Abstract: Pilot Study Findings from Two Innovative Models of Training for Social Work Supervisors (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Pilot Study Findings from Two Innovative Models of Training for Social Work Supervisors

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Liberty Ballroom K, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Daniel Kaplan, PhD, Assistant Professor, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY
Christin Sauter, MSW, Coalition Coordinator, Research Assistant, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY
Natalie Brooks Wilson, MSW, Graduate Assistant, Adelphi University, NY
Background/Purpose: There is a critical need for enhanced education for social work supervisors of direct practice. Agency-based supervision is instrumental to the profession’s practice model and essential to skilled practice and staff retention, directly impacting the quality of services delivered by the teams they support. However, little in the curricula of schools of social work address supervision. Early-career social workers are thrust into supervisory positions without adequate preparation. Continuing education programs are sparsely available to provide training for supervisors seeking to hone their skills. Online training programs fail to demonstrate the parallel processes taking place between client and worker and worker and supervisor that are integral to effective clinical care in direct service.

Methods: In this presentation, two programs which respond to the need for increased training on advanced social work supervision will be discussed. First, the Supervisory Leaders in Aging (SLA) program of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) was designed to improve gerontological services by strengthening supervision of the social service workforce. Second, Social Work Practice Fellows (SWPF), launched in 2018, is a professional development program for MSW supervisors from a wide range of community-based organizations serving clients across the life course. SWPF is delivered by the continuing education departments of schools of social work and its workshops are led by expert practitioners and faculty scholars. A current pilot study supports implementation of SWPF in four areas of the northeastern U.S. The SWPF educational model calls for face-to-face interactive learning utilizing group activities, discussions of cases and supervision experiences, and extensive educational materials. Small cohorts of MSW supervisors convene every other week for six full-day workshops. SWPF also facilitates peer support for supervisors who are known to experience professional isolation. Graduates join a growing professional network for mutual support.

Findings: The SLA program was adopted between 2015 and 2017 in four regions where NASW trained 134 MSW supervisors who support 1,200 social service staff, potentially enhancing the well-being of 264,000 clients annually. Quality improvement evaluations suggested feasibility of program adoption and acceptability. Participants rated each of 10 workshops and 97% agreed that instructors were effective, that knowledge was expanded, and that content was relevant, appropriate, and likely to be used. For the pilot study of the SWPF program, delivered through four partner schools and reaching 80 trainees, evaluation data demonstrate successful implementation and positive learning outcomes.  An inventory of supervisory best-practices which corresponds with the curriculum allows for the comparison of pre- and post-training scores to demonstrate the extent of participants’ increased frequency of and confidence in the use of best-practices. Data collection concluded in April, 2019 and preliminary analyses reveal significant gains among participants across workshops and locations.

 Conclusion and Implications: The SLA and SWPF programs have the potential to tap the educational capacity and local practice networks of hundreds of social work programs across the country. Together, these programs bring much needed leadership development to social work supervisors who can increase the capacity of their supervisees to provide excellence in care.