Abstract: The Effects of Virtual Coaching on Outcomes of an Online Child Welfare Training (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

The Effects of Virtual Coaching on Outcomes of an Online Child Welfare Training

Sunday, January 20, 2019: 11:15 AM
Golden Gate 1, Lobby Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Julia Kobulsky, Temple University, Philadephia, PA
Emily Smith Goering, MSW, PhD Candidate, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Bethany Lee, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Chelsea Gray, Research Assistant, University of Maryland at Baltimore, MD
Catherine Moon, MSW, LSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of Maryland at Baltimore
Charlotte Bright, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Maryland at Baltimore
Background and Purpose: There is a need for training to advance the capacity of the child welfare workforce.  However, achieving meaningful learning and practice change in stressed, overloaded systems is challenging.  Implementation science principles and research identify coaching as a helpful, even necessary, driver of transfer of learning.  However, the potential benefit of coaching in virtual as opposed to face-to-face formats remains largely unknown.  The National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative (NTI) is an online training that was piloted with child welfare workers in 9 sites in 2017. This study draws data from one site in which an innovative virtual coaching model was piloted as a supplement to NTI in a subset of trainees. It addresses the following research question: what are the differences in outcomes of trainees who participated in virtual coaching versus those who participated in NTI only?

Methods: A two-group pre/post design was used to assess differences in outcomes for virtual coaching participants (n=27) compared to similar participants who received online training only (n=300).  The virtual coaching intervention was comprised of 60-minute group sessions led by a licensed clinician after each of the eight NTI training modules. Sessions consisted of didactic instruction, case examples, discussion, and reflection. Demographics (gender, race/ethnicity, age, education, licensure, years of professional experience) and self-rated adoption mental health knowledge and ability (sum scores ranging from 13-65 of items rated on a 5-point scale) were measured at enrollment via online surveys.  At completion, self-rated adoption mental health knowledge and ability, training satisfaction (e.g. training usefulness and relevance), and perceived impact of training (on job performance, effectiveness as child welfare professional, ability to help children and families, and ability to collaborate) were measured. In addition, NTI curriculum completion outcomes (completion status, total modules completed, completion days) were assessed.  Chi-square and t-test analysis were conducted to assess between group differences.      

Results: The virtual coaching group was equivalent to the no coaching group in self-rated adoption mental health knowledge and ability at enrollment and in demographics with the exception of Black race (virtual coaching = 33.3%, no coaching = 16.7%).  The virtual coaching group completed significantly more modules (M = 7.9) than the non-coaching group (M = 7.3).  The virtual coaching group had higher levels of self-rated knowledge at completion (M = 51.5 vs 43.8) and greater average improvement in knowledge (M = 13.5 vs 3.4). The virtual training group reported significantly higher perceived impact of training on practice than the no coaching group on all items. 

Conclusions and Implications: Participants in the virtual coaching intervention completed more of the NTI curriculum, evidenced greater improvements in their adoption mental health competency knowledge, and reported higher impact of the training to their practice than those engaged in the training alone.  Findings corroborate past research suggesting the importance of coaching to support integration of learning to practice and extend knowledge by indicating the efficacy of virtual coaching. Virtual coaching may be a low-cost way to supplement online training for the child welfare workforce.