Advancing Social Work Practice Research Education – An Innovative, Experiential Pedagogical Approach

Kenny Kwong


Achieving practice research competency is an essential pillar of social work practice.  However, research material is often associated with dry lectures and incomprehensible statistical applications that may not reflect real life issues. Teaching research course is often antithetical to the pedagogical approach commonly used in social work education, which engages students in practical applications of real life situations with case examples. This paper described and evaluated six sets of experiential class and field activities designed to increase graduate level social work students’ competencies of practice research.  These activities included: (1) formulating a practice-based research topic – a case study; (2) using assessment templates for critical evaluation of published research; (3) single-system  research design – a tool for evaluation of clinical practice; (4) agency research and evaluation field assessment; (5) design and implementation of a practice-focused class study project; and (6) class activity on presentation and dissemination of research findings.  An online course evaluation was administered with altogether 63 students in 2 Foundation Research and 2 Advanced Research classes to elicit both their qualitative feedback and quantitative ratings of their attainment of research competencies.  The instructor’s assessment of individual student performance using a grading rubric helped determine their level of attainment of course competences.  Findings suggest several critical elements of this pedagogical approach.  It is a case-based learning and students learn about real-world research issues. It is discussion-centered and a collaborative learning process.  Cases selected for learning and research are context-specific as students see the connection of social work research to day-to-day practice contexts.

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Copyright (c) 2017 International Journal of Higher Education

International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

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