Academic journal article Field Educator

Evidence-Based Practice in Social Work Curriculum: Faculty and Field Instructor Attitudes

Academic journal article Field Educator

Evidence-Based Practice in Social Work Curriculum: Faculty and Field Instructor Attitudes

Article excerpt

Evidence-based Practice in Social Work Curriculum

Leaders of foundations and other funding sources, educational accrediting bodies, schools of social work programs, and community-based organizations recognize the need to incorporate and utilize evidence-based practice (EBP) in social work education and practice. However, this requirement underscores the importance of social work faculty members and agency-based field instructors, who are responsible for educating and training social work students, to include EBP in their instructional practice. Therefore, it is essential to understand the attitudes of social work faculty members and agency based field instructors regarding the facilitators and barriers of EBP in teaching and application to direct practice.

Many definitions have been developed for EBP, each with a different emphasis. In this study, the author uses the conceptualization provided by Sackett, Richardson, Rosenberg and Haynes (1997) who defined EBP as the "conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual clients/patients" (p. 71). This definition was included in the survey for participants.

EBP is the framework that is used to promote adoption of best practices informed by research. Proponents of this framework argue that mandating the use of EBP ensures that the best available practices are used. Many faculty and community-based practitioners in higher education feel that it is easier to advocate for EBP rather than to incorporate it into their work (Berger, 2010; Farley et al., 2009). Barriers that have been identified as hindering the use of EBP include: lack of rigorous and relevant studies, difficulty in locating and applying existing research, difficult or complex EBPs, and in some cases a distrust of research findings (Amodeo et al., 2011; Gambrill, 2006, 2010; Thyer, 2004). While most faculty and practitioners agree that using EBP is important (Chwalisz, 2003; Thyer, 2004, 2015), agreement is lacking on the definition of EBP, or more specifically what constitutes evidence. Literature on EBP continues to increase, with a greater number of educational institutions and community-based agencies embracing EBP (Gilgun, 2005; Proctor, 2004, 2007; Springer, 2007).

Leaders in higher education, as well as in community-based agencies, continue to consider what infrastructure is necessary to integrate EBP into the curriculum and professional practice (Gambrill, 2001; Gilgun, 2005; Thyer, 2004). While accrediting bodies or funding sources may mandate the use of EBP, administrative leaders have to consider the levels of change needed to advance EBP within those settings (Glisson, 1992, 2002; Manuel, Mullen, Fang, Bellamy, & Bledsoe, 2009; Thyer, 2004). Access to technology with appropriate databases, quality training to learn the EBP process, and continued support to learn and incorporate EBP are some of the necessary steps to which administrators may attend to adopt EBP successfully. Motivating staff to integrate EBP while also providing support for its use often proves challenging for many administrative leaders.

Literature Review

EBP is offered as an alternative to "authority-based practice," or practice based solely on the expertise and experience of practitioners (Edmond, Megivern, Williams, Rochman, & Howard, 2006; Gambrill, 1999, 2006; Gibbs & Gambrill, 2002; Upshur & Tracy, 2004). Evolving from evidence-based medicine (Witkin & Harrison, 2001), EBP has been proposed as an improved alternative to authority-based practice as EBP requires empirical research and clinical proficiency, as well as the context of the client's situation (Gambrill, 1999).

Schools of social work and agency administrators recognize that, to incorporate EBP successfully into the curriculum and practice, teaching faculty and agency supervisors need to understand the purpose and importance of EBP to assure that it will be adopted. …

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