To develop the Curricular Guide for Licensing and Regulation, task force volunteers sat on nine committees, each focused on one of the nine 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. Serving on the steering committee were Dianna Cooper-Bolinskey, D.H.S., MSW, and Anwar Najor-Durack, Ph.D., LMSW. Cooper-Bolinskey, who chaired the volunteers assigned to Competency 4, Engage in Practice-informed and Research-informed Practice, and lent expertise to those working on Competency 5, Engage in Policy Practice, serves on the faculty of the department of social work in the School of Public Service Leadership at Capella University. Najor-Durack, director of field education and assistant professor at Wayne State University School of Social Work, chaired the committee creating content for EPAS Competency 8, Intervene with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities. Here, these two leaders reflect on aspects of creating and sharing the guide. Cooper-Bolinskey witnessed committee members making new connections and changing their perspectives while Najor-Durack, a former regulator in Michigan and an early participant in ASWB’s Path to Licensure program, describes how the guide is being embraced at her school.
Good teachers know that helping others have a moment of realization—an “ah-ha”— means taking them on the same journey they themselves travel when learning something new. Merely delivering information about a new perspective is unlikely to be enough. That’s the approach Cooper-Bolinskey took as she led volunteers working to create activities and assignments around licensing and regulation related to CSWE’s EPAS competencies. She decided to take a leadership role in developing the guide because of “a belief in the value of licensure within the profession and having some level of investment in helping others see the same value.” But because each committee member brought different perspectives and understanding of the value of licensure and regulation, she knew she would need to proceed carefully.
“I did not want to narrow the definition of ‘the work’ too quickly,” Cooper-Bolinskey said. “[That] might have led the committee to follow my thoughts.” Rather, she hoped members would interpret and develop their own approaches. Committee members participated in several talking sessions and later worked independently. “During these meetings, we shared ideas, questioned each other to develop a better understanding of the ideas of others, and brainstormed,” she said. “Each committee member completed his or her own research, designed assignments and activities from their own experiences and perspectives, and then shared with the group. The process was evolutionary, and at multiple points along the way, each member had ‘ah-ha’ moments that influenced the next level of our overall work.” This period of committee work was followed by a two-day workshop in Alexandria, Virginia, that brought together all the committees to refine and expand their work.
Working together in this way also helped inform the activities and assignments the volunteers produced for the guide. “Perhaps one of the most important steps was acknowledging our own struggles with the process,” Cooper-Bolinskey said. Committee members knew they needed to make sure they were offering students an opportunity to “walk this process” as well so they too could learn to embrace and understand licensure and regulation of the social work profession.
Making this type of effective learning available to social work professors, as the curricular guide does, appeals to Najor-Durack. Having participated in Path to Licensure for several years, Najor-Durack understands how the curricular guide will make it easy for faculty members to infuse learning about licensure and regulation into their lesson plans. At Wayne State University, she said, “there are some classes, such as the field seminar and practice methods, where license content fits better. Faculty for those classes will have ready material they can use to support their classes.”
Communicating to faculty about the curricular guide is critical. Najor-Durack said, “We sent a link to the guide to all of our faculty members—both full and part-time—to encourage them to review and see how they might use information and/or material (e.g., assignments, resources, vignettes, etc.) in their classes.” Then they followed up with faculty whose course descriptions are closely linked to the areas of licensure and regulation. “We sent another email with a reminder that the guide has example assignments and material they may easily adapt in their classes.”
In both the creation of the Curricular Guide for Licensing and Regulation and its use with students, the value of perspective-taking in teaching and learning is at the forefront. The resulting document, Najor-Durack says, “provides a clear linkage between CSWE competencies and the importance of being a licensed social work practitioner.”