Academic journal article Field Educator

Best Practice Research in Field in Four "Easy" Steps

Academic journal article Field Educator

Best Practice Research in Field in Four "Easy" Steps

Article excerpt

Social workers have struggled to eliminate the 20-year science-to-service gap. Western Michigan University has employed a four-step method for getting started on research in field, which has helped students with efficiently researching best practice in their field placement. The proposed method includes: the "I wonder" question, the keyword find, the one-hour literature review, and the final research question. This method can get field stakeholders, students and agencies started in implementing and publicizing research on best practices.

Science to Service Gap

National reports developed by the Department of Health and Human Services (1999), the Institute of Medicine (2006), and the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (2003) all speak to a 20-year "science to service" gap that exists in health and mental health between the research on best clinical practices and the implementation of those practices with individuals and families. Translational research is designed to lessen this gap and get best practices into the hands of practitioners. Social work "is ideally positioned to significantly influence the national translational research agenda because of its prominent placement in the human services sector and due to a strong interdisciplinary focus in much of its training and research" (Brekke, Ell, & Palinkas, 2007, p. 123). Social work educators have striven to connect practitioners as well as students in a practical way with the knowledge about evidence-based practice taught in class (Adams, LeCroy, & Matto, 2009). Teaching research/practice evaluation skills (among others) and measuring student competency in those skills have taken center stage in social work education (McCracken & Marsh, 2008; Regehr, Bogo, Donovan, Lin, & Regehr, 2012). Equally important, a number of social work schools, especially those connected with the Hartford Geriatric Initiative (Social Work Leadership Institute, 2008; Hooyman, 2009; Greenfield, Morton, Birkenmaier, & Rowan, 2013), have focused on the interdisciplinary teaching of best practices (in the case of the Hartford initiative, with older adults) which can be applied both in internship and in practice after graduation. The George Warren Brown School has collaborated closely with agencies in teaching and implementing evidence-based practice (EBP) with students in field and field instructors in both micro and macro practice settings (Edmond, Megivern, Williams, Rochman, & Howard, 2006; Bricout, Pollio, Edmond, & Moore McBride, 2008). However, not all schools of social work have the resources to mount such ambitious projects, and even the George Warren Brown School project cites time as a major barrier in EBP implementation in field and practice (Edmond et al., 2006).

In field education, students, field faculty, and field instructors are directly engaged in practice and learning to develop competencies in areas specified by the Council on Social Work Education, including the incorporation of evidence-based interventions and knowledge from practice to inform research (Council on Social Work Education [CSWE], 2008). Field faculty, students, and field instructors can be involved in the translation of research into practice, and practice into research, an area of scholarship that can have significant impact on the science-to-service gap (Palinkas & Soydan, 2012). Field can teach students and remind field instructors of the three factors to consider in empirically-based interventions in field and elsewhere: the best research evidence, clinical expertise about a presenting client issue, and client values and expectations (Thyer & Pignotti, 2011). This article will describe the efforts of field educators to translate knowledge about evidence-based practice in a clear and understandable way to students and field instructors at Western Michigan University. At Western Michigan University, like in many schools, the research competency has always been a harder competency for students to understand and apply. …

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