Models for Implementing University-Agency Partnerships for Evidence-Based Practice in Social Work: Results From a National Mixed Methods Study
Evidence-based practice (EBP) is mandated by CSWE accreditation standards, and many schools are making efforts to integrate EBP into teaching and research. However, little is known about how schools of social work can support the implementation of EBP in the field. EBP partnerships between schools of social work and social service agencies represent particular promise for advancing EBP. Although EBP partnerships exist, there is little research to guide the development and advancement of these efforts. Building on a national survey of deans and directors of schools of social work and qualitative interviews with social work faculty, staff, and administrators, this paper aims to examine the barriers and promoters related to EBP partnership models and propose an agenda for the further development, refinement, and testing of these models.
We conducted a national web-based survey of CSWE-accredited schools of social work (N=196; response rate > 70%). Deans and directors of all CSWE-accredited schools of social work received email invitations to participate in the survey, along with a link and password for the survey website. In addition, 31 individual qualitative interviews were conducted with key informants to examine the benefits and barriers associated with different EBP partnerships strategies and models. Key informants were selected to maximize variance in the type of EBP partnership model used and school characteristics. All transcripts were audio-recoreded and transcribed verbatim. Two members of the research team independently conducted open-coding of the qualitative interviews using a constant comparative method of qualitative analysis.
The most common EBP partnership efforts identified through the surveys were individual faculty members conducting EBP research in partnership with agencies (82.11%); partnerships with field placement agencies to provide student (77.42%); and school export of EBP-related resources (71.54%). Only 40% of schools endorsed school-wide coordinated EBP partnership efforts. The barriers, promoters, and advantages of each of these approaches are highlighted with examples from the qualitative data. Individual interviews provide insight to additional barriers and promoters of partnership efforts and indicate that diverse efforts can be organized into key models with unique funding, foci, barriers, and promoters. Further, qualitative findings indicate the importance of organizational and institutional factors in understanding specific partnership models as well as the common and unique challenges and benefits of different partnership approaches. Qualitative results also point to lessons learned, unique approaches to partnerships, and strategies for improvement.
Conclusion and Implications:
Many schools of social work are engaging in partnership efforts with social work agencies to support EBP, though most of these efforts are limited in nature. Strategies such as individual faculty research efforts, limited field training opportunities, or access to library resources and continuing education are not sufficient on their own. The unique and varied partnership efforts qualitatively described among sample schools were not easily captured by quantitative methods and reflect efforts shaped to fit the unique resources, context, and priorities of individual schools. More coordinated, multi-strategy partnership models are needed if EBP is to be advanced widely across the field.