• Evaluating the quality of social work supervision in UK children's services: comparing self-report and independent observations

      Wilkins, David; Khan, Munira; Stabler, Lorna; Newlands, Fiona; Mcdonnell, John; Cardiff University; University of Bedfordshire; London Borough of Islington (Springer, 2018-12-31)
      Understanding how different forms of supervision support good social work practice and improve outcomes for people who use services is nearly impossible without reliable and valid evaluative measures. Yet the question of how best to evaluate the quality of supervision in different contexts is a complicated and as-yet-unsolved challenge. In this study, we observed 12 social work supervisors in a simulated supervision session offering support and guidance to an actor playing the part of an inexperienced social worker facing a casework-related crisis. A team of researchers analyzed these sessions using a customized skills-based coding framework. In addition, 19 social workers completed a questionnaire about their supervision experiences as provided by the same 12 supervisors. According to the coding framework, the supervisors demonstrated relatively modest skill levels, and we found low correlations among different skills. In contrast, according to the questionnaire data, supervisors had relatively high skill levels, and we found high correlations among different skills. The findings imply that although self-report remains the simplest way to evaluate supervision quality, other approaches are possible and may provide a different perspective. However, developing a reliable independent measure of supervision quality remains a noteworthy challenge.
    • Grading individual observations of practice in child welfare contexts: a new assessment approach in social work education

      Domakin, Alison (Springer New York LLC, 2018-10-27)
      Students in the Frontline social work qualifying program undertake seven graded observations of practice in child welfare contexts during their qualifying studies. Before the Frontline program, educators had not attempted to implement graded observations of practice in a qualifying program in the United Kingdom. In this paper, we seek to show how graded practice observations have been undertaken in the Frontline program and provide information about the research base informing its development. A summary of findings from three preliminary research studies are presented. We suggest it is possible to grade practice consistently in child-welfare social work. However, we found considerable variation in marks awarded and evidence of grade inflation in all three studies. Using an interpretive lens, we argue that differences between graders should be anticipated because this is a complex assessment task requiring context-dependent judgment. We recommend developing a “consensus discussion” approach to moderation to improve reliability of grading practices, in which graders are encouraged to make the reasoning behind their grading decisions explicit.