Two independent firms gather social workers’ perspectives to inform the development of competence measures for the future of social work

Print This Post

As part of our ongoing investment in creating competence measures for the future of social work, ASWB has invited social workers to share their experiences with social work licensing and the licensing exams via two independent research efforts. The community conversations, conducted by the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) closed at the end of May, and research on test mastery mindset by FifthTheory continues. ASWB will use the data and insights gathered from social workers through these initiatives to inform upcoming updates to its competence assessments. More details on the findings and corresponding next steps will be released later this year.

Community conversations

ASWB contracted with HumRRO — which collaborated with The Code Group, a woman- and Black-owned firm — to develop and implement focus groups, called community conversations, during the first half of 2023.

“These conversations allowed us to hear directly from the social work community about their experiences taking the social work exams. The information HumRRO gathered and is analyzing is a key part of our research efforts and will help inform our path forward,” said Lavina Harless, ASWB’s senior director of examination services. “Analyzing and assessing the important insights we received is an exciting step in updating social work competence measures.”

We heard from hundreds of social workers — and their voices will help guide ASWB.
— Shelly McDowell-Porter, Ph.D., LCSW

The in-person and online conversations gave social workers the opportunity to engage in rich discussions with their peers and share different understandings of the journeys taken throughout their lives. The role of a community conversation participant was to share their lived experiences, providing information about their careers, educational backgrounds, and current circumstances. We also offered the option to submit responses to a self-paced survey in writing or by video, so that anyone unable to schedule a live meeting could participate. Over the past six months, 582 social workers shared their feedback through five in-person focus group sessions, 13 online sessions, and a self-paced survey that garnered nearly 400 responses.

“We heard from hundreds of social workers — and their voices will help guide ASWB,” said Shelly McDowell-Porter, Ph.D., LCSW, who serves as the HumRRO research team’s technical advisor and manager. “Participants came from across the United States and Canada, from various professional capacities, and from different stages of their careers to share their perspectives, adding to the wide range of voices informing ASWB’s planning and development efforts.”

Test mastery mindset

Another initiative that benefits both test-takers preparing to retake a social work licensing exam and ASWB in its work to better understand the test-taking mindset is the collaboration with FifthTheory. An independent, minority-owned firm, FifthTheory brings expertise in assessment; its research-based Test Mastery Inclusion™ program is designed to help test-takers be successful on a high-stakes exam. ASWB is in the pilot phase of using the TMI program.

Beginning in January 2023, ASWB candidates who failed the exam were given an opportunity to complete a validated self-discovery questionnaire, the ASWB TestPrep Profile. This questionnaire is the foundation of the program and provides participants with a personalized report on their test mastery mindset and access to self-coaching resources. The resources are provided free to repeat test-takers. To date, more than 3,500 test-takers have completed the assessment.

FifthTheory began reporting on questionnaire results in March, sharing insights into the test preparation and test readiness mindsets of test-takers who were unsuccessful on an exam. Scores on dimensions such as motivation, responsibility, confidence, and resiliency are helping create a picture of how ASWB candidates compare to a norm group, a sampling of individuals who completed the questionnaire to provide a benchmark for comparison. The questionnaire also asks about the ways candidates prepared for licensure and the exam. ASWB will use the resulting data to help understand what kinds of support may be needed.

“As a charter sponsor of the TMI program, ASWB is offering new resources to test-takers who want to build a test mastery mindset,” says ASWB Examination Development Director Carl Hokanson, MSW, LGSW. “We are eager to learn more as data gathered from users of the program is analyzed and put to use.”

The community conversations conducted by HumRRO and the research and support activities being performed by FifthTheory are two elements of the work ASWB is investing in to update its exams and improve accessibility and support for test-takers. Additional efforts include working with psychometric experts to identify and evaluate potential alternative assessment models and funding for third-party research related to occupational and professional regulation.