Evaluation focuses on providing evidence about the extent to which you have implemented your intervention plan and the extent to which you have accomplished your goals.
Social workers conduct both process evaluations and outcome evaluations.
A process (formative) evaluation documents and analyzes information about the extent to which the intervention was carried out as intended. For example, to resolve grief issues, a family meeting intervention was used. Did family members actually attend the meeting? Did they participate? How satisfied were members with the meeting? Similarly, to help resolve community feelings about the redevelopment plan, a community forum was conducted. How many people attended? How many spoke? How diverse was the group of participants? What feelings and suggestions were expressed at the meeting? These are process questions. They do NOT address the larger question of whether grief issues were resolved or the community reached consensus on the redevelopment plan. Process evaluation, then, allows the social worker to make note of progress or milestones.
Outcome (Summative) Evaluation is concerned with results. Did the intervention enable the desired change? Looking again at the family meeting, has the family agreed on a plan of action for Ms. Stone's mother? Has Ms. Stone's level of stress decreased as a result of the meeting? For the community, do participants feel better informed and more empowered about the redevelopment issues? Have community members reached agreement about a plan going forward? The summative evaluation addresses the question of the extent to which the ultimate goals of the intervention were met.
Evaluate during the entire process.
Although evaluation is presented here as the last step in the social work change process, you are likely to be evaluating any case in your practice throughout the process. Good social workers continuously monitor progress toward the achievement of goals.
Clients may not reach their goals for a number of reasons:
- If the goal is more a reflection of what you think is best for a client than what the client wants to achieve, then the outcome is likely to be disappointing. Goals must reflect the client's desires, so that they are intrinsically motivating.
- Some goals are too big and daunting to achieve all at once and need to be broken down into smaller, more achievable steps.
- Accomplishment of goals may fail because they may not engage clients or other participants, who therefore do not bother to work toward them. Evaluation depends on carefully constructed goals. Good goals are ones that are difficult enough to be challenging, but easy enough to be achievable.
- Unintended circumstances such as environmental changes, loss of resources, intrusion of other systems, and random events may impede completion of goals. Goals and methods may need to be revised on the basis of ongoing evaluation.
Good practice is inextricably linked with practice evaluation. Evaluation allows you to see more clearly where the intervention process started and where it still needs to go, as well as to measure your effectiveness in producing positive change for the client system.
My Evaluate Tasks
- Perform an evaluation of your work in this case by first opening your notebook and reviewing your notes, recommendations, assessments, and intervention suggestions.
- Review your intervention goals and the measures by which you will know goals are accomplished.
- Develop a plan for measuring both process and outcome variables that you think would provide evidence about the accomplishment of your goals.
- Implement your evaluation plan.
- After completing your evaluation, reflect on the results. What has been accomplished? What still needs to be done?
- Reflect on your professional strengths as an evaluator. What tasks or skills may be more difficult for you?