Assessment in social work: a guide for learning and teaching

SCIE Guide 18

By Dr Colin Whittington

Published July 2007

About this guide

In 2003, SCIE initiated a series of knowledge reviews to support the introduction and subsequent development of the social work degree. The focus chosen for Knowledge Review 1 was the core social work skill of assessment and was undertaken by Crisp and colleagues (2003, p iv). The review examined the literature on the learning and teaching of assessment in social work education. The review also identified the need for further work on assessment and, accordingly, SCIE commissioned two supplementary studies from, respectively, Crisp and colleagues (2005) and from the Salford Centre for Social Work Research (Salford CSWR) (Shardlow et al, 2005). The present guide was commissioned to provide a synthesis of ideas and issues from those three previously commissioned studies of assessment.

The guide examines aspects of assessment in social work and goes on to consider teaching and learning of assessment. The work of the three earlier assessment studies are cited recurrently but the aim is not to duplicate them. The intention is to add value to the studies by expressing their findings in ways that connect with the kinds of questions that need to be considered by educators and others involved in social work education.

Formal curriculum requirements inform the discussion but, as with other SCIE guides, the purpose is not to prescribe a curriculum for the teaching of assessment. The purpose is to explore the issues and choices that have to be made by those involved in providing teaching and learning of assessment in social work education.

What is the guide about?

The guide uses the three SCIE resources on assessment to:

The guide is a ‘resource’ guide in two senses. First, the guide directs readers’ attention to the two reviews undertaken by Crisp and colleagues and to the 60 articles, 16 textbooks and four frameworks they have analysed. Secondly, and more particularly, the guide extracts from those reviews and from the research by the Salford CSWR, sets of ideas, questions and matters for consideration and decision in learning and teaching social work assessment.

Who is the guide meant for?

The guide is primarily for educators in the social work degree but is also relevant to other levels of teaching and learning. The term educators covers a wide spectrum which includes university teachers, practice teachers and assessors and service users and carers or, as Braye and Preston-Shoot express it, ‘experts by experience’ (2006). The guide is relevant to students of the degree in thinking about both the subject of assessment and their own learning, whether they are learning alone or with other students and educators. This description does not exhaust the list of stakeholders who may have an interest in the guide and who may also participate in the educator role. Others include practitioners and managers of service-providing agencies, members of the different professions who may contribute to university-based and agency-based learning, and authors and researchers.

The guide also provides the opportunity for educators and students learning at post-qualifying levels to revisit and review issues of assessment. The analysis in Assessment in social work addresses the nature of assessment, its contexts and participants, and values and ethics. This analysis is arguably relevant to students, educators and practitioners at many levels.

Next: What are the guide’s chief sources?


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