogue between the course coordinator, the student representative and the students. The purpose is feedback from the students for changes and adjustments in the course for the current semester.In addition, a digital course evaluation must be carried out at least every three years. Its purpose is to gather the students experiences with the course.


The syllabus can be found in Leganto