View Summer 2019 Courses

Social Work: Assessment in Social Work

SWSS 330 Z1 (CRN: 61653)

3 Credit Hours

About SWSS 330 Z1

An advanced MSW concentration elective that analyzes competing and complementary assessment strategies and their implications in social work in health/mental health and with children and families. Prerequisite: Completion of MSW foundation course work; or Instructor permission.


Dates: June 17 - July 12, 2019

Section Description

Assessment in Social Work (SWSS 330) is a specialized practice course that explores and deconstructs contemporary assessment practices from a postmodern, constructionist, transformative social work orientation. This course will examine the impact of assessment and diagnostic discourses on the lives and relationships of diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations, institutions, and communities. The course will critically consider the ways in which social worker formulations impact clients, clients’ views of themselves, and social work practitioner relationship with clients. The course will also emphasize the ways in which formulations invite and hinder practitioner stance of connection, curiosity, openness and hope from a variety of fundamental social work practice theories. Students will adopt a critical stance toward the history and uses of traditional and contemporary assessment frameworks. The strengths and limitations of each of various approaches and paradigms will be considered, both from the practitioners and clients' perspectives. Integrated into all aspects of this course will be a focus on working with diverse individuals, families and communities and acknowledging the importance of intersectionality and cultural humility connected to social work assessment. Building on student experience and social work practice (course work, work experience, field placement), the class cohort will utilize critical thinking, deep listening, inquiry, and self-awareness to increase knowledge and skill in social work assessment role and identity.

Section Expectation

I. Book Discussion Preparation and Book Discussion Reflection Paper Purpose and Brief Description: By the beginning of the course, students will read the The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. This book will support students to think critically about interdisciplinary approaches to assessment, embrace multiple perspectives existing simultaneously, and provide an in-depth case example of how culture, spirituality, and family beliefs and values impacts assessment. a) Book Discussion Preparation: After reading the book, each student will bring three discussion questions or reflections to class to thoughtfully engage class participants in a book group discussion connected to formulation, assumptions, implicit bias, power dynamics between providers and clients, and the importance of self-awareness in helping relationships. b) Book Discussion Reflection Paper: Each student will complete a brief (no more than 3 pages) paper that captures multiple viewpoints offered during the in-class discussion about one or two of the questions from the discussion focused on assessment considerations. Paper should include any new or fresh thinking about concepts from the book connected to a constructionist assessment practice. Paper should incorporate some aspect of the following fundamental concepts (discussed in class) of assessment from a constructionist perspective: Formulation or understanding, assumption, implicit bias, power dynamics and self-awareness. Evaluation Criteria: (a) Timely completion of both the discussion questions and paper (b) demonstration of understanding of concepts (c) demonstration of critical reflection and connection to constructionist assessment practice (d) active and thoughtful participation in book club discussion. II. Reading Highlights Purpose and Brief Description: Students will write a brief (no more than one page, double spaced) paper on primary readings as assigned. Prompts for these assignments will be posted on BlackBoard. Students are asked to write 3 Reading Highlights. Evaluation Criteria: (a) Timely completion; (b) demonstration of understanding of main concepts from reading; (c) demonstration of critical reflection and (d) identification of how the main concept(s) might apply to your own social work assessment practice. III. Assessment from a Transformative Social Worker Stance Paper Purpose and Brief Description: Students will complete a final paper using a case example (an individual, family, group, community, organization, or institution) from prior work or practice experience to explore the multidimensional opportunities to engage in a constructionist assessment process using a transformative social work lens. This assignment is an opportunity to demonstrate reflexivity in understanding one’s own values, culture, awareness, beliefs and experiences contributing to understanding formulation or assessment practice. Students will be asked to think critically about the ways in which assessment practice supports or hinders client intention and priorities. Students are also asked to identify and evaluate the dilemmas that come with working within an organizational world of practice. The final paper should be presented in APA format and must be 5-10 pages in length. Additionally, the paper should incorporate 2-4 readings from the course as academic references. Additional academic resources are also welcomed. Evaluation Criteria: (a) Timely completion (b) Critical thinking and self-awareness skills (c) Use of academic references (d) deep understanding and identification of main objectives of course (e) application of transformative social work and constructionist concepts to explore assessment in social work.


The course methods include a combination of learning activities, large group and small group discussions, case examples, case presentations and conceptualizations, written assignments, and required readings. The course will require a sense of collective responsibility for encouraging a climate of openness, safety, inquiry, drawing on and sharing experience both from within and outside the field of social work, critical thinking, self-awareness, and courageous dialogue.




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