Abstract: What Contributes to Transfer of Learning in Child Welfare: Results of a Scoping Review (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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What Contributes to Transfer of Learning in Child Welfare: Results of a Scoping Review

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Encanto A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Geetha Gopalan, PhD, Associate Professor, Hunter College, New York, NY
Diane DePanfilis, PhD, MSW, Professor, Hunter College, New York, NY
Avital Kaye-Tzadok, PhD, MSW, Department Head, Ruppin Academic Center, Netanya, Israel
Kerry Deas, MSW, PhD Student, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY
Background and Purpose: Despite the extensive financial investment made in training child welfare professionals (U.S. General Accounting Office, 200), significant difficulties remain in the utilization of skills learned in training into daily work, known as Transfer of Learning (ToL; Antle et al., 2009). However, little is known about what contributes to ToL within child welfare services. As a result, we conducted a scoping review to synthesize and consolidate published literature on ToL in Child Welfare Services to uncover gaps in knowledge, identify variations in skills and strategies used promote and assess ToL, as well as examine individual-, organizational-, and training-level factors impacting ToL. This paper focuses on describing the extent, range, and nature of existing research activity focused on ToL and identifying the factors related to ToL in child welfare services.

Methods: Existing literature published between 1998-2020 on ToL was systematically reviewed. Published literature was searched with pre-specified search terms in PsycInfo (EBSCO), PubMed, CINAHL, and Business Source Premier, with additional filtering using Endnote and relevant terms to focus on helping professions. Secondary search strategies involved identification of relevant studies from prior informal searches, hand searching of ToL review articles, and inclusion of relevant dissertations. After removal of duplications, n = 3804 records were entered into Covidence, a web-based systematic review tool to conduct title/abstract and full-text reviews. After limiting records to those focused in child welfare settings, n = 21 publications were included for final data extraction and qualitative synthesis. Utilizing a descriptive analytic framework, publications were examined for study location, research design, time frames, and outcomes related to ToL.

Results: Of the n = 21 publications examined, n = 17 were conducted in the United States, n = 4 in the U.K. Of those studies reporting timeframes (n = 12), studies were conducted between 1990 and 2016. Of the n = 12 quantitative studies, n = 4 utilized randomized control designs. Findings also indicated n = 6 studies utilizing mixed quantitative and qualitative methods, and n = 3 studies utilizing qualitative methods only. All studies demonstrated how skills were transferred into daily work to varying degrees. Studies reported a range of individual-level (e.g., trainee education, content knowledge, learning readiness, role, training motivation, perceived ability to apply skills), organizational-level (e.g., coworker, supervisory, and administrative support, opportunities to use skills on the job, learning culture, organizational climate, workload), and training-level (e.g., live supervision, trainer expertise, role plays, post-ToL reinforcement strategies) that impacted ToL.

Conclusions and Implications: Findings indicate that few studies have incorporated rigorous research designs, thereby limiting the ability to make generalizations based on study findings. As most studies were conducted in the United States, findings may have particular relevance for the U.S. child welfare system. Information on individual, organizational, and training level factors impacting transfer of learning may promote greater use of trained skills in child welfare practice.