Addressing Evaluative Standards Related to Program Assessment: How Do We Respond?

By Garcia, John A.; Floyd, Charles E. | Journal of Social Work Education, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview
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Addressing Evaluative Standards Related to Program Assessment: How Do We Respond?


Garcia, John A., Floyd, Charles E., Journal of Social Work Education


RECENT TRENDS in higher education indicate that outcome assessment has become a high priority. Universities and academic departments are under increasing pressure to demonstrate effectiveness in achieving educational outcomes (Buchan, 1991). Hull, Mather, Christopherson, and Young (1994) note that, due to the complexity of this assessment and the extensive resources necessary for this assessment, programs often experience a good deal of difficulty in effectively responding to such mandates.

In addition to institutional demands, the Council on Social Work Education's (CSWE) Evaluative Standards 1.4 and 1.5 require social work programs to carry out assessment on a regular and systematic basis (CSWE, 1994). Evaluative Standard 1.4 mandates that each program specify outcome measures and measurement procedures used to determine success in achieving desired objectives. Evaluative Standard 1.5 requires each program to show evidence that it engages in ongoing, systematic self-study and evaluation of its total program, and to show evidence that the results of this evaluation affect program planning and curriculum design.

Although there is an abundance of social work literature related to the measurement of educational outcomes, there appears to be little examination of the systematic processes utilized by schools of social work to respond to Evaluative Standard 1.4 (Hull et al., 1994). Additionally, noticeably absent are studies related to the ways that schools of social work integrate evaluative data into program planning, which completes the evaluation feedback loop mandated by Evaluative Standard 1.5.

This article presents an overview of the assessment methods and strategies used by schools of social work across the country to meet Evaluative Standards 1.4 and 1.5. In addition, key challenges encountered in addressing these standards are identified, as are strategies for overcoming these potential barriers.

It should be noted that as of July, 2002, CSWE instituted the new Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (CSWE, 2001). Although Evaluative Standards 1.4 and 1.5 have been replaced by Accreditation Standards 8.0 and 8.1, the language and spirit of these new program assessment and continuous improvement standards remain virtually unchanged. As such, it is our opinion that the ideas presented in this article are wholly applicable to the current program assessment mandates.

Literature Review

Institutions of higher education are under increasing public and political pressure to demonstrate their effectiveness. High profile themes in the recent presidential election included educational reform and accountability. Accreditation standards for colleges and universities place increasing value on an institution's ability to evaluate educational outcomes. The California State University system, considered to be the world's largest educational system, recently mandated that outcome assessment methods be included in all 5-year academic program reviews. Because these reviews must include data indicating evidence of educational outcomes, the demonstration of effectiveness is now linked with resource decisions.

Social work literature suggests that all schools of social work use some form of assessment to measure educational outcomes (Buchan, 1991; Kamoeka & Lister, 1991). Hull and colleagues (1994) organize assessment methods into three overarching categories: student-focused assessment, institution-focused assessment, and process-focused assessment. According to Holden, Barker, Heenaghan, and Rosenberg (1999), educators tend to use a combination of indicators, including homework, tests, quizzes, papers, presentations, and class participation, as a means of assessing student outcomes. They further suggest that educators and institutions usually rely on student course evaluations in student-focused assessment.

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