MSI Fellowship Week: Evaluation and Capacity Building in A Master of Social Work Curriculum by Candace Carter

Hello! I am Candace Carter, PhD an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Mississippi Valley State University.  I had the unique opportunity to serve as a fellow in the 2019 cohort of the American Evaluation Association Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Faculty Initiative.  I teach methods of social work research, needs assessment and program evaluation in the graduate social work program.  Throughout the fellowship, my research and presentation efforts have centered around capacity building and culturally responsive evaluation within the social work profession, more specifically on the academic program level.

The academic program of social work is governed by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) which is the accrediting body of social work programs.  Academic programs are evaluated as part of the accreditation standards which assess whether students enrolled are mastering competencies set forth by the accrediting body and are prepared for professional practice upon graduation. There are nine core competencies which support the ethical standards and guidelines for practice set forth in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics. Relative to evaluation, competency 9 highlights the importance of equipping students with the tools necessary to effectively evaluate social work practice with different client populations across the varying practice levels. 

In terms of academic program evaluation, each program determines the measures to be used to measure students’ levels of mastery.  In my academic program, we use two different tools to assess learning outcomes of students, evaluating how well the program has prepared students to practice upon graduation.  The first is the learning contract of students completing their final field education placements.  The learning contract includes all CSWE competencies and students are evaluated by benchmarks set forth by the program.  The second is a research proposal, an assignment in the methods of research class.  The research proposal assignment is consistent with ethical standard 5.02 (b) which encourages practitioners to engage in research and evaluation to strengthen their knowledge base.  The assignment is also graded utilizing a rubric and benchmark indicating success.  Taken together, both assessment tools used in my academic program are key indicators of how well the program is building capacity among students and equipping them with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to practice in the field upon graduation. 

Rad Resources:  Here are resources I find very helpful in understanding evaluation.

The American Evaluation Association is AEA Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Fellowship Experience week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s MSI Fellows. For more information on the MSI fellowship, see this webpage: you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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