Social Work Program Assessment Implications


As a result of the assessment data analysis, drastic changes in both explicit and implicit curriculum have been implemented in the past six years. The curriculum content and all courses have undergone significant revisions and improvements based on both quantitative and qualitative data analysis. All syllabi, course objectives, lesson plans, and assignments have been modified to meet the changing mandates from both SKC and CSWE and to provide the best education to our students. New courses have been added and outdated ones removed from the graduation requirements, and the curriculum content has been strengthened in existing courses. The following sections describe the most notable developments in key programmatic areas that took place as a direct result of the program assessment efforts.


The program has responded to assessment results by making the following changes in the course requirements:

  • Writing Foundations for Social Work I, II, and III courses were developed and placed in the curriculum in 2006.
  • The APA Writing Style (SCWK 306) course was redesigned to better meet the needs of the Social Work program and strengthen students’ critical thinking and communication skills and foundational research knowledge. The curriculum committee approved the course credit increase from 1 to 2 in 2007.
  • Computer Literacy was re-added as a required course in 2009 to address students’ apparent deficiencies in computer skills.
  • Based on students’ consistently low performance in oral presentation assignments, the Advanced Presentation Skills (SPCH 350) class was added to the BSW course requirements for the 2011-2012 academic year.

In response to data analysis results as well as student, instructor, and Assessment Specialist feedback, the department has taken a serious look at streamlining the connection between the curriculum content and numerous assignments required in SCWK courses. As a result, the following scaffolding efforts have been implemented:

  • A stronger link to the concept of evidence-based practice was incorporated into the APA course in 2007. This involved emphasizing increased research literacy and technology use, primarily in reviewing and incorporating peer-reviewed journal articles into research papers.
  • The fundamental elements of the CC assignments were evaluated and several specific elements were incorporated into Social Work Practice III and Social Work Research classes in 2008 in order to strengthen the practice and research sections of the assignments. In 2011-2012, the CC II and III will be completely removed from the Internship series and incorporated into the Social Work Research and Social Work Practice III classes respectively. The Internship class will reintroduce a version of its Organizational Description report to help serve as a platform for the Cultural Competency assignments.
  • The introductory social science research concepts, vocabulary, and methods are now infused throughout the curriculum.
  • The professional presentation skills and PowerPoint instruction has been infused throughout the curriculum.
  • The Writing Foundations class series utilizes assignments required in other junior-level social work foundation classes. As a result, students practice writing skills while simultaneously significantly increasing the quality of work in their other classes.

Additional changes in the curriculum that were made in response to assessment data include the following:

    • In response to the analysis of ACAT scores and the formative feedback from the Assessment Specialist, the curriculum and instruction surrounding diversity issues, communication skills, and cultural competency have been closely examined and relevant content has been added or strengthened in all courses. Additionally, curriculum and instruction related to social work practice and policy and services were scrutinized and improved to close the knowledge gaps.
    • In response to consistently low research keystone scores, the research course series was restructured in 2010 to teach basic research knowledge and skills rather than to conduct a research study. The emphasis is on designing a culturally competent, evidence based intervention and assessment plan based on students’ internship placements.
    • In order to address low student performance due to often unavoidable absenteeism during family emergencies and culturally related activities, most of the SCWK introductory, foundation, and support courses are now offered online on Moodle, an online course delivery platform currently utilized by SKC. The classes are delivered either as a fully on-line addition to the on campus section, as a hybrid course, or as a supplementary resource to an on-campus class.
    • Increasing number of experiential activities has been added to many classes in order to address our students’ learning styles and increase their understanding of key


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Keystone Assignments

A number of significant changes have been implemented in the keystone assignments. The changes were made as a result of the intense scrutiny of the assessment results in an effort to adjust and align the assignments to meet the program objectives, support student learning, and provide valuable assessment data for the relevant courses and the program. The keystone assignments and their assessment instruments were significantly improved through faculty review and revision, collaborative work with the Assessment Specialist, and using the formative assessment data gathered by the program. The following changes in keystone assignments were made as a direct result of the program assessment:

  • All assignment descriptions and instructions given to students have been improved. According to Faculty Survey, 84.6{0f01731745f3928d8cde7a1746945f96ec8c5478684ec305112e35402e702d35} of the keystone assignments were revised to clarify directions and expectations in 2008.
  • Students have been provided with model examples of exemplary work for all keystone assignments.
  • Keystone assignment due dates have been adjusted.
  • The process of designing content- and format-specific writing rubrics was completed for keystone assignments.
  • All assignments and the assessment rubrics have been aligned with program and course objectives as well as core competencies and practice behaviors.
  • The quality and use of the assessment instruments have been strengthened.
    New keystone assignments were developed to assess program and/or course objectives previously not addressed.
  • Existing assignments addressing communication were revised and re-designed and new ones were created.
  • Superfluous keystones were replaced or eliminated completely.
    1. The Internship Reports were eliminated as keystone assignments in 2006 because they were judged to be of low value to students’ learning and did not provide relevant program assessment data.
    2. The Foster Care Assessment assignment was replaced with a three-assignment sequence (the Research Proposal, Paper and Presentation) in 2006. The latter was judged to be a more feasible and comprehensive set of assignments that would allow meaningful assessment of students’ abilities to apply research skills to evaluate one’s practice.
  • The Cultural Competency (CC) I, II, and III assignments were designed and implemented in the Internship I, II, and II classes in 2007-2008 to assess cultural competency and to meet cultural objectives previously not addressed.
    1. The CC I, II, and III assignment instructions were significantly improved in 2008 and clear evaluation rubrics were developed.The fundamental elements of the CC assignments were evaluated and several specific elements were incorporated into Social Work Practice III classes in 2008-2009 in order to strengthen the practice sections of the assignments.
    2. In 2010-2011, the fundamental elements of the CC II assignment were incorporated into the Social Work Research class in order to strengthen the research sections of the assignments.
    3. In 2011-2012, the CC II and III will be completely removed from the Internship series and incorporated into the Social Work Research and Social Work Practice III classes respectively.
  • Internship Learning Agreement (ILA)

    The ILA has undergone several drastic revisions based on changing program objectives and mandates from both SKC and CSWE. However, the fundamental tenets of this signature document have remained the same. The following steps were taken to increase the effectiveness of this learning and evaluation tool:

        • The Field Education Director facilitated a workshop for site supervisors instructing the use of the ILA in September 2006.
        • Likewise, the Field Education Director revamped the training that he conducts with students during their internship seminar to improve its effectiveness.
        • Annual trainings about the use of the instrument have been offered to new site supervisors.
        • The ILA and its accompanying evaluation document have been reworked to improve their clarity and to make them more user friendly. It was revised in 2007 to realign with the newly modified program objectives and reflect more realistic expectations for student outcomes during field experiences. The Field Education Director expressed that some of the outcomes on the form were not attainable for students given the nature of the field experiences, the unlicensed status of the students as Social Workers, and the confidentiality laws for clients. The Field Director therefore modified the form to better reflect more feasible learning outcomes for the field experiences that also maintained the rigor of the program expectations.
        • The ILA was once again revised in 2010 to align with 2008 EPAS and reflect the standards established by CSWE. It is now based on the 10 core competencies and practice behaviors.
        • The record keeping system for the Learning Agreement has been streamlined to be more efficient and accessible to the instructor.

    Writing Improvement

    Based on the formative feedback from our external stakeholders and the analysis of our entering juniors’ TABE scores as well as the keystone assignment scores, the following steps have been taken to address writing skills:

        • A Writing Specialist was hired to address the writing proficiency issues in the department in 2006.
        • Writing Foundations for Social Work I, II, and III courses were developed and placed in the curriculum in 2006 to provide much needed writing support to our students.
          Faculty received intensive training in incorporating writing into assignments and the writing assessment.
        • The writing proficiency improvement criteria and assessment plan were developed, refined, clarified, and discussed with Social Work faculty.
        • Writing assignments have now been infused throughout the curriculum in order to further increase students’ writing skills.
        • The department closely collaborates with the Department of Academic Success in order to best serve the lowest-skilled students.

    The BSW Program has been actively involved in improving the educational environment and policies and procedures on SKC campus. Several initiatives have been successful implemented:

        • The department was instrumental in the development of the campus-wide Writing Lab and is using this resource extensively to further assist students in increasing their writing skills.
        • The department was also instrumental in changing the policies and procedures regarding student entrance testing and appropriate placement in courses.
        • Following the program’s lead, the BSW Plagiarism Policy was adopted for campus-wide use and included in the Student Handbook [Appendix I].

    Currently, the program faculty continues to pursue other initiatives and has made the following recommendations to the Administration:

        • Provide system-wide writing assessment training for all faculty members.
        • Research and then adopt a more suitable writing competency assessment tool for entering and transfer students entering into all Bachelors of Arts and Bachelors of Science programs.
        • Re-evaluate the guidelines for new and transfer student placement in appropriate writing classes based on the writing assessment results.
        • Establish a college-wide minimum writing competency standards for entering juniors and adopting appropriate assessment tools.

    Program improvement is an ongoing process. It is our goal to develop a culturally competent Social Work Program, analyze curriculum content, improve teaching strategies, and assess student learning in our effort to train highly competent generalist social work practitioners. The cornerstone of the program is to improve outcomes for individuals, families, and communities and strengthen the cultural integrity of Native American communities.

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    This website is funded in part under a contract (#20043STIP0002) with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The statements herein do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the department.