A new methodology for assessing social work practice: The adaptation of the Objective Structured Clinical Evaluation (SW-OSCE)

Lu, Y. E., Ain, E., Chamorro, C., Chang, C. Y., Feng, J. Y. Fong, R., Garcia, B., Hawkins, R. L., Yu, M.
Social Work Education: The International Journal, 30(2), 170 – 185.

The Objective Structured Clinical Evaluation (OSCE) methodology was originally developed to assess medical students. OSCE is a carefully scripted, standardized, simulated interview, in which students’ interactional skills are observed and assessed. Here it is examined for its potential use in assessing social work practice skills. The development of the Social Work OSCE (SW-OSCE) and the Clinical Competence-based Behavioural Checklist (CCBC) are described. Findings from a pilot study assessing MSW students’ clinical skills with explicit observable criteria of the CCBC are presented.

A quantitative and qualitative mixed-methods data analysis was applied. The CCBC had high internal reliability, for both the overall sample and for the different case scenarios, with Cronbach's alpha values ranging from 0.888 to 0.965. The validity of the instrument was also examined: qualitative content analysis of the taped interviews indicated that clinical skills and cultural empathy are not synonymous. The racial/ethnic match between the student and the ‘client’ did not predict better rapport or more cultural empathy. Examination grades are not necessarily consistent with actual performance in either clinical competence or cultural empathy or vice versa.

Nevertheless, the results provide some support for the use of the SW-OSCE as a tool for assessing performance in social work practice. They also indicate its potential for evaluating the outcomes of educational programmes.

Wagner Faculty