Monday, July 27, 2009


Yesterday I returned from a wonderful vacation to Ruidoso New Mexico where we escaped the hotter than an oven Texas summer heat. I wish I had Emeril's smell-o-vision to share thearoma of pine needles in the NM mountain air. Mmmm! We enjoyed the Ruidoso Arts Festival and geocaching as well as eating lots of great food and playing/learning bridge (my family loves to play cards!).

Today, as I watched the washing machine churn through the pile of dirty laundry, I listened to NPR and tried to read all of the blogs and websites I normally read every day. As I digested all of this digital and audio media, the theme of ethics (or the lack thereof) emerged. Then I heard a story on NPR "Mom Bloggers Debate Ethics of 'Blog-Ola" and I groaned as mom-bloggers cross the ethical line.

With mothers controlling upwards of 80 percent of household spending, it was only a matter of time before mommy bloggers, and now Twitterers, were reviewing and promoting products and services.

Companies from Wal-Mart and Kmart to Ragu and Michelin tires work with mom bloggers, and in some cases, Gumbinner says, lines are being blurred.

The lines are blurred. Sounds like the ongoing ethical reality of social work practice as applied to the digital world. How do we establish ethical social work practice in the Web 2.0 world? How do we live up to the CSWE Core Competency
Educational Policy 2.1.2Apply social work ethical principles to guide professional practice. Social workers have an obligation to conduct themselves ethically and to engage in ethical decision-making. Social workers are knowledgeable about the value base of the profession, its ethical standards,and relevant law. Social workers

recognize and manage personal values in a way that allows professional values to guide


make ethical decisions by applying standards of the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics and, as applicable, of the International Federation of Social

Workers/International Association of Schools of Social Work Ethics in Social Work,

Statement of Principles;

tolerate ambiguity in resolving ethical conflicts; and

apply strategies of ethical reasoning to arrive at principled decisions.

At the end of the report, I heard about Blog With Integrity - then I nodded my head in approval, visited the link, and signed the pledge.

Everyone who reads blogs (or any source of information) needs to praactice critical thinking. Blog of Integrity is a great tool for critical thinking. How do you critically evaluate blogs or digital meda?

Friday, July 10, 2009


Yesterday, I worked on updating our Learning Agreement to reflect CSWE's new Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. As I worked on the form, I was able to reflect on the wisdom and value of these new standards. Each of the ten core competencies has sub-parts that gives enough detail about what social work is all about but isn't bogged down in minutia. For example, check out the third core competency:

Educational Policy 2.1.3Apply critical thinking to inform and communicate professional judgments. Social workers are knowledgeable about the principles of logic, scientific inquiry, and reasoned discernment. They use critical thinking augmented by creativity and curiosity. Critical thinking also requires the synthesis and communication of relevant information. Social workers

distinguish, appraise, and integrate multiple sources of knowledge, including research-based knowledge, and practice wisdom;

analyze models of assessment, prevention, intervention, and evaluation; and

demonstrate effective oral and written communication in working with individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, and colleagues.

I thought, "How our students will demonstrate this competency?" which then led to "How do I demonstrate this competency?" I have multiple sources of knowledge - my professional library, access to social work journals, etc - but what about practice wisdom? My traditional sources of practice wisdom
have been my network of colleagues who share their ideas about best-practices when I run into them, mostly in the office or at conferences, or via email or listservs. Recently, I have found blogs by social workers and others to be a new and vibrant source of practice wisdom. Blogs offer me a place to "use critical thinking augmented by creativity and curiosity." The blogs I follow introduce me to new professionals who share honestly about how they are dealing with the many challenges that come along with being a social worker. They are creative and inspire me to be curious; they make me laugh and cry; they make me think and reflect in a different way about social work. My professional network of sources of practice wisdom has grown exponentially.

Every morning, I love to read the local newspaper from front to back (I generally skip the Sports and Business sections). I scan for stories related to social work and often clip out something to post by my office door (poverty, child abuse, social welfare policy). Now, after reading the newspaper, I check out my favorite blogs that come via RSS to my email and then I check Social Work Blogs to see what has been posted recently. I have learned the value of leaving comments and have been learning how to establish appropriate boundaries in my digital world just like I do in my physical world. What a wonderful way to start the day!

But, I still haven't answered the question, "How do social work students demonstrate this core competency?" Maybe I have?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Check out antiSWer's comment to "Adequate is fine."
Judging student competencies is very difficult for some supervisors. My last practicum supervisor and I had lengthy conversations about the matter. The line between "meeting" and "exceeding" expectations wasn't clear to them. For example, in the area concerning understanding policy, they thought it had to do with how many policies I had memorized, rather than having an understanding about policies and how they impacted the work. It was very frustrating.
Frustrating indeed! Nothing kills our motivation to learn and grow more than unclear expectations. This also is a precursor to burn out and compassion fatiuge. This also points out the importance of social work faculty establishing clearly stated ways of measuring competence. I see the bigger challeng: keeping the focus on learning and not get caught up in the grading process.
How do you set standards that are good enough for yourself and others? How do we keep our eye on the process of learning and growing and not get caught up in the details of the way we are evauated?
Photo credit: by ShellyS