Learn about the types of evaluation below, and then begin by reviewing your Notebook.
Social workers conduct both process evaluations and outcome evaluations.
A process (formative) evaluation documents and analyzes the early conceptualization of the intervention. Were the interventions proposed to the client actually implemented as intended? This is a process question. For example, as a requirement for regaining custody of a child, a parent is remanded to an anger management class. Did that parent actually complete the class? That is a process question. It does NOT address the larger question of whether the child’s safety and well-being improved. 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 a parent required to take an anger management class in order to regain custody of a child, the summative evaluation addresses the question of whether or not the class improved the child’s safety and well-being, which were the ultimate goals of the intervention.
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 all their established goals, for several reasons. For example, if the goal is more a reflection of what you think is best for a client then what the client wants to achieve, then the outcome is likely to be disappointing. Also, some goals are too big and daunting to achieve all at once and need to be broken down into smaller, more achievable steps. Goals may also fail because they were too easy. That is, they may not engage clients or other participants, who therefore do not bother to work toward them. Obviously, evaluation depends on carefully constructed goals. Good goals are ones that are difficult enough to be challenging, but easy enough to be achievable. They must also reflect the client's desires, so that they are intrinsically motivating.
As you can see, good practice is inextricably linked with practice evaluation. Evaluation allows you to see more clearly where the process started and where it still needs to go, as well as to measure your own effectiveness. It also allows you to figure out which of your skills need improvement.
My Evaluate Tasks
- Perform an evaluation of your work in this case by first opening your notebook.
- Review your notes, recommendations, assessments, and intervention suggestions.
- Proceed with your evaluation. Is Ms. Washburn better off? Was anyone else helped?
- What variables did you use to assess this question?
- Take a moment for reflection. The people in this case all had the potential to both give and receive help. Did your interventions take advantage of these healthy interdependencies?
- Based on this process, what are some of your professional strengths? What tasks or skills might be more difficult for you?