I’m Tracy Wharton, Assistant Professor at the College of Health and Public Affairs at the University of Central Florida. Having been a practitioner, a program coordinator, a program evaluator, and now a faculty member, I am working on bringing relevant connections between practice and evaluation into the classroom.
Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) is the process of asking a good practice-relevant question, searching for the best available evidence, determining how the available information applies to your client(s), and evaluating the results of the intervention you and your client selected. As social work continues to expand implementation of EBP across practice domains, the imperative for rigorous evaluation of what we do and how we do it becomes even more important. Two broad things are necessary for EBP to succeed: practitioners need to embrace and implement the practice of using evidence and embrace and implement the practice of applying the EBP process.
Lesson Learned: Help engage people in understanding “the big picture.” Imagine your State Senator asking you to explain why your program should be given expanded funding over a program in the next county over; what would you say? In today’s political climate, funding for our programs often depends on our ability to demonstrate value. While it is appealing to leave evaluation to “the experts” and focus on our corner of the practice field and the work that we do from day to day, program directors often find themselves faced with demands for outcomes data, return on investment, and cost-benefit of the ways in which we serve our various populations. Like it or not, policy and public awareness often drive funding allocations and research priorities, which in turn help drive public perception of “what is important.” Even as we strive to support and empower our clients, our paychecks depend on the survival of our programs! In order to do what we do, we need funding, and to get funding, we need data.
Lesson Learned: “Evidence” can mean many things, as long as it is collected with an eye on validity and rigor.
Hot Tip: Remember “What? So what? Now what?” When teaching program evaluation to students in professional programs, use real clinical examples or applied experiences from internships. For example, working through a logic model for a familiar practice setting can help bring the process to life and create a link to evidence-based practice. The key to getting professional students excited about evaluation is to make it RELEVANT.
Rad Resource: The Point K Learning Center has a Logic Model Builder workbook, along with dozens of other evaluation resources.
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 SWTIG 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.