Carol S. Cohen, DSW
Professor, Adelphi University School of Social Work

Evaluation is a critical component of any educational innovation, and we believe that this evaluation will yield important findings to guide the future development of the Real Cases Project. We have developed both formal and informal systems to collect feedback about how the Real Cases and Teaching Guides are used. We will be looking at the impact, evolution, relevance, and need for adaptation of the Project to curricular interventions in Child Welfare and other fields of social work. Through a combination of evaluation approaches, we anticipate conducting ongoing and rigorous study of the Project in relation to its process, outcomes and contribution.

Formal Evaluation

Faculty members are asked to voluntarily participate in the Real Cases Project evaluation, and encourage their students to participate in the evaluation as well. Faculty members are free to use Project materials in their classes without permission, and the evaluation will not interfere with this process. Faculty and students are asked to complete and submit Feedback Surveys on their experience. There are no consequences to non-participation in the evaluation, and it is not possible to identify who do not participate in the evaluation.

Faculty Feedback Surveys include questions regarding the degree to which the use of the cases and teaching guide helped achieve objectives of the Real Cases Project. Next, faculty members are asked to rate and explain the helpfulness of the guide they used. In addition, faculty members are asked to rate and explain the level of difficulty in integrating the case studies, and strategies and activities that worked and did not work in the class. The last question asks for additional narrative feedback, and permission to post feedback on the web.

Faculty members are asked to engage their students in the evaluation process, by asking them to complete voluntary Student Feedback Survey, either on-line or in hard copy. Student Feedback Surveys parallel those completed by faculty, with questions regarding the degree to which objectives of the Real Case Project have been achieved, and the degree to which course learning was enhanced by the use of the case studies.

Students are also asked for narrative suggestions and feedback, whether they have heard about the cases in any other courses, and whether they agree to have their feedback posted on the web. It is anticipated that it will take respondents between 5 and 20 minutes to complete the faculty or student survey.

Electronic survey forms are available for faculty and students. These forms can be completed and submitted electronically, or can be downloaded and mailed. Electronic submission is preferred. Survey forms are also presented in hard copy as part of this document. These forms can be duplicated and submitted by mail, as indicated on the form.

Faculty members are asked to voluntarily identify themselves with their feedback. Anonymity of student responses is limited to the extent that respondents will be asked which social work education program they are from, and in which course they experienced elements of the Real Cases Project. When using paper documents, Student Feedback Surveys can be mailed together in a single envelope, with or separate from the Faculty Feedback Survey.

Evaluation survey responses will be held confidential, in that only Dr. Carol Cohen and designated evaluation assistants will have access to the feedback sheets in the event they are mailed or submitted electronically. All responses will be held securely, in a locked file and the use of encrypted electronic storage. Consent to participate in the evaluation is signified by submission of a Feedback Survey.

We will construct a digest of quantitative and qualitative responses, and work with Real Cases Project Committee members in the analysis of quantitative data and themes in the qualitative responses. Findings and themes will be shared with members of the Social Work Education Consortium of New York and teaching guide authors to gather their thoughts about the feedback from faculty and student users.

We anticipate that the feedback and experience of respondents will be valuable to faculty members as they formulate their own plans to use the Real Cases Project in their classes. Therefore, all respondents (faculty and students) will be asked if they would like to have their feedback posted on the Project website. If respondents select the option to post open feedback on the website, their feedback will be grouped and identified only by course in which the material was used.

The formal evaluation’s purposes and research methods were reviewed by an Institutional Review Board for the protection of human subjects. The evaluation was found to have “exempt status”, since it focuses on understanding the impact and gathering feedback on instructional strategies incorporated into established social work education classes.

In summary, this evaluation is part of an educational process to gather voluntary feedback from social work faculty and students about the infusion of child welfare content across social work courses. As such, there are minimal risks to participation. Students and faculty are encouraged to contact Dr. Cohen at, regarding any questions they have about the evaluation. Faculty participants are welcome to discuss the Real Cases Project with many persons who are ready to answer questions about the Real Cases Project, including Dr. Cohen, members of the Social Work Education Consortium, authors of teaching guides, and administrators in the New York City Administration of Children’s Services.

Informal Evaluation

Informally, representatives of the member social work programs in the Social Work Education Consortium participate in ongoing meetings, at which they share feedback about the utilization and evaluation of Real Cases and Teaching Guides in their home institutions. We expect this discussion loop to continue, focusing on all aspects of the Real Cases Project and its future evolution.

Through the process of developing the teaching guides, many of the authors used the cases in their classroom, to pilot teaching strategies and activities. Reports on this pilot testing have enriched the guides, and have provided critical early feedback on the overall Real Cases Project. Preliminary reports suggest that students can apply the cases to learn course content through the use of thoughtful learning strategies. We will explore ways to further encourage community dialogue, including the feasibility of a bulletin board posting function through the Real Cases Project website in the future.

The Real Cases Project is Copyright Protected: Materials are available for social work educational purposes without permission, but must include attribution to the Real Cases Project, including the Website address:, and Sponsors: New York City Social Work Education Consortium and New York City Administration for Children's Services. Website and hosting provided by Adelphi University School of Social Work.
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