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Evaluations that matter in social work
Örebro University, School of Law, Psychology and Social Work, Örebro University, Sweden.
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

A great deal of evaluations are commissioned and conducted every year in social work, but research reports a lack of use of the evaluation results. This may depend on how the evaluations are conducted, but it may also depend on how social workers use evaluation results. The aim of this thesis is to explore and analyse evaluation practice in social work from an empirical, normative, and constructive perspective. The objectives are partly to increase the understanding of how we can produce relevant and useful knowledge for social work using evaluation results and partly, to give concrete suggestions on improvements on how to conduct evaluations. The empirical data has been organised as four cases, which are evaluations of temporary programmes in social work. The source materials are documents and interviews. The results show that findings from evaluations of temporary programmes are sparingly used in social work. Evaluations seem to have unclear intentions with less relevance for learning and improvement. In contrast, the evaluators themselves are using the data for new purposes. These empirical findings are elaborated further by using the knowledge form phronesis, which can be translated into practical wisdom. The overall conclusion is that social work is in need of knowledge that social workers find relevant and useful in practice. In order to meet these needs, researchers and evaluators must broaden their knowledge view and begin to include practical knowledge instead of solely relying on scientific knowledge when conducting evaluations. Finally, a new evaluation model is suggested. It is called phronesis-based evaluation and is argued to have great potential to address and include professionals’ praxis-based knowledge. It advocates a view that takes social work’s dynamic context into serious consideration and acknowledges values and power as important components of the evaluation process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro University , 2017. , 118 p.
Series
Örebro Studies in Social work, ISSN 1651-145X ; 19
Keyword [en]
evaluation, evaluation use, knowledge use, phronesis, scientific knowledge, praxis-based knowledge
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-56146ISBN: 978-91-7529-189-5 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-56146DiVA: diva2:1078889
Public defence
2017-04-28, Örebro universitet, Långhuset, Hörsal 1, Fakultetsgatan 1, Örebro, 10:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-03-07 Created: 2017-03-07 Last updated: 2017-05-03Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. An evaluation paradox in social work?: an empirical study of evaluation use in connection with temporary programmes in Swedish social work
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An evaluation paradox in social work?: an empirical study of evaluation use in connection with temporary programmes in Swedish social work
2014 (English)In: European Journal of Social Work, ISSN 1369-1457, E-ISSN 1468-2664, Vol. 17, no 2, 175-191 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article contributes to the debate on evaluation use by analysing temporary national programmes in Swedish social work. Previous empirical research shows a gloomy picture of evaluation use, thus supporting an evaluation paradox: evaluations are not used for learning and development, but are continually prioritised. The aim of this article is to study, through interviews and document analysis, how evaluations of temporary programmes in social work are designed and used. The results support the paradox and we found that it has two dimensions. First, evaluations are prioritised, but they function as a ritual, characterised by routine and unclear intentions, with limited relevance for professional learning and improvement. The second dimension is about limited use by those commissioning the evaluations, but the evaluators are using data for new purposes and in new contexts. This is, at best, a form of conceptual use, hopefully contributing indirectly to social work practice. The article ends in a discussion on how evaluations could be designed for learning and improvement by focusing on three normative models: utilisation-focused evaluation, responsive evaluation and evidence-based practice approach (EBP).

Abstract [sv]

Föreliggande artikel bidrar till debatten om utvärderingsanvändning genom en analys av tidsbegränsade nationella projekt med relevans för socialt arbete i Sverige. Tidigare empirisk forskning ger en mörk bild av utvärderingsanvändning och stödjer därmed en utvärderingsparadox: utvärderingar används inte för lärande och utveckling, men prioriteras ändå kontinuerligt. Artikelns syfte är att genom intervjuer och dokumentanalys undersöka hur utvärderingar av tidsbegränsade projekt i socialt arbete utformas och används. Resultatet stödjer paradoxen och vi har funnit att den har två dimensioner. För det första, utvärderingar prioriteras men de fungerar som en ritual, karaktäriserade av rutin och oklara intentioner med begränsad relevans för professionellt lärande och utveckling. Den andra dimensionen handlar om begränsad användning av dem som beställer utvärderingen, medan utvärderarna själva använder materialet för nya syften och i nya sammanhang. Det här kan som bäst betraktas som en form av konceptuell användning, vilken förhoppningsvis bidrar indirekt till det sociala arbetets praktik. Artikeln avslutas med en diskussion om hur utvärderingar skulle kunna utformas för lärande och utveckling genom att fokusera på tre normativa modeller: Pattons modell för ‘utilisation-focused evaluation’, Guba och Lincolns modell för responsiv utvärdering samt EBP.

Keyword
Social work; Evaluation design; Evaluation use; Evaluation paradox; Ritualised use, Socialt arbete; Utvärderingsdesign; Utvärderingsanvändning; Utvärderingsparadox; Ritualiserad användning
National Category
Social Work Political Science
Research subject
Social Work; Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-33482 (URN)10.1080/13691457.2013.802226 (DOI)000334059600003 ()2-s2.0-84940336681 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2014-01-31 Created: 2014-01-31 Last updated: 2017-04-06Bibliographically approved
2. Calling evidence-based practice into question: acknowledging phronetic knowledge in social work
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Calling evidence-based practice into question: acknowledging phronetic knowledge in social work
2015 (English)In: British Journal of Social Work, ISSN 0045-3102, E-ISSN 1468-263X, Vol. 45, no 5, 1581-1597 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this article, we call into question evidence-based practice as a working strategy for relevant applied knowledge in social work. We argue that evidence-based practice suffers from a dilemma whereby a narrow view of evidence is prioritised at the cost of relevance to social work. Instead, we suggest that praxis-based knowledge informed by different forms of knowledge is a better option with a greater potential to enhance the use of knowledge in social work practice. The article takes its starting point from Aristotle’s knowledge triad of episteme, techne and phronesis, and further incorporates Flyvbjerg’s perspective on a phronetic knowledge, which is value-based, context-dependent, sensitive to power relations and grounded in practical experience. We argue that phronesis is important for making social science matter in practice, and that this holds in particular for socialwork.Thepraxis-basedknowledgeapproachcan offerawiser solution to the evidence – relevance dilemma by using a broader knowledge view and thereby taking practical relevance more seriously. This article pays particular attention to ways of making the extensive evaluation activity in social work more relevant and useful from a phronetic evaluation perspective.

Keyword
phronesis, episteme, evidence-based practice, praxis-based knowledge
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-42259 (URN)10.1093/bjsw/bcu020 (DOI)000359085500013 ()2-s2.0-84938313976 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2015-01-29 Created: 2015-01-29 Last updated: 2017-04-06Bibliographically approved
3. Phronesis-Based Evaluation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Phronesis-Based Evaluation
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Social Work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-56964 (URN)
Available from: 2017-04-06 Created: 2017-04-06 Last updated: 2017-04-06Bibliographically approved

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