In the 1999 AEA conference, a roundtable session was held on social work evaluation where participants unanimously agreed to work towards setting up a Social Work TIG with AEA, which was set up at the 2001 conference, and held its first business meeting in 2002. At the present time, there are over 300 AEA members who have participated in the TIG’s activities. The Social Work TIG encourages social workers and evaluators of social work practice to join the AEA and to collaborate with evaluators from other disciplines in order to develop evaluation approaches relevant to the evaluation of practice. The pressures on social work practice to demonstrate effectiveness have continued to grow, and in response to these pressures, there has been a growing interest in evidence-based practice and other strategies for the evaluation of social work programs, as indicated by the growth in membership of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) and the AEA.
TIG Purpose. The overall purpose of the TIG is to provide a focal point for AEA member who are social workers/social work academics/researchers and/or evaluators of social work programs in order to:
- Improve evaluation practices and methods within social work
- Increase evaluation use in social work practice
- Promote evaluation as a profession that has much to offer social workers
- Support the contribution of evaluation to the generation of theory and knowledge about effective human action, including social work practice
- Promote AEA amongst colleagues interested in the evaluation of social work practice, and to encourage them to join AEA in order to develop the TIG’s purposes
- Promote resources for social workers to pursue evaluation research
- Improve teaching of evaluation in social work education
- Improve resources for evaluation training for social workers
The TIG works with existing AEA members and encourages others interested in this field to join AEA and to develop the evaluation practices and evaluation methods relevant for social work practice. In this process, the TIG is inclusive in promoting all evaluation research paradigms (e.g. empirical, interpretivist, pragmatist, and realist) that help to develop the effectiveness of social work practice.
The TIG encourages evaluators in social work to collaborate with other evaluators within AEA in order to promote good practice in evaluation, and to increase the use of evaluation both as external and internal evaluators of social work practice. Evaluation is a discipline in its own right; and at the same time, it permeates other human professions. The development of social work practice evaluators helps to promote the AEA’s purpose of promoting evaluation as a profession, and help social workers to join this profession. Social work practice is one arena where there is a direct relationship between evaluation research and the development of social work knowledge and practice based on the findings from evaluation. This trend is exemplified in the two major related movements, within and without the profession, known as empirical clinical practice and evidence-based practice. The Social Work TIG helps to develop these movements, and to promote the overall contribution of evaluation in this regard.