Monday, November 4, 2013

How do you write a social work abstract? Here are some examples.

I have just returned from the Council on Social Work Education's Annual Program Meeting, one of the key conferences of my profession.  I presented in three different sessions with my colleagues.  If you were at the conference, and - like me- you wish you could have been in five sessions at once, you may have missed my presentation. So I am sharing abstracts for the presentations below, with links to the pages of my colleagues, where applicable, and links to the powerpoint presentations as well.  If you are a student or perhaps preparing your first conference abstract, here's a peek at the info we submit to the conference for review.

Paper One: Use of social media in direct practice: Implications for Training and Policy
Melanie Sage, Andrew Quinn, Dale Fitch

Overview:  Social workers are using social media as an augment to direct service provision, often with little guidance.  This paper reports on students’ professional use of social media, and on policy that specifically addresses social media use in agency settings. Implications for training and policy development are discussed.

Learning objectives: 
  • Be able to identify areas in the NASW ethical codes relevant to the use of social media in direct practice
  • Be able to identify training needs of social workers related to the professional use of social media in direct practice
  • 3 Be able to identify practices to guide policy making in social service settings

Proposal text: 

Social workers and other professionals are increasingly using social media in their professional lives to serve clients.  They use social media to seek information about clients (DiLillo & Gale, 2011; Tunick, Mednick, and Conroy, 2011), as a way to communicate with clients (Hawn, 2009), through the use of social-media supported interventions (Bull, Levine, Black, Schmiege, and Santelli, 2012; Cavelo et al., 2012), or as a way of reflecting, debriefing, and advocacy (Hickson, 2012; Baker, 2012).  Social workers and employers alike must understand social media for its potential risks and benefits in providing direct services to clients.  They may also have obligations to educate clients about privacy on social media sites (Fitch, 2012; Hinjuda and Patchin, 2008; Kolmes, 2010). Social workers and agencies should also understand the potential benefits to clients who use social media, such as enhancing social connections (Baumgartner and Morris, 2010; Wolf-Branigin, 2009). Although the ethical dilemmas encountered in online settings mirror those that are experienced in face-to-face settings, the ease of access to personal client information raises new questions about how and when to use social media as an adjunct to practice, and the role of the agency in supporting, limiting, or creating policy around its use. 

Although NASW maintains presence on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube, and its Social Work Blog, the professional organization offers no policy guidance on individual or agency use of social media, and has not adopted specific guidelines around its use, regardless of the trend in other professional practice organizations (e.g., ASHP, AMA).  The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) has a statement on Use of Social Media by Pharmacy Professionals which offers recommendations for healthcare agencies about balancing the benefits with the liabilities of professional social media use. The American Medical Association offers similar guidelines, but includes a statement on maintaining appropriate patient-physician boundaries.  Despite the location of organizational level policies, it appears that no policies exist related to the use of social media in the nonprofit settings (Joselyn & Panepento, 2010). Once policies are developed, it is imperative that future social workers have the competencies in using social media so that the client is best served. 

As a result, this study purpose was threefold: first, to offer a case study of one agency’s attempt to develop policies about social media use, and second, to present the results of a survey with students currently involved in field practicum concerning their current practices, knowledge, and beliefs about accessing information about clients on the Internet.  Thirdly, this study also surveys social service administrators about their current explicit and implicit policies for practitioners related to social media.

Results: Largely in line with the previously cited studies, no agencies had explicit policy guidelines related to the direct practice use of social media with clients. The students displayed a broad range of personal use of social media, and some had ventured to use it related to agency work. Very few students had considered the use of multiple social media profiles, largely not considering the possibility of having a professional profile AND a personal profile. The students’ use of social media in regards to working with clients was largely mirrored by agency administrators (i.e., it was not encouraged nor was there training provided on how to do so). However, students were even more restrictive in their views of possible uses for practice. In both populations, they tended to frame the use of social media from their own perspective, and did not acknowledge a client’s volitional choice to use social media as a mode of communication, thus perhaps disempowering the client in the process. Relatedly, neither population noted the need to train agency clients on how to use social media.

Ultimately, social workers are obligated to develop competency in the use of technology and the ways that it benefits service delivery or augments treatment for clients. Therefore, our results will be used to identify competencies to guide best practices of social media use.  Furthermore, the results will be used to present suggestions that can be used by agencies in developing social media guidelines. 
American Medical Association (2011). Opinion 9-124 - Professionalism in the use of social media. Retrieved from
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (2012). ASHP statement on use of social media by pharmacy professionals. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacists, 69, 2095-2097.
Baker, L.A. (2012). Social media for housing and community development agencies. Journal of Housing & Community Development, July/August, 19-23.
Baumgartner, J.C., & Morris, J.S. (2010). MyFaceTube politics: Social networking web sites and political engagement of young adults. Social Science Computer Review, 28, 24-44.
Bull, S.S., Levine, D.K., Black, S.R., Schmiege, S.J., & Santelli, J.(2011). Social media-delivered sexual health intervention: A cluster randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Preventitive Medicine, 43(5), 467-474.
Cavelo, D.N., Tate, D.F., Ries, A.V., Brown, J.D., DeVellis, R.F., & Ammerman, A.S. (2012). A social media-based physical activity intervention: A randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 43(5), 527-532.
DiLillo, D.K., & Gale, E.B. (2011). To Google or not to Google: Graduate students’ use of the internet to access personal information about clients. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 5(3), 160-166.
Fitch, D. (2012). Youth in foster care and social media: A framework for developing privacy guidelines. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 30(2), 94-108.
Hawn, C. (2009). Take two aspirin and tweet me in the morning: How Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are reshaping health care. Health Affairs, 28(2), 361-368.
Hickson, H. (2012). Reflective practice online- Exploring the ways social workers used an online blog for reflection. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 30(1), 32-48.
Hinjuda, S., & Patchin, J.W. (2008). Personal information of adolescents on the Internet: A quantitative content analysis of MySpace. Journal of Adolescence, 31, 125-146.
Joselyn, H., & Panepento, P. (2010, Jan 6). Few charities have social-media policies, survey finds. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved February 15, 2013, from
Kolmes, K. (2010). Social media in the future of professional psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 43(6), 606-612.
Tunick, R.A., Mednick, L., & Conroy, C. (2011). A snapshot of child psychologists’ social media activity: Professional and ethical practice implications and recommendations. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42(6), 440-447.

Wolf-Branigin, M. (2009). New media and social networks: Considerations from clients in addictions treatement. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 27, 339-345.

Paper Two:  Reading Reflections as a “Flipped Classroom” Technique in Social Work Curriculum
Melanie Sage, Patti Sele

Overview:  Flipped Classroom techniques are activities in which “events that have traditionally taken place inside the classroom now take place outside the classroom and vice versa.” This research explores the use of Reading Reflection Journals as a Flipped Classroom technique. Social work students using this technique report improved reading and engagement.

Learning objectives:
  • Participants will understand the definitions and emerging practices related to Flipped Classroom techniques.
  • Participants will learn an overview of the evidence-supported benefits of using Flipped Classroom techniques.
  • Participants will learn the procedures of using Reading Reflections as a Flipped Classroom technique, and be able to name themes related to student feedback of a pilot study that utilized this approach.

Proposal text: 
Students in social work practice courses come to class with varying levels of educational, life, and practice experience.  Reading adherence varies widely between students, which makes it difficult to progress toward discussion without some class review of the assigned reading.  Bloom’s Taxonomy identifies six levels of learning, ranging from “lower-order goals” like memorization (defining, naming, stating) to “higher-order goals” such as evaluation (rating, defending, predicting) (Houston and Lin, 2012). Critical thinking and problem solving are higher-order goals that are most applicable to the work lives of social workers.  Review of the reading material in class limits the amount of time for critical discussion and application, especially if it is the student’s first exposure to the concepts.  Using a Flipped Classroom technique allows instructors to spend more time modeling, watching, and correcting as students apply concepts in the classroom. 

Flipped Classroom techniques, sometimes also called inverted classroom (Gardner, 2012; Lage, Platt, & Treglia, 2000; Talbert, 2012), upside-down or backward classroom techniques (Houston & Linn, 2012), are described as activities in which “events that have traditionally taken place inside the classroom now take place outside the classroom and vice versa” (Lage, Platt, & Treglia, 2000). Talbert (2012) notes that using a Flipped Classroom method shows promise for making the university classroom experience more interactive, inclusive, and effective.  In the Flipped Classroom, students focus on concepts, definitions, and traditional knowledge as “homework” so that classroom activities can be spent on applied learning, problem solving, and discussion (Gardner, 2012).  Websites such as TEDtalks and Kahn Academy have popularized this model by designing teaching components that allow instructors to assign homework based on brief video segments where students learn the basic instructions on their own by watching the videos, and then get the opportunity to practice the techniques in a teacher-facilitated class.  In higher education, instructors create their own media or homework assignments such as videos or PowerPoints so that classroom time can be spent on deeper discussion and practice application.  Instructors are then able to see whether students understand material by watching them attempt to apply it in practice during group work and interaction (Houston and Lin, 2012). 

Reflective journals can be used as a Flipped Classroom technique if the journal assignment requires students to explain key concepts and reflect on application of them. Reflective journals have empirical support for their ability to foster clinical judgment (Lasater,2009), encourage students to articulate their thinking (Fogarty & McTighe, 1993), and to enhance self-reflection to foster personal growth (Blake, 2005). Through the in-class sharing of student journals, students further have the opportunity to gain the perspective of others and guide the direction of the class discussion toward what they most need to know.

This research explores a Flipped Classroom technique designed to help move lower-order goals out of the classroom so that class time can focus on reflective exercises which contribute to life-long learning (Brandsford, 2000).  By requiring a structured reflective journaling homework assignment in which students were asked to reflect upon the reading and consider application of the material, it was hypothesized that students would have higher reading adherence, think more critically about what they had read, and be more prepared to practice once they arrive in class.  Additionally, by incorporating their Reading Reflections in a PowerPoint to guide class discussion, we hypothesized students would be more engaged, feel like their questions about the context were better answered, and that it would be possible to engage students who might not normally talk in class. Each week, students were asked to journal about three questions relative to the reading: (1) What did you learn; (2) What do you still have questions about, and (3) what personal or professional connection can you make to this topic?

Using a Likert-type scale and open-ended questions, students reported on their experiences about how Reading Reflections contributed to their learning and classroom preparedness. Participants included 28 students in two courses.  Ninety-two percent of students said that Reading Reflections helped stimulate class discussion and 85% reported that their reading adherence improved. They report they were more engaged and better prepared because of the Reading Reflections, and were more likely to ask questions about the material. The instructors noted more representative student participation, preparation, and engagement. However, the work was more time consuming for students and instructors. Other findings and implications are explored in this presentation. Techniques for using Reading Reflections and examples of student work are shared. Student and professor perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses of the technique are discussed.

Blake, T.K. (2005). Journaling: An active learning technique. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 2(1), 1-10.
Bransford, J. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Fogarty, R., & McTighe, J. (1993). Educating teachers for higher order thinking: The
three-story intellect. Theory into Practice, 32(3), 161-169.
Houston, M. & Lin, L. (2012). Humanizing the Classroom by Flipping the Homework versus Lecture Equation. In P. Resta (Ed.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2012 (pp. 1177-1182). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Lage, M. J., Platt, G. J., & Treglia, M. (2000). Inverting the classroom: A gateway to creating an inclusive learning environment. The Journal of Economic Education, 31(1), 30-43.
Lasater, K., & Nielsen, A. (2009). Reflective journaling for clinical judgment development and evaluation. The Journal of Nursing Education, 48(1), 40.
Talbert, R. (2012). Inverted classroom. Colleagues, 9(1), 1-2.

Session three:  Think tank (note:  there is no ppt for this presentation, but we are preparing some ways to disseminate the info we collected- stay tuned!)

Title:  Strategies for Integration of Social Media in Social Work Education
Jonathan Singer, Ph.D., LCSW, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, Melanie Sage, PhD, LICSW, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, Jimmy Young, PhD, MSW, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kearney, NE and Karen Zgoda, MSW, Boston College, Boston, MA

Social work educators face a curious dilemma when it comes to technology. Students, administrators, and the social work profession have an expectation that educators will use technology in the classroom to both enhance learning as well as to prepare students to use technology in their social work practice (Coe Regan & Freddolino, 2008; NASW, 2005; Perron, Taylor, Glass, & Margerum-Leys, 2010). Students expect educators to use social media to augment learning (Roblyer et al., 2010). University administrators, in an effort to increase revenue via increased enrollment, are putting increased pressure on schools of social work to offer online or hybrid courses. And the social work profession has established guidelines for the use of technology in practice (NASW, 2005). Yet, these same constituents have an expectation that social work educators will use technology thoughtfully. Straub (2009) points out that thoughtful integration of technology considers how and why faculty members adopt new tools, as well as the benefits these tools potentially offer to learners. Given the speed with which computer technologies, particularly social media/networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, emerge and evolve, even the most tech savvy social work educator can feel overwhelmed keeping up with today’s technologies, let alone thoughtfully incorporating them into his or her teaching. It comes as no surprise, then that, with the exception of online social work education programs, technology is integrated into social work education sporadically (Gorder, 2008).

How can the profession of social work education be more intentional and planful about integrating technology into social work education? The critical pedagogist, Stephen Brookfield (1995), suggested that educators can look to four sources for critical feedback on their teaching: the scholarly literature, their students, themselves, and their colleagues. The scholarly literature on integrating technology in social work education is in its infancy. Educators who turn to the literature find articles that include the qualifiers, “exploratory,” “new approach,” and “emerging trends.” When educators look to their students, they are often bewildered at the mixed message of “I want more access to online resources” and “I don’t know how to use computer technologies” (Allwardt, 2011). When educators do honest self-assessments of their comfort with and interest in technology, they take an important step in addressing this dilemma (Coe Regan & Freddolino, 2008). Many educators would love to turn to their peers, but anecdotal evidence suggests that most schools of social work have only one or two educator(s) who are the “tech experts.” With the exception of the Technology Special Interest Group at APM, educators have had almost no formal opportunity to come together and develop strategies for integrating technology into social work education. We believe that this area is a promising, yet mostly untapped, resource.

The purpose of this Think Tank is to provide educators with the opportunity to discuss and strategize ways of incorporating social media/networking technologies into social work education. The final product will be recommendations and practical steps that will help educators of varying comfort levels with technology, and whose schools provide varying levels of support and resources, integrate social media/networking technologies into their teaching. This discussion is led by four social work educators who have integrated technology (including social media/networking) into their teaching, have conducted research on the use of technology in social work education or practice, and have provided trainings to practitioners, educators, and students on the use of technology.

Participants will be asked to consider social work education at the BSW, MSW, or doctoral level. The specific questions are:

What are the benefits to using social media in social work education, and what successful strategies are professors already using to harness these benefits?

What are the barriers to using social media, including individual, school, and professional-level barriers?  

What are the responsibilities of faculty to educate students in the use of social media for practice?

How can social work educators use social media to model ethical use of technology for their students?

In the next 5 to 10 years, what social media skills will social workers need to practice competently and

Learning Objectives:
  • Describe how social media applications can be used in social work education.
  • Identify three strategies for implementing social media into social work education.
  • Discuss barriers and facilitators to using social media technology in social work education.

Overview: Educators have used APM to present innovations in the use of technology in education. This Think Tank offers educators an opportunity for structured discussion and debate around strategies for integrating commonly used social media platforms into every day social work education. Everyone, from social media beginner to expert, is welcome.

Allwardt, D. E. (2011). Writing with wikis: A cautionary tale of technology in the classroom. Journal of Social Work Education, 47(3), 597–605. doi:10.5175/JSWE.2011.200900126

Brookfield, S. (1995) Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Coe Regan, J. A., & Freddolino, P. P. (2008). Integrating technology in the social work curriculum.  Alexandria, Va: Council on Social Work Education.

Gorder, L. (2008). A Study of Teacher Perceptions of Instructional Technology Integration in the Classroom. Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 50(2), 63–76. Retrieved from

Perron, B. E., Taylor, H. O., Glass, J. E., & Margerum-Leys, J. (2010). Information and communication technologies in social work. Advances in Social Work, 11(1), 67-81.

Roblyer, M. D., McDaniel, M., Webb, M., Herman, J., & Wiy, J. V. (2010). Findings on Facebook in higher education: A comparison of college faculty and student uses and perceptions of social networking sites. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(3), 134–140. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2010.03.002

Straub, E. T. (2009). Understanding Technology Adoption: Theory and Future Directions for Informal Learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 625–649. doi:10.3102/0034654308325896

Gorder, L. (2008). A Study of Teacher Perceptions of Instructional Technology Integration in the

Classroom. Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 50(2), 63–76. Retrieved from

Sunday, January 6, 2013

How much do child welfare social workers make? National sample of child welfare entry salaries: An infographic

My last post on social work salaries was based on NASW data and represented mid-level workers from all groups.  The map below offers some random salaries in the child welfare field gleaned from current job openings across the United States.  Some states have title protection, which means that people can only call themselves social workers if they hold a social work degree.  In states that do not exclusively hire degreed social workers in the child welfare positions, the child welfare job titles are often "Social Service Worker" or something similar.

Child welfare workers often get 1-3% annual increases for cost of living or "step" raises, and some jurisdictions offer several different levels of employment that workers can promote in to. Annual Salaries may range, over time from the low 30k to the high 70k depending on years of experience. Benefits also vary widely; child welfare workers may have to contribute several hundred dollars to family medical benefits per month, while others may have their benefits fully paid by their employer.

I am a big advocate of child welfare work as a career path, and also an advocate of the needs of child welfare workers.  I worked in the child welfare field for many years, and interfaced with the community at every level; I made good contacts, got good at assessment and engagement, and worked with people in their environments during some of the hardest moments of their lives.  It is very rewarding work, and the policies and supports of the employing agency make a very significant difference in retention and satisfaction of workers (and thus the quality of services for clients).  I believe that professionally trained social workers are uniquely prepared to do this kind of work, and that salaries will increase where the work is professionalized.  There is little agreement about entry requirements for the work across the nation, and many states do not differentiate work tasks between Bachelors and Masters level preparation; therefore, the rewards for continued education are low, and the enhanced skils of MSW-trained workers may not be recognized. 

I collected the data below from current job ads.  If you are a child welfare worker and inclined to share (and feel free to post anonymously), post your salary, years of experience, job title, employer, and degree in the comments below to give us a wider idea about child welfare worker salaries.  If you have any corrections for my infographic below, please send me an email.

How much do Social Workers make? Social Work Salaries- an Infographic

Visual data display in the form of infographics are popping up all over the internet, for good reason.  They give you a quick glimpse of take-away facts.  Pictures help us remember information.  Certainly it's more interesting to look at pleasingly-displayed factoids than to read an entire research article.

One of my goals for the new year is to get better at sharing visual data, especially in my own research and collected data, because it is one way to help move research to practice- to get people sharing and enthused about specific findings.  I stumbled upon a tool for creating an infographics and put together my first one using NASW Salary Survey data.  I chose this data because of my interest in workforce, and also because it helps dispel a popular myth- that social workers take a vow of poverty out of their love for people.

I suspect some of my blog readers will stumble on this and guffaw at the idea that $34 an hour is the average social work salary.  If you want to know more about participants and polling of this sample, please have a look at the NASW report, based on 2009 data of over 20,000 social workers.  Also keep in mind that this is not an average starting salary ($43k is the average salary for those with under 5 years experience polled in this report)- this is the average of all people polled, with varying positions and levels of experience. It appears that all participants were members of a professional organization (NASW or another expertise-specific group); we might assume that social workers who pay professional dues are more likely to be among the higher earners or more professionally engaged.  Only data from fully employed workers is reported.  All levels of the degree (BSW, MSW, PhD) are reported together to obtain the $34 an hour mean, but data are broken down separately in the report by education level, field of social work, age, experience level, and other criteria.

Some of my research friends don't know that in my former life (20 years ago) I started a rubber stamp company where I designed and produced art rubber stamps. I made and sold stamps for many years, in fact, travelling to conventions all over the US with my wares, selling to shops all over the world.  The ability to play with data and graphics speaks to the creative part of me that still enjoys this visual way of expressing my creativity and ideas.  After trying out the site, I am most likely to take a stab with photoshop for my next infographic- the available graphics and design themes are limited at the slightly clunky site, and this small graphic took about four hours to create but this was a good way to dip my toes in the water.  Feel free to share it and let me know what you think.  What other social work issues would you like to see infographic'ed?  Did this data surprise you?  Did it make you want to know more about the research?