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Social Work Discussion

Evaluation of Social Workers

Building on the earlier theme of supervision in social work, I wonder how are new social workers being evaluated formally and informally? It seems that student social work placements strongly promote formal and informal evaluations- is there a difference when social workers then enter practice? As a student social worker, my experience was that evaluation was key on placement. Goals were clearly set at the beginning of placement. Practice teachers then did informal evaluation throughout the placement, and did formal evaluations with a college tutor and the student social worker halfway through the placement and at the end of the placement. I felt it was very helpful to have this evaluation, both as a reassurance, but also to highlight areas to work on.

As new social workers in practice, however, is this experience as clear? Do social workers get time with their line managers to talk about what areas they are doing well in and which areas they could improve? Again if caseloads are heavy and supervision time limited, it seems evaluation could be hard. However, it seems that we could easily fall into a dangerous trap of assuming that we are fine because we are ‘professionally qualified social workers.’ Continuous professional development could address this issue to a certain extent, however, I think evaluation remains a separate issue.

Would new social workers feel it most helpful to ask line managers for time to be spent on evaluation? Or would it be better for new social workers to take their own time for self-evaluation? Or do line managers already give feedback?

It can be uncomfortable for both line managers and social workers, or practice teachers and student social workers, to have an honest evaluation discussion every so often. But isn’t it vital? And I think it’s also a great boost for social workers to hear praise about what they are doing well. Social work is quite complicated and can easily lead practictioners to worries that we’re not doing enough. It would be great to have formal acknowledgement of what we are doing well. I think especially as new social workers, we can have a lot of worries and feedback is really helpful.

I’d be very interested in hearing whether any social workers currently have set times (such as every 6 months) where they receive an evaluation.


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