Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Evaluating a Measure of Student Field Performance in Direct Service: Testing Reliability and Validity of Explicit Criteria

Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Evaluating a Measure of Student Field Performance in Direct Service: Testing Reliability and Validity of Explicit Criteria

Article excerpt

THE PROFESSION OF SOCIAL WORK relies on social work educational programs to produce competent professional practitioners. Consequently, university programs function as the gatekeepers for the profession and are seen by the public as accountable for the quality of social work services available in the community. Social work educators recognize their responsibility to ensure that graduating students have achieved a performance level necessary for beginning practice (Kilpatrick, Turner, & Holland, 1994). Of all the aspects of social work education, field education is credited by alumnae and employers as the most significant component in the preparation of social work practitioners (Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work, 2001; Fortune, 1994; Goldstein, 2000; Kadushin, 1991; Schneck, 1995; Tolson & Kopp, 1988). However, a review of the literature and anecdotal comments of field coordinators reveals a consistent theme over the past two decades: the lack of objective, standardized outcome measures for assessing social work students' learning and performance in field education (Alperin, 1996; Kilpatrick et al., 1994; Pease, 1988; Wodarski, Feit, & Green, 1995). Raskin (1994), for instance, surveyed field education experts in 1980 and again in 1991 to identify field instruction issues and research priorities. In 1980, the consensus was that the primary research concern was the crucial need for methods of testing the attainment of specific skills in field instruction. More than 10 years later the same concern remained: "How does one test for the attainment of specific competencies? How do we better measure student field performance?" (Raskin, 1994, p. 79). Social work educators do not appear confident that graduates are competent to practice. In a study that included 81 schools of social work, Koerin & Miller (1995) determined that 27% (18) of the schools reported that students terminated by their schools for non-classroom behaviors had field performance problems as the primary cause of their dismissal. This reason for termination came second only to ethical breaches, which also may frequently be identified in field education. What is not clear is how the determination that a student is unfit to practice is made. Although blatant behavioral issues may be obvious, it is less clear how students who do not quite reach the necessary level of competence are identified. If social work educators are unable to differentiate reliably between those students who possess the skills to practice and those who do not, we are failing in our critical role as gatekeepers for the profession.

Outcomes in the Field Education Literature

Over the past two decades the knowledge base for field education has grown substantially as researchers have studied aspects of teaching and learning that contribute to positive outcomes in field education. Studies have focused on field instructor behaviors and the student-field instructor relationship (Alperin, 1998; Fortune & Abramson, 1993; Knight, 1996, 2001); the range and nature of educational activities (Baker & Smith, 1987; Fortune, McCarthy, & Abramson, 2001; Gitterman, 1989); structures and models for field education (Cuzzi, Holden, Rutter, Rosenberg, & Chernack, 1996; Spitzer et al., 2001); and inter-organizational relationships between universities and their field settings (Bogo & Globerman, 1999; Globerman & Bogo, 2002).

Although a few studies evaluating aspects of field education use student performance as the outcome measure (Deal, 2000; Fortune et al., 2001; Reid, Bailey-Dempsey, & Viggiana, 1996), the great majority use student satisfaction or student perception of helpfulness. Although Fortune and her colleagues (2001) note that satisfaction and subjective ratings of helpfulness are important intermediate outcomes, Gambrill (2000) suggests that there may even be a negative correlation between student satisfaction and learning. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.