Accurate measurement is essential for effective social work practice, but doing it well can be difficult. One solution is to use rapid assessment instruments (RAIs), which are brief scales that typically require less than 15 minutes to complete. Some are administered by practitioners, but most are self-administered on paper or electronically. RAIs are available for screening, initial assessment, monitoring of service progress, and outcome evaluation. Some require author permission, others are sold commercially, and many more are free and in the public domain. Selection of an RAI should be based first on its psychometric strength, including content, concurrent, and known-groups validity, as well as on types of reliability such as internal consistency, but practical criteria such as readability are also important. And when used in practice settings, RAIs should be part of a well-rounded measurement plan that also includes behavioral observations, client logs, unobtrusive measures, and other approaches.
Steven L. McMurtry, Susan J. Rose, and Lisa K. Berger
Direct social work practice is the application of social work theory and/or methods to the resolution and prevention of psychosocial problems experienced by individuals, families, and groups. In this article, direct practice is discussed in the context of social work values, empowerment, diversity, and multiculturalism, as well as with attention to client strengths, spirituality, and risk and resilience influences. The challenges of practice evaluation are also considered.
Paula S. Nurius
Walter W. Hudson (1934–1999) was a leader in measurement theory, development and testing of assessment and outcome evaluation tools, applied statistics, evidence-based practice methodology, and computer applications for human services practice.
David P. Moxley
Through cycles of systematic and purposeful iterative engagement with problems they face in specific practice settings, social workers engaging in action research build knowledge that is useful in advancing practice for the purposes of social betterment. This entry situates action research in the development of social-work knowledge and then examines variants of action research formed when degrees of participation and control vary among members of vulnerable populations, particularly within community situations involving coping with a degraded quality of life. The author identifies the importance of methodological pluralism and addresses how sound action research results in knowledge dissemination and utilization for the purposes of social betterment, often through alternative methods of inquiry. The entry concludes with caveats social workers engaged in action research should heed, and the author emphasizes the pivotal role social work can serve in local efforts to engage in knowledge development for social betterment.
Rosalyn M. Bertram
This entry presents frameworks for implementing effective services. When service organizations understand and work through implementation frameworks, programs can achieve targeted fidelity and client outcomes in a sustainable manner while enhancing practitioner competence and confidence, and improving organizational culture and climate. These frameworks should be but are not yet infused throughout social work curricula. They provide a practical and conceptual bridge for supporting effective delivery of evidence-based or empirically informed practices.
This entry reviews the uses of scales and instruments in social work practice, including scales and instruments for diagnosis and evidencing treatment necessity, as methods for monitoring client progress, and as outcomes measures of clinical significance. A resource list for locating scales and instruments is provided.
Joel Fischer and John G. Orme
Single-system designs (SSDs) are a family of user-friendly empirical procedures that can be used to help professionals to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the services they provide to clients and to guide practice. SSDs can be used to evaluate interventions based on any theory or approach. Repeated measurement of the target(s) of intervention is an intrinsic and key element of SSDs. Dozens of SSDs exist, and each has its own strengths and limitations. The most basic and most widely used design is the A-B design. Data from SSDs are analyzed visually, using simple, descriptive or inferential statistics, or using criteria for practical or clinical significance.
Dorothy N. Gamble and Tracy M. Soska
“Macro practice” is identified as social work with communities, organizations, and inter- and intra-organizational groups engaged in progressive maintenance or change strategies. Social workers in macro practice engage in planning, organizing, development, collaboration, leadership, policy practice, advocacy, and evaluation. In 2010, the Association of Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) defined competencies expected of people doing this work. ACOSA identified two separate but related sets of competencies: one based on the literature found in its sponsored journal, The Journal of Community Practice, and a second derived from 10 competencies elaborated on in the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Educational Policies and Accreditation Standards. Identifying competencies defines knowledge, values, judgments, and skills that social workers doing macro practice should address. Evaluating competencies can be determined by educational programs, service organizations that employ macro practitioners, or by the practitioners themselves as they move through their career in social work.
Charles D. Garvin and Maeda J. Galinsky
This overview highlights the current status of group practice, examines the conceptual frameworks for working with groups, reviews the status of group work practice research, and identifies challenges for practice. The discussion examines how the numerous frameworks in social work with groups are joined by adherence to a systemic perspective, an understanding of group dynamics, common intervention concepts, and processes important to phases of intervention. While group work writings and practice have always emphasized the importance of opposing injustices, recent literature has taken a strong position on how group work theory and practice are related to the pursuit of social justice. Although recent studies on social group work are characterized by increasing attention to design, data collection, and analysis, research is still at a developing stage. The discussion of challenges points to areas that are of special importance in current and future practice, including diversity in composition, a commitment to attaining social justice, changing membership, involuntary membership, new professional roles, and use of technology.