The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Measuring Generalist Practice Skills in Social Work: Instrument Development and Initial Validation

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 10:30 AM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon E, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
I-Hsuan Lin, MBA, Student, Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN
Hyemin Son, MA, Student, Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN
Cathy King Pike, PhD, Professor, Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN
Purpose:  Competency-based education is increasingly emphasized across professional programs, including business, education, medicine, nursing, and social work.  CSWE accreditation standards in social work identify 10 core competencies from a variety of measurable practice behaviors.   Although publications about competency-based evaluation of student progress have increased, standardized measures of skill-sets or competencies are very limited.  Those instruments that have been published share substantive and methodological weaknesses.  Substantive weaknesses include measuring students’ perceptions, self-report, acquisition of classroom knowledge and skills, and measurement of only a single core competency.  Methodological weaknesses include the lack of any psychometric examinations, no information about internal consistency reliability, the use of inter-rater reliability as the only test of a measure’s utility, and the use of face validity as the sole method of examining validity. The purpose of this research was to develop an instrument to measure BSW senior and MSW foundation level practice competencies and provide initial psychometric information about the instrument.

Methods:  Item content at micro and macro levels was derived by searching current generalist practice texts and the research literature for behaviors that measure generalist practice.  Items were  then were linked to the 41 BSW practice behaviors established by CSWE and MSW foundation-level field practice behaviors.  The Generalist Practice Skills Inventory (GPSI) used the same item content with scaling differentially focused at each of BSW senior and MSW foundation levels.  Field instructor distribution lists were obtained from 6 campuses of a mid-western and one eastern university for both the BSW senior field and the MSW foundation field.  A total of 171 MSW field/task instructors and 74 BSW field/ task instructors participated by rating students in current field placements on the GPSI items. 

Results:   After testing factor analyses assumptions (KMO and Bartlett’s test of sphericity), an initial principal axis factor analysis was conducted for the MSW sample, using a Promax rotation.  The first factor extracted over 79% of the variance, followed by 4.002% and 1.025% for the remaining factors.  The scree plot indicated a one-factor solution, and the three factors were highly correlated at .75 - .81.  Specifying a two-factor solution, all items loaded as hypothesized, except for two where one item loaded equally on both factors and one loaded on the opposite factor.  Both factors were correlated at .81.  Coefficient alphas were obtained for both the BSW and MSW samples for the micro practice scales (BSW = .989, MSW = .992) and the macro practice scales (BSW = .993, MSW = .994). When combined into one scale, the reliability coefficients remained high (BSW = .994, MSW = .996), even after eliminating items from pairs of highly correlated items (> .98).

Implications:  Initial psychometric analyses indicated high reliability levels for the GPSI and supported either a one or two-factor solution.  The micro and macro generalist practice scales and total inventory scores can be used as pre-and-posttests in student field placements at the BSW senior and MSW foundation levels.  The theoretically derived scales can be measured separately and summed scores can be combined for GPSI total scores.