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Article

Jennifer L. Magnabosco

Throughout history, measuring outcomes has been a goal and priority in the human services. This entry chronicles the history of outcomes measurement in the human services in the United States and discusses present-day outcome measurement activities as well as trends and some of the key areas for outcomes measurement in several human service domains.

Article

Quality assurance (QA) is a widely accepted management function that is intended to ensure that services provided to consumers meet agreed upon standards. Standards come from professional organizations, evidence-based practices, and public policies that specify outcomes for consumers. QA systems consist of measurement, comparison of findings to standards, and feedback to practitioners and managers. There is emerging but limited research that indicates that QA can be an effective strategy for improving outcomes for consumers.

Article

Bill Nugent

Measurement is a fundamentally important component of social work research. This entry briefly covers two important notions in psychometrics: reliability and validity. Reliability concerns errors of measurement, and validity concerns the accuracy of the inferences that are made from scores from a measurement procedure. Both norm-referenced and criterion-referenced measurement procedures are discussed.

Article

Steven L. McMurtry, Susan J. Rose, and Lisa K. Berger

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.

Article

Edward J. Mullen, Jennifer L. Bellamy, and Sarah E. Bledsoe

This entry describes best practices as these are used in social work. The term best practices originated in the organizational management literature in the context of performance measurement and quality improvement where best practices are defined as the preferred technique or approach for achieving a valued outcome. Identification of best practices requires measurement, benchmarking, and identification of processes that result in better outcomes. The identification of best practices requires that organizations put in place quality data collection systems, quality improvement processes, and methods for analyzing and benchmarking pooled provider data. Through this process, organizational learning and organizational performance can be improved.

Article

Kevin Corcoran

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.

Article

Hee Yun Lee, William Hasenbein, and Priscilla Gibson

As the older adult population continues to grow at a rapid rate, with an estimated 2.1 billion older adults in 2050, social welfare researchers are determined to fill the shortage of gerontological social workers and structural lag to best serve the baby boomers who are expected to need different services than previous generations. Mental illness impacts over 20% of older adults in the world and the United States. The major mental health issues in older adults include depression, anxiety, loneliness, and social isolation. Depression is considered one of the most common mental health issues among this population; however, the prevalence could be underestimated due to older adults linking relevant symptoms to other causes, such as old age, instead of as possible depression. Like depression, anxiety symptoms are often mistaken as results of aging. It is also difficult for providers to diagnose anxiety in this population due to anxiety frequently being coupled with other illnesses and the psychological stress that comes with old age. Because the presence of loneliness or social isolation can manifest depression and anxiety symptoms in older adults, it is also difficult to separate these two issues. With the anticipated increase of the older adult population within the next few years, measurement tools have been created to assess depression and anxiety specifically for older adults. In addition to adapting assessment tools, interventions tailored to older adults are essential to ensure treatment coherence, even though medications are the go-to treatment option.

Article

Cross-cultural measurement is an important topic in social work research and evaluation. Measuring health related concepts accurately is necessary for researchers and practitioners who work with culturally diverse populations. Social workers use measurements or instruments to assess health-related outcomes in order to identify risk and protective factors for vulnerable, disadvantaged populations. Culturally validated instruments are necessary, first, to identify the evidence of health disparities for vulnerable populations. Second, measurements are required to accurately capture health outcomes in order to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions for cross-cultural populations. Meaningful, appropriate, and practical research instruments, however, are not always readily available. They may have bias when used for populations from different racial and ethnic groups, tribal groups, immigration and refugee status, gender identities, religious affiliations, social class, and mental or physical abilities. Social work researchers must have culturally reliable and valid research instruments to accurately measure social constructs and ensure the validity of outcomes with cultural populations of interest. . In addition, culturally reliable and valid instruments are necessary for research which involves comparisons with different cultural groups. Instruments must capture the same conceptual understanding in outcomes across different cultural groups to create a basis for comparison. Cross-cultural instruments must also detect and ascertain the same magnitude in the changes in health outcomes, in order to accurately determine the impact of factors in the social environment as well as the influence of micro, mezzo, and macro-level interventions. This reference provides an overview of issues and techniques of cross-cultural measurement in social work research and evaluation. Applying systematic, methodological approaches to develop, collect, and assess cross-cultural measurements will lead to more reliable and valid data for cross-cultural groups.

Article

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.

Article

Aidyn Iachini, Ruth Berkowitz, Hadass Moore, Ronald Pitner, Ron Avi Astor, and Rami Benbenishty

School climate is critical for school improvement efforts, yet questions remain regarding how best to define and measure the construct. Research demonstrates relationships between a positive school climate and important youth development and academic learning outcomes. As school climate policies continue to develop, clarification regarding the dimensions of school climate and continued research on how school climate impacts school and student outcomes remains important.

Article

Lisa S. Patchner and Kevin L. DeWeaver

The multiplicity of disability definitions can be attributed to the heterogeneity of disability, its multifactoral nature, and its effects across the life span. Of particular concern to the social work profession are those persons with neurocognitive disabilities. Neurocognitive disabilities are ones where a problem with the brain or neural pathways causes a condition (or conditions) that impairs learning or mental/physical functioning or both. Some examples are intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and savant syndrome. Neurocognitive disabilities are the most difficult to diagnose often times because of their invisibility. Providing services for people with neurocognitive disabilities is very difficult, and people with these disabilities are among the most vulnerable populations in today's society. This entry discusses neurocognitive disabilities and current and future trends in social work disability practice.