Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16612 Alignment of Student-Instructor Assessments: Examining the Skills and Competencies of Social Work Interns Placed In Military-Connected Schools

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 10:15 AM
McPherson Square (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Monica C. Esqueda, PhD Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Keren Malchi, PhD, Researcher, Bar-Ilan University Ramat Gan, Israel, Israel
Rami Benbenishty, PhD, Professor, Bar Ilan University & Haruv Institute, Ramat Gan, Israel
Ron Avi Astor, PhD, Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background and Purpose: Civilian schools currently lack the training and capacity needed to provide adequate support to military-connected students. To this end, a partnership between eight military-connected school districts and the University of Southern California (USC) was established. As part of the partnership, USC is providing training to a cadre of MSW interns through the USC Military Social Work program, which is the first of its kind in the United States. Student interns receive instruction that prepares them to deliver services including mental health counseling, family therapy, and disaster response/crisis intervention to families and individuals who have served in the military. Our study examined the alignment between the intern self-assessment of his or her skills and competencies and field instructor assessment of the intern's skills and competencies. Protocols were developed by the research team and incorporated feedback from social work practitioners. Interns were asked to rate their level of skill and competency mastery across a variety of domains (e.g., professional practice with military students and families, critical thinking, communication) on a five-point Likert scale. Field instructors were also asked to rate the level of skill and competency mastery of student interns across the same domains using the same scale.

Methods: Data were collected at the end of the fall and spring semesters via an online survey tool. The present study was comprised of the first year cohort of military social work student interns and field instructors (n=38, 30 interns/8 field instructors). Descriptive statistics, Pearson correlations, and t-test statistics were used to determine the alignment between intern self-assessment and field instructor assessment of intern skills and competencies.

Results: Alignment between the student self-assessment and field instructor assessment was examined in this study. Comparisons addressed two separate issues. First, did students, as a group, tend to assess their skills as higher or lower than their field instructors? To examine this issue, t-test statistics were calculated to determine whether the means of these two groups on each competency differed. The correspondence between how a student rated his or her skill mastery and how the instructor rated the student on this skill was also examined using Pearson (r) correlations. T-tests did not reveal any significant differences between instructors and students. Pearson (r) correlations, however, did reveal a low level of agreement between intern and instructor rating of intern ability to evaluate existing research and translate it to practice with military students and their families. This finding demonstrated a negative association between intern and instructor assessment of this skill, such that the higher the intern rated him or herself on his or her capacity to evaluate and translate research into practice, the lower instructors rated them on this same competency.

Conclusions and Implications: As a whole, the findings suggest alignment between intern-instructor assessments. These findings, however, also suggest opportunities for growth. Individual intern-instructor relationships need to be further developed. The mismatch between intern evaluation of their capacity to translate research into practice and that of the field instructor need also be addressed.