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Home > Arhiva > 2011 > Numar: 1 > Measuring Effectiveness in Direct Social Work Practice

 Measuring Effectiveness in Direct Social Work Practice

  • Bradford W. Sheafor (School of Social Work, Colorado State University, 119 Education Building, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA, Tel (970) 491-5654, E-mail:

In many parts of the world social workers are increasingly expected to provide documentation of the effectiveness of their services. One useful approach to such documentation is to measure the amount of change clients experience relative to the issues in their lives being addressed with the social worker. This is one expression of the popular demand for evidence-based practice: evidence-based evaluation. While it is not possible to prove that a social worker’s intervention caused the change, empirical documentation of change can be shown to be associated with the intervention and the work of the social worker. This trend is somewhat controversial in social work and, indeed, there are advantages and disadvantages to efforts to quantify client change. In this article a process is described for conducting an evidence-based evaluation of client change when working in a direct service capacity, i.e., face-to-face intervention with individuals, families, and groups. In addition to the usual process followed in assessing and intervening to help change the client situation, additional steps in the process are to: 1) generate researchable questions that will inform the social worker’s actions with this client (formative research) or provide summary information about the practice outcomes (summative research) to inform future practice activities; 2) quantitatively measure change in the important variables related to the issue(s) being addressed; and 3) organize the resulting data in a format that helps to interpret the client outcomes.

Keywords: direct practice evaluation, evidence-based practice, measurement, single-subject designs, empirical practice evaluation