*****Please read the Article and view the grading rubric in the attachment in order to answer question**** Wong and Vakaharia’s (2012) article speaks to the benefits and limitations of replicating real–world solutions based on practice evaluation techniques learned in class. As detailed by the authors, students were asked to identify a specific problem or goal from which they were to design and implement an intervention using a single–system design (SSD) and then evaluate the outcomes of their various interventions. Topics to be addressed included recurring habits, personal management/organizational concerns, and issues related to other behaviors (e.g., anxiety, depression, etc.). Of the 27 students, 16 of them identified themselves as the subject (re: system) of their interventions. In doing so, how might asking them to measure themselves at baseline (Phase A) and during the intervention (Phase B) bias the study?How might the eight students who selected to work with a loved one bias the study?How might you structure the study differently to minimize these potential biases?Now reflect upon yourself. What example from your personal life do you feel comfortable sharing regarding how you tried, either unsuccessfully or successful, to objectively measure and improve one of your traits? How was your view of yourself biased? In your responses to other discussion posts, focus your attention on colleagues responses to the above question. How might a particular student gain objectivity in his/her self–critique? Notes to follow from my professor Please note, initial posts should be between 300 and 500 words. As applicable, relate and support your initial post with what you learned from the course materials for this week and any other resources you want to share (e.g., from prior courses), using standard APA citations. In addition to starting a discussion by making your initial post, you are required to read the postings of fellow students and respond to at least two other initial posts. Your responses should elaborate on the initial postings of your colleagues (e.g., exchange ideas, debate points, and/or add to their ideas) and should be approximately 150 words each. Grading Rubrics for this discussion are in the following document: SSS 756 Discussion Board Rubric.pdf


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Invited Article
Teaching Research and Practice Evaluation
Skills to Graduate Social Work Students
Research on Social Work Practice
22(6) 714-718
ª The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/1049731512451060
Stephen E. Wong1 and Sheila P. Vakharia1
Objective: The authors examined outcomes of a graduate course on evaluating social work practice that required students to use
published research, quantitative measures, and single-system designs in a simulated practice evaluation project. Method: Practice
evaluation projects from a typical class were analyzed for the number of research references cited, type of client, goals or problems, measures, interventions, single-system designs, and outcomes. Results: More than half of the students conducted selfimprovement projects monitored with self-report measures, and goals or problems selected and interventions applied varied
widely. More than 80% of the projects were evaluated with simple AB designs, over 45% of which were associated with statistically
significant improvements and an additional 43% showed gains that did not reach statistical significance. Conclusions: Results suggest that students can be taught techniques and skills needed to formulate interventions derived from published research and to
evaluate effects of these interventions using single-system designs.
teaching practice evaluation, teaching program evaluation, practice evaluation exercise, graduate social work students, single-case
designs, single-subject designs, single-system designs
The Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Educational
Policy and Accreditation Standards (2008b) enjoins schools of
social work to teach students how to evaluate interventions
and the outcomes of their practice. The importance of practice
evaluation is also reflected in the knowledge and practice behaviors contained in the instructional curriculum of the CSWE’s
Advanced Social Work Practice in Clinical Social Work [ca.
2008a]. A well-developed method of program evaluation applicable to clinical practice is single-case or single-system
research designs (SSDs). Not requiring large samples of homogenous subjects or random assignment to treatment and control
groups, this methodology gauges treatment efficacy with procedures such as introducing and withdrawing, or successively
administering treatment across individual problems or clients.
Social work textbooks on single-system evaluation first
appeared in the 1970s and that content has since infused mainstream social work education (Bloom, Fischer, & Orme, 2009;
Grinnell & Unrau, 2011; Noia & Tripodi, 2008; Royse, Thyer,
& Padgett, 2010).
One educational exercise that can give students direct experience in applying SSDs is a personal self-change project. Barth
(1984) assigned social work students self-change projects
aimed at improving their professional skills in the practicum
setting. Student beliefs and behaviors affecting interactions
with clients, agency staff, and persons in the community were
monitored during baseline and subsequent intervention phases.
Barth reported substantial gains in varied outcomes for several
sample self-change projects during the intervention phases
suggesting that these projects were effective educational
assignments. Anderson (2000) used more conventional selfchange projects focused on personal concerns or desired goals
while teaching upper-level undergraduate psychology students.
These students selected projects on topics such as improving
time and money management, promoting healthy habits,
increasing appropriate assertiveness, and decreasing negative
self-statements, which they attempted to change with behavioral interventions and evaluated with AB (baseline, intervention) designs. Anderson reported that slightly more than half
of these self-change projects reached the student’s goal and
one third showed significant progress toward the goal. Similar
to the previous study, Morgan (2009) had undergraduate psychology students implement behavior change projects aimed
at personal habits such as exercise, caffeine consumption, or
study time. Baseline and intervention data from these projects
were later graphed and analyzed with statistical process control procedures. Morgan (2009) only described one sample
student self-change project that obtained statistically significant improvements, but he reported that its results were
‘‘fairly typical’’ for the class.
Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA
Corresponding Author:
Stephen E. Wong, Florida International University, 11200 S.W. 8th Street,
Miami, FL 33199, USA
Email: wongse@fiu.edu
Wong and Vakharia
An alternative assignment to self-change projects is
applying evaluative methods in supervised practice with actual
clients. In a study involving graduate-level social work students,
Dillenburger, Godina, and Burton (1997) taught behavioral principles to students who then applied these techniques with a client
in their field placement and evaluated their effects. These
authors presented two sample client behavior change projects
evaluated within SSDs that appeared to significantly increase
clients’ desired behaviors. In an examination of process variables associated with group therapy, Johnson, Beckerman, and
Auerbach (2001) instructed students on how to apply AB designs
to evaluate effects of encouraging the development of trusting
relationships between members on group attendance, and various interventions aimed at increasing verbal participation in a
veterans’ support group. Employing statistical tests and software
for SSDs, Johnson et al. (2001) found that changes in group processes associated with students’ interventions in these two examples reached statistical significance.
This article describes a graduate-level social work course using
personal self-change and client behavior change projects to teach
students techniques to evaluate their own practice. This class was
not a clinical course in behavior therapy, behavior analysis, or any
particular treatment approach, although it presented numerous
illustrations involving behavioral interventions. In addition, this
article reports on multiple measures of student performance for all
evaluation projects from one semester, rather than reporting on
selected and perhaps unrepresentative student projects.
Framework for the Course
Assigned Readings and Class Lectures
The text for this course was Evaluating Practice: Guidelines
for the Accountable Professional (Bloom et al., 2009). The
course content and weekly schedule closely followed the organization of the book. The first several chapters of the book present principles and strategies of measurement, and specific
assessment procedures and instruments. The next set of
chapters discusses uncontrolled case study and controlled
single-system designs, and their appropriate applications
and limitations. The final chapters of the book cover
principles and methods of visual and statistical analyses. Class
lectures explained key concepts and procedures, illustrated
them with published studies relevant to social work practice,
and provided opportunities for questions and discussion.
Practice Evaluation Projects (PEPs)
The main assignment for teaching students how to formulate
and evaluate evidence-based interventions was the PEP. All
students were required to conduct a PEP, which incorporated
the following four tasks:
use the research literature to conceptualize a problem or a
goal and to find evidence-supported interventions to
improve the condition;
(b) conduct an individualized assessment involving quantitative measurement of the above problem or goal;
(c) design and apply one or more evidence-supported interventions; and,
(d) evaluate effectiveness of the intervention/interventions
using a single-system design.
PEPs could be based on interventions revolving around a client,
a client system, or a self-management project. Client or client
system projects aimed at assessing a concern or problem of a
person or a social system (e.g., family, small group, and
agency), designing and applying an intervention for the problem, and evaluating effects of the intervention. As an alternative to working with an actual client, students were allowed
to recruit family members, friends, and acquaintances to participate as voluntary ‘‘clients’’ for these projects. Topics of client
or system service plans were significant concerns or goals such
as improving parenting skills or staff supervision practices;
advancing social, self-care, academic, job-seeking, or recreational skills; or decreasing verbal aggression, marital conflict,
child misconduct, or other interpersonal problems.
Another type of PEP was a self-management project that
assessed a personal goal or problematic behavior, designed and
applied an intervention to achieve the goal or to alleviate the
problem, and evaluated effects of the intervention. Previous
self-management projects were aimed at improving diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, study habits, and time management as well
as reducing annoying habits, tics, compulsions, angry outbursts, negative and self-defeating thoughts, smoking, drinking, excessive spending, and other addictive behaviors.
Students were required to write a detailed description of their
evaluation project using a format for research reports derived
from the Journal Article Reporting Standards of the Publication
Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA,
2010). Midway through the semester, students submitted a draft
of their report and received feedback from the instructor that
allowed them to improve their project methodology and to prepare a more refined final project report. At the end of the semester, students submitted their final report and gave an 8-min oral
presentation that allowed students to learn about the procedures
and results of all other evaluation projects in the class.
Evaluation of PEPs From One Sample Class
To evaluate outcomes of the previously described educational
activities and assignments, all student PEPs from one semester
were reviewed and analyzed. This course had been taught by the
first author with the same basic format for the last 8 years. The
course selected for evaluation represented an average or middleof-the distribution class, containing neither an exceptionally
strong nor exceptionally weak group of students (indicators of
this will be discussed in the Discussion section).
A total of 29 student PEPs were analyzed and the results are
summarized in Table 1. The table presents the type of client,
goals or problems, number of published references cited,
Table 1. Summary of Evaluation Project Reports
Self (16)
Family member, friend, or acquaintance (8)
Clients (5)
Repetitive habit (e.g., nail biting, hair pulling, lock checking; 6)
Time management, money management, or personal organization (5)
Stress, anxiety, or panic (3)
Weight loss or high blood pressure (3)
Depression or negative thoughts (2)
Marital communication or conflict (2)
Aggressive behavior (1)
Bedwetting (1)
Fear of lizards (1)
Hyperactive behavior (1)
Recurring nightmares (1)
Sleep difficulties (1)
Social skills deficit (1)
Substance abuse (1)
Published references cited
Mean: 7.2
Range: 3–14
Self-report log (22)
Behavioral observation (2)
Marital interaction diary (2)
Parental or family log (2)
Weight scale, skinfold fat caliper (2)
Behavior problem checklist (1)
Diastolic and systolic blood pressure (1)
Random urine drug test (1)
Engaging in an alternative response to replace the problem behavior (4)
Habit reversal (4)
Progressive muscle relaxation (4)
Graduated exposure (3)
Self-monitoring (3)
Social reinforcement (3)
Tangible reinforcement (3)
Cognitive behavior therapy (2)
Exercise (2)
Improved diet (2)
Meditation and controlled breathing (2)
Awareness training (1)
Brief solution focused therapy (1)
Brief timeout from reinforcement (1)
Cognitive restructuring (1)
Goal setting (1)
Guided self-dialogue (1)
Listening to classical music (1)
Personal budgeting (1)
Problem solving (1)
Response prevention (1)
Scheduling work on smaller tasks (1)
Sleep hygiene techniques (1)
Social skills training (1)
Evaluation designs
AB (27)
AB with reconstructed baseline (1)
ABB1 (1)
ABAB (1)
ABCB (1)
B (1)
Research on Social Work Practice 22(6)
measures used, interventions applied, and single-system
designs employed.
Type of Client
Students utilized themselves as clients in a slight majority of
the projects (n ¼ 16) focusing either on self-improvement or
alleviating a personal problem. The remaining projects were
divided between assisting a family member, a friend, an
acquaintance or assisting actual clients.
Goal or Problem Selected
The most common concern selected for the project was a
repetitive habit (e.g., nail biting, hair pulling; n ¼ 6), closely
followed by self-management concerns (e.g., time management, money management; n ¼ 5). Stress or anxiety problems
(n ¼ 3) and weight loss and other health issues (n ¼ 3) were
additional recurring concerns. The remaining goals or problems were highly individualized and varied widely from unconstructive negative thoughts to a fear of lizards.
Published References Cited
The average number of published references (i.e., printed or
online articles, book chapters, and books) cited in the PEPs was
7.2 (range ¼ 3–14; SD ¼ 2.73).
Measures Utilized
Over two thirds of the measures utilized in the projects were
self-report logs or social interaction diaries (n ¼ 22). Behavioral observation or family logs accounted for a much smaller
portion of the measures (n ¼ 6). The rest of the measures relied
on mechanical devices (e.g., weight scale, blood pressure
meter) or other physical tests (e.g., urine drug assay).
Interventions Applied
Multiple interventions were sometimes applied with a
single concern, so the number of interventions exceeded the
number of clients. Performing an alternative response to
replace a problem behavior, habit reversal, and progressive
muscle relaxation were the interventions used at the
highest frequency (n ¼ 4 for each). Graduated exposure,
self-monitoring, and social or tangible reinforcement were
the next most frequency utilized procedures (n ¼ 3 for each).
Cognitive behavior therapy, exercise, improved diet, and
meditation were each used in two projects. A wide variety
of interventions ranging from Brief Solution Focused Therapy to listening to classical music were applied once in the
remaining projects.
Evaluation Designs Utilized
An overwhelming majority of the students utilized a simple AB
design (A ¼ baseline phase; B ¼ treatment phase) to evaluate
Wong and Vakharia
their interventions (n ¼ 27). An AB design with a reconstructed baseline was used in one project and an AB1B2 design
(revised treatment procedure in the third phase) was utilized
in the second. One student used an ABAB or reversal design,
and another student used a variant of this design, an ABCB.
Finally, one student utilized a sophisticated A-B-BC-BDBC-BD-BC design to analyze the combined and additive
effects of multiple treatment procedures.
Outcomes of Student PEPs
At the beginning of this class, students were informed that their
PEPs would be graded on their quality of planning and execution, not their outcomes. Nevertheless, data on PEP outcomes
might give some indication as to the care and competence
with which these assignments were carried out. What is an
appropriate statistical test of single-system design data is a
complex question without an answer supported by a broad
consensus. In an effort to objectively quantify the outcomes
of the present evaluation projects, we utilized the Conservative Dual-Criteria (CDC) method, a relatively straightforward statistical test developed by single-case design
researchers and presented in the Bloom, Fischer, and Orme
(2009) text. The CDC (Fisher, Kelley, & Lomas, 2003)
requires the calculation of an adjusted baseline mean line and
an adjusted baseline regression line that are projected into the
treatment phase. In PEPs where the desired outcome of the
intervention was to increase behavior, both the baseline mean
line and regression line were adjusted by adding .25 standard
deviation of the baseline data to the lines. In PEPs where the
desired outcome was to decrease behavior, both the lines
were lowered by .25 standard deviation of the baseline data.
After this step was completed, the number of data points in
the treatment phase above both lines was counted in PEPs
where intervention behaviors were expected to increase, or
the number of data points below both lines was counted in
PEPs where behaviors were expected to decrease. If the number of data points in the treatment phase falling above (or
below) these two lines equaled or exceeded the criterion
number of points for the chosen significance level (based
on the binomial test), the null hypothesis was rejected. The
CDC test was run on each of the students’ evaluation projects
graphs. Thus, if the student had more than one independent
variable, she or he would have results from multiple CDC
Results of CDC tests of evaluation project data showed that
15 of the 32 graphs contained statistically significant
improvements at the .05 level in the transition from baseline
to treatment phase. An additional 13 graphs displayed gains
ranging from 23% to 600% where differences did not reach
statistical significance or the data did not conform with
requirements for the CDC test. The remaining graphs revealed
no appreciable improvement from baseline to treatment
phase, but in no instance was data in the treatment phase
worse than in baseline.
Discussion and Applications to Social Work
The data obtained from the PEPs showed that as required by the
course assignment students read and reviewed multiple
research articles while formulating their simulated client’s
goals or concerns. Using this research, students found or
designed measures of those goals or concerns, and subsequently selected, adapted, applied, and evaluated evidencebased interventions to address those goals or concerns.
Although PEPs were not graded on the basis of outcome, a
large proportion of student projects were associated with statistically significant improvements or positive changes that did
not reach statistical significance. These improvements suggested that student PEPs were well constructed and often efficacious in alleviating the targeted concern. PEPs encompassed
a wide range of goals and problems, objective measures, and
interventions, demonstrating during class presentations that
social work practice aimed at a broad spectrum of personal and
social concerns could be evaluated on an individualized and
ongoing basis. In sum, PEPs appear to be a valuable classroom
exercise for teaching social work students to evaluate their
practice, as mandated by several CSWE standards.
One question about this study is whether the class chosen for
analysis was representative of other classes, given the same
instruction and assignments. In other words, could this particular class be giving an overly favorable impression about student performance and outcomes? It should be mentioned here
that a deliberate effort was made to choose an average and not
a superior or outstanding class for examination. Final grades
and the number of projects employing innovative research
designs (e.g., Wong, 2010) are a couple of indicators of class
performance, and this class did not earn an especially large
number of ‘‘As’’ or employ numerous sophisticated evaluation designs as compared to other classes of this type (the
project incorporating an A-B-BC-BD-BC-BD-BC design
being the one exception).
Another possible criticism of this study and the described
course is that issues selected for assessment …
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