The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

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

Developing and Validating Measures for Social Work Research and Practice

Friday, January 17, 2014: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 003B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Symposium Organizer:
Neil Abell, PhD, Florida State University
Social work values and ethics shape professional perspectives on defining and prioritizing “what matters” in assessing and responding to client problems. Because social workers tend to bring both an integrative and investigative view to the definition of personal and social problems, finding methods and tools to articulate ideas clearly, translate them into measurable entities, and make them amenable to objective critique is a professional obligation. To the extent that we wish to be taken seriously by critics and assert with confidence that we have evidence to back our claims for the significance and impact of core constructs in problem assessment and intervention, we are dependent on the quality of the measures we use to capture and critique variables of interest.

                The last three decades have seen highly productive advances in psychometric methods and an explosion of scales and indices, many available in the public domain.  In this symposium, presenters will overview the challenges faced by scholars and service providers as they attempt to capture abstract notions and translate them into measurable constructs suitable for research and practice. Setting the stage, presenters will provide an outline of conventional steps in scale development and validation, beginning with construct conceptualization, item generation, expert panel review for initial content validation, and steps in achieving institutional review board approval. Options for psychometric analysis and interpretation will be explored, emphasizing item redundancy, internal consistency, confirmatory factor analysis, and testing for evidence of convergent and discriminant construct validity.

                The symposium will emphasize illustrations across a range of social problems. Based on a doctoral seminar spanning two semesters, we will illustrate the process from conceptualization through scale development and validation with a set of projects initiated and executed by students including: service providers’ experience and expression of stigma towards people with mental illness diagnoses, identification of sex-positive attitudes and beliefs among human service professionals and students, self-assessments of barriers to employment experienced by people with mental illness diagnoses, law enforcement officers’ determinations of the credibility of victims and situations in regards to claims of rape, and young adults experiences as victims and perpetrators of cyber-bullying.  Each project originated in the developers’ recognition of a gap in tools available for valid and reliable assessment of a concept from existing literature or a novel construct based on original thinking regarding a social work problem or population. In each case, projects were organized around a structured set of steps reflecting the stages in scale conceptualization and validation. 

                The symposium will include discussion of factors to consider when integrating complex and sometimes inconsistent psychometric evidence. These include making decisions about final item composition, the sometimes iterative process when reliability and factorial validity evidence suggest reconsideration of decisions initially taken, and determining whether and when it’s time to go “back to the drawing board” and start over. We hope through the balance of overview and illustration to provide participants with lots to think about in shaping their own ideas into measurable formats, and a reasonable map to follow with charting a psychometric project.

* noted as presenting author
Development and Validation of the Mental Health Provider Stigma Inventory
Stephanie C. Kennedy, MSW, Florida State University
Development and Validation of the Sex-Positivity Scale
Jill Gromer, MSW, Florida State University
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