Literature and the Human Condition in Teaching and Learning

Julie Cooper Altman, Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, Laura Quiros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The benefits of literature are countless. Social workers, however, are usually not inclined to count the teaching and practice of social work among its beneficiaries. We believe that literature is one of the ways to enrich vital components of social work knowledge, attitudes, and skills. In this article, we begin by calling attention to a historical precedent for the use of literature in social work education and practice. We then examine recent research on the impact of literature on human behavior, empathy, and critical thinking and consider its epistemological roots. Next, we review evidence from social work journals on the use of literature in teaching and practice. Having examined the relationships of literature to professional knowledge and practice, we devote most of the article to illustrating how, as social work educators, we are and can be using literature effectively in the teaching of social work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-35
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Teaching in Social Work
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Literature
  • social work knowledge
  • teaching techniques


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