Critical reflection and holistic assessment

Two women reading from a sheet of paper

Helping your social workers to critically reflect on their practice

Supporting your newly qualified social workers (NQSW) to critically reflect on their first year as a social worker is central to the ASYE.

With the impact of COVID-19, we've developed a set of principles supporting the transition from student to NQSW. These will provide guidance in completing the documents cited below.

Holistic assessment continues to be the process used to meet the requirements of the Knowledge and Skills Statement for social workers (KSS) in adult services and the professional capabilities framework (PCF).

This section will help you support NQSWs to understand critical reflection and holistic assessment.

Your NQSWs can use the critical reflection log (CRL) to evidence their progress and learning needs for the year. This will help them to meet the requirements of the KSS and PCF. Guidance on how to use the critical reflection log is available.

The log is available in separate evidence templates.


Your NQSWs will need to critically reflect on their practice, drawing on a range of information which will be used to inform the final assessment judgment.

Being able to evaluate what they have learned at different stages of the ASYE is central to professional social work practice.

This resource will help your NQSWs to develop their critical reflection skills.

Reflective supervision

Reflective supervision sessions should be used to gather support and develop skills in critical analysis and reflective practice. The NQSW can achieve this by:

  • describing and thinking about what they have learnt from their practice (what is going well and not so well)
  • exploring their feelings/emotions and how these may be impacting on their practice
  • planning what they can do to improve and develop as a social worker.

The critical reflection log (CRL) has four parts, which link the ASYE journey, support progressive development and evidence of development.

It is a holistic document which brings together the evidence requirements of the KSS and the PCF.

The NQSW is responsible for completing the CRL and there is guidance to help them to do this.

They can use the CRL to bring together evidence and reflect on their practice. This helps them to identify their learning needs and demonstrate progressive development.

The CRL should be reviewed in supervision with the ASYE assessor. It should be used alongside the record of support and progressive assessment (RSPA) which is completed by the assessor.

This diagram shows how the CRL and the RSPA work together. Both templates include prompts to help the NQSW and the assessor.

The assessor’s will use the CRL to judge whether your NQSW has met the holistic assessment outcomes.

Completed example of a critical reflection log

We have created a fictitious example of a completed critical reflection log which includes the reflection from the NQSW and the assessor comments.

Please read the following guidance before using this example.  

There is also a version of the annotated log which only includes the reflection from the NQSW.

Holistic assessment is not a 'snapshot' of ability at a point in time. It should show progressive development over the year. At the end of a holistic assessment there should be evidence that the NQSW has consistently reached the required standard.

Holistic assessment in the ASYE enables assessment against the KSS and the PCF.

We have developed holistic assessment outcomes to reflect the level descriptors in the KSS and the PCF. These are included in the CRL guidance.

The holistic assessment outcomes can also be used to check the NQSW’s knowledge across all aspects of the statement. This will help to identify learning needs which are relevant to their service setting. 

The CRL evidences progressive development and the holistic assessment requirements. It can be used to bring together evidence over time and by place and observer.

The Knowledge and Skills Statement (KSS)

The KSS sets out what a social worker working with adults should know and be able to do by the end of the ASYE.

It is designed to strengthen and enhance the PCF by recognising that it provides the generic standards for all social workers.

The KSS defines overall expectations of the ASYE and should be used to identify the learning needs.

The Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF)

The PCF provides the level, detail and standard for assessment.

The PCF's capability statements shouldn’t just be ticked off as NQSW achieves them. They should be used to identify any knowledge gaps or development concerns.

The capability statements should be used to review personal development planning and performance management.

Individual capability statements can help the assessor to make their judgement and explain whether the NQSW is meeting the required level and complexity.

Feedback from people in need of care and support is central to critical reflection and holistic assessment.

Your NQSW will need to provide three pieces of feedback from people in need of care and support in their critical reflection log.

There is no single, correct way of gathering this information but we have developed a range of tools and resources to help your NQSW to gather this information. 

At every stage of their work, social workers are expected to consider, evidence and respond to feedback from the people they have supported.