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Achieving practice research competency is an essential pillar of social work practice. However, research material is often associated with dry lectures and incomprehensible statistical applications that may not reflect real life issues. Teaching research course is often antithetical to the pedagogical approach commonly used in social work education, which engages students in practical applications of real life situations with case examples. This paper described and evaluated six sets of experiential class and field activities designed to increase graduate level social work students’ competencies of practice research. These activities included: (1) formulating a practice-based research topic; (2) using assessment templates for critical evaluation of published research; (3) learning single-system research design; (4) conducting agency research and evaluation field assessment; (5) designing and executing a practice-focused class study project; and (6) presentation and dissemination of research findings. An online course evaluation was administered with altogether 63 students in 2 Foundation Research and 2 Advanced Research classes to elicit both their qualitative feedback and quantitative ratings of their attainment of research competencies. The instructor’s assessment of individual student performance using a grading rubric helped determine their level of attainment of course competences. Findings suggest several critical elements of this pedagogical approach. Students learn about real-world research issues through a case-based learning approach. Both students and the instructor involve in a collaborative learning process. Finally the instructor selects context-specific cases for class discussion and activities so that students see the connection of social work research to day-to-day practice contexts.

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Originally published in International Journal of Higher Education, 6(5). Licensed under CC BY 3.0. The original material can be found here.



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