SWTIG Week: Javonda Williams on “How will I know when I am better?” Using Single systems designs for evaluating client progress

Hi, my name is Javonda Williams. I am the BSW Program Chair and an Assistant Professor at The University of Alabama School of Social Work. I have also worked as a clinical social worker for 12 years. My practice experience centers on trauma and resilience in children and adolescents. One “aha” moment came for me when an outspoken 12-year old girl that I was working with asked the question, “How will I know when I am better?”

Hot Tip: Just do it!! Single systems research designs are among the simplest and most cost effective forms of evaluation. Remember the primary intent of single systems designs is to examine the effect of an intervention on a client (or a single group of clients) over time. Get started in three easy steps: 1) Clearly identify the behavior you expect to change, 2) determine which intervention you will use to address the behavior and 3) pick a way (or an instrument) to measure progress.

Hot tip: Get the clients involved. The results of your single system research can be useful in providing feedback to you as a clinician, but most importantly to the client. The clients should have an idea of what is working and what is not working on their journey to “better”. Remember all of that “person-centered” stuff you learned in Introduction to Social Work or some other class.

Hot tip: Don’t be afraid to bring the bling!!! In my work with children, some of my best examples of single subject designs have been displayed using markers, stickers and glitter!! Giving clients a visual display of progress can help encourage them to continue working towards progress.

Rad Resources: There is plenty of information and examples of single systems designs available online. Here are a few to get you started:

Single Subject Research

Single Subject Design

Introduction to Single Subject Designs

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 aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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