SW TIG Week: Kathy Bolland on Ethics in Evaluation and in Social Professions

Hello!  I am Kathy Bolland, like many of you, a wearer of many hats.  I am an administrator and faculty member in a school of social work, where my research focuses on impoverished youth at risk and on assessment in higher education.  I also evaluate educational projects and social programs.  I am a past AEA treasurer and current co-chair of the Social Work Topical Interest Group.

Often I tell my students that the hardest thing in evaluation is framing and focusing the evaluation question.  Great evaluation designs, implementation, and analysis are not helpful when they overlook questions important to stakeholders.  Before the evaluation questions though, must come conversations with stakeholders.  This is where evaluators often must search for common ground and dispel fear of evaluation.

Lesson Learned: I have found that many professionals who need an evaluation or who must provide information for evaluation have a code of ethics. Telling them about AEA’s Guiding Principles for Evaluators and how those principles relate to their code of ethics can help.

The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is important to social work practitioners, educators, and students. I will provide a couple of examples of similarities between this code and to our Guiding Principles.

The AEA Guiding Principles tell us, “Evaluators conduct systematic, data-based inquiries.” The principles remind us to “practice within the limits of [our] professional training and competence….” The NASW Code of Ethics tells social workers, “Social workers practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise.  Social workers continually strive to increase their professional knowledge and skills and to apply them in practice. Social workers should aspire to contribute to the knowledge base of the profession.”  I remind social workers that one way they can increase their professional knowledge and skills and apply them in practice is to conduct systematic, data-based inquiries.”

Our Guiding Principles address cultural competence: “To ensure recognition, accurate interpretation and respect for diversity, evaluators should ensure that the members of the evaluation team collectively demonstrate cultural competence.”  The NASW Code of Ethics addresses cultural competence as well.  In brief, “Social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, and mental or physical disability.”

Many more points of similarity exist between these two guides and between our Guiding Principles and guidelines and codes specific to other professions.  They can provide a common ground to begin a conversation.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating SW TIG Week with our colleagues in the Social Work Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our SW TIG members. Do 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “SW TIG Week: Kathy Bolland on Ethics in Evaluation and in Social Professions”

  1. Pingback: Humberto Reynoso-Vallejo on Evaluating Immigrant Workers Centers | evalpoint

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