Session: Moving the Field Forward: Using Technology through a Professional Learning Community Model to Increase School Social Workers' Skills in Using Data & EBP (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

121 Moving the Field Forward: Using Technology through a Professional Learning Community Model to Increase School Social Workers' Skills in Using Data & EBP

Friday, January 18, 2019: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Union Square 3/4 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: School Social Work (SSW)
Michael Kelly, PhD, Loyola University Chicago, Natasha Bowen, PhD, College of Social Work, Michele Patak-Pietrefesa, MSW, Ohio State University, Andrew Brake, PhD, Northeastern Illinois University and Robert Lucio, PhD, Saint Leo University
Professional learning communities (PLCs) for teacher educators in schools have shown some effectiveness in positively facilitating professional collaboration and trust, building instructional capacity, and improving student learning outcomes, mostly via on-site meetings during or after school hours (Vescio, Ross, & Adams, 2007). However, research on PLCs for school social workers (SSW) and other school mental health professionals is almost nonexistent, despite the reality that many SSW describe feeling isolated and stressed in their work roles and also report a desire to acquire more skills in using data and employing evidence-based practices (EBPs) (Phillippo et al., 2017). As such, many SSW struggle to find consistent, easy-to-use, and accessible opportunities to collaborate in a PLC setting or other online forum, and professional development opportunities to do so often overlook these organizational, inter-professional, and implementation constraints. New approaches appear to be needed to move the field forward.

One innovative approach, the Loyola PLC Project (a hybrid model featuring both online and in-person connections) will be featured here as an in-depth case study for this roundtable, and will be discussed from a variety of research, training, and technological perspectives. The PLC Project offers a possible way to increase the skills of SSW by using a combination of personal connection, free online tools, and ongoing social media content creation via various platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and a social media forum created at by the roundtable organizers) to facilitate PLCs for SSW across the country.

Starting in July 2015, SSW (N=22) from throughout metropolitan Chicago were invited to join a professional learning community (PLC) in an effort to help build their skills in delivering data-driven, evidence-based school mental health services in their respective schools. For the past three years, the PLC Project has been led by a team of researchers and SSW experts from 3 universities, a local teaching hospital, as well as K-12 SSW at schools throughout metropolitan Chicago. Drawing on analysis of qualitative interviews conducted with PLC participants since 2015, focus group data collected at the annual summer leadership institute, and incorporating a portfolio of innovative technology tools developed through the Loyola University Chicago Family School Partnership Program (FSPP) and companion website SSWN (, this roundtable will highlight lessons learned from the PLC Project, particularly how a range of innovative technological tools helped to facilitate the professional collaboration and capacity building efforts of SSW. The roundtable will offer the participants and attendees a chance to explore the outcomes of the first 3 years of the PLC Project (2015-2018), with a focus on understanding how technology can be harnessed in service of increasing SSW connections and building their skills through PLCs in their schools and in virtual spaces.

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