SWTIG Week: Kathy Bolland on Evaluation and the Social Service Professions: Transdisciplinary Perspectives and Methods

Hello! I am Kathy Bolland, and like many of you, I have many professional hats. I am an administrator and faculty member in a school of social work, where my research focuses on adolescents living in poverty and on assessment in higher education. I am a past AEA treasurer, past chair of the Teaching of Evaluation Topical Interest Group (fondly known as TIG: TOE), and current co-chair of the Social Work TIG.

Last March, the Social Work TIG provided a series of AEA 365 blogposts during Social Work week. This year, we do it again, although a bit earlier. Some of our blogposts extend topics introduced last year and some are new. In both years’ blogposts we focus on how social work perspectives and methods can be used in evaluation and how evaluation can be used in social services (e.g., http://aea365.org/blog/sw-tig-week-katrina-brewsaugh-on-why-you-want-a-social-worker-on-your-evaluation-team). We also talk(ed) a bit about how to engage non-evaluators in evaluation and how to help them learn about evaluation (e.g., http://aea365.org/blog/sw-tig-week-carl-brun-on-teaching-evaluation-to-social-workhuman-service-students). Today’s blogpost will provide an introduction to this week of blogposts. The first and last lesson learned focus on transdisciplines. The remaining lessons learned relate to last year’s or this year’s blogposts, most relevant to the transdisciplinary nature of evaluation and of social services. A link to all of last year’s is provided as a Rad Resource.

Lesson Learned: Both evaluation and social services perspectives and methods can be applied in both disciplines, as well as in others. Scriven (2008) [The Concept of a Discipline: And of Evaluation as a Transdiscipline] and Riverda (2001) [Multidisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Approach in Social Work Education and its Implications] have discussed how evaluation and social service disciplines can thus be characterized as a transdisciplines.


Lesson Learned: Evaluation and social service professions share many guiding principles.

Lesson Learned: Evaluation perspectives and methods can help social service professionals identify evidence-based practices and implement evidence-based practice.

Lesson Learned: Both evaluators and social service professionals are invested in cultural competence and are still learning about it.

Lesson Learned: Single-systems designs, often taught as part of “evaluating practice” is a way to help social service professionals embrace the idea of evaluation.

Lesson Learned: Evaluating the degree to which program goals have been met is not the only way to evaluate a program.

Lesson Learned: Evaluators can use their knowledge and skills to help their higher education colleagues in professional schools and arts and sciences with assessment tasks useful for program improvement as well as for accreditation.

Lesson Learned: Evaluators and social service professionals can serve on multi-disciplinary or inter-disciplinary teams, they can work in other ways with colleagues from different disciplines, and they can also be transdisciplinary, using perspectives and methods from their primary disciplines to strengthen their work in other disciplines.

Rad Resource: AEA 365 blogs sponsored by the Social Work TIG last year. http://aea365.org/blog/category/social-work/

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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