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

17137 Development and Test of a Measure of Foundation Knowledge and Perceived Skill In Social Work with Groups

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 8:30 AM
Roosevelt (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Mark J. Macgowan, PhD, Professor, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Background and Purpose: The Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups' Standards for the Practice of Group Work (AASWG, 2006) is a consensus-based guide for the practice of social work with groups. The Standards were developed by expert panels of group work educators, practitioners, and researchers and represent the “the value and knowledge and skill base essential for professionally sound and effective social work practice with groups and are intended to serve as a guide to social work practice with groups” (AASWG, 2006, p. 1). However, there is no literature on how the Standards can be used in practice or in teaching. To advance the measurement of direct practice skills in group work, this paper describes the development and test of an instrument of perceived importance and confidence in the AASWG Standards and how it can be used to advance evidence-based group work.

Methods: The 59-item instrument was developed by drawing items from the “tasks” and “skills” dimensions of the Standards. The instrument was developed to measure two domains for each item (following Wilson & Newmeyer, 2008); namely, how important the respondent thinks the item is for successful group work, and how confident the respondent thinks s/he could successfully demonstrate the skill, both scaled from 1 to 4, “very unimportant” to ”very important” and “very unconfident” to “very confident,” respectively. Instrument testing involved 264 participants across North America and the United Kingdom. This paper reports reliability (internal consistency) and validity analyses consisting of content, criterion (concurrent and known-groups), and construct-convergent.

Results: Cronbach's alpha was .98 for each of the importance and confidence scales. Content validity involved 40 group work experts who rated the importance of each item, and only the most important items were retained. Concurrent validity included examining the relationship between scores on the importance and confidence scales, with two single-question validators; namely, “How important is it for you to be a skilled group worker?” and “How confident are you about your group work skills?” The importance scale correlated with the importance validator, r (264) = .34, p < .001 and the confidence scale correlated strongly with the confidence validator, r (264) = .60, p < .001. For known-groups, scale scores of expert group workers on the confidence subscale were compared with scale scores of beginning baccalaureate students, with the expectation that the two scores would be significantly different, which they were, t (76) = -3.30, p < .001. Finally, construct-convergent validity consisted of comparing scale scores with scores obtained on the Core Group Work Skills Inventory (Wilson & Newmeyer, 2008), a measure with established reliability and validity developed by the Association for Specialists in Group Work, a kindred professional group work association. Results indicated a strong correlation between the two instruments on their respective importance and confidence subscales, r (16) = .77, p < .005; r (16) = .79, p < .001, respectively.

Conclusions and Implications: This paper described the reliability and validity testing of the only standards-based measure related to foundation group work skills in social work. The findings indicate an internally consistent measure and good validity. The instrument has direct applications to practice by providing a marker for the development of perceived importance and ability in delivering skills in practice. This measure is sorely-needed in advancing standards- and evidence-based group work.


Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups (2006). Standards for social work practice with groups (2nd Ed.) Retrieved April 18, 2011, from

Wilson, F. R., & Newmeyer, M. D. (2008). A standards-based inventory for assessing perceived importance of and confidence in using ASGW's core group work skills. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 33(3), 270 - 289.