Assessing practice: the OSCE adapted for social work

photo of Imogen Taylor

Professor Imogen Taylor, University of Sussex, reports on the first seminar in a new series hosted by the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at which she was discussant. (332 words)

Professor Marion Bogo from the University of Toronto Faculty of Social Work gave the first of the new Social Work Seminar Series at King’s College London on Tuesday 5 May on the topic of the use of the OSCE, an Objective Structured Clinical Exam, in social work.

The invited audience for this virtual seminar [these are Prof Bogo’s presentation slides] came from social work policy, education, research and practice, including key members of stakeholder groups, to hear about the use of the OSCE in North America and debate its application to social work in England.  We learned that the OSCE was initially developed in medical education in the 1970s in Scotland and has been adopted by other health related professions. In North America, it is now being piloted and researched in social work. The essence of the social work OSCE is two-fold: first, practice competence is directly observed and assessed in 15-minute simulated interviews with standardised clients/users played by actors trained to enact the role of a client scenario; second, immediately post-interview, ‘meta-competences’ are assessed  in a rating of the students’ critical reflection on their practice, how they linked theory to practice and what they planned to take forward from the experience.

Prof Bogo (left, in Toronto) addressed seminar participants at King’s College London via video link

Prof Bogo (left, in Toronto) addressed seminar participants at King’s via video link

In discussing the applicability of the approach to social work in England, Professor Bogo stressed the requirements for a shared clarity about what is meant by ‘competence’, and for the use of trained actors and assessors. The important issue of funding any development of the model was also emphasised.

In light of the current complexities of social work practice assessment in England, Professor Bogo strongly encouraged we begin any change process by developing pilots. The buzz of audience participation suggested an engaged and excited audience who recognised the timeliness and potential value of the approach and the possibilities for building on some of what we already do. This seminar has set the bar high for the rest of the series!

Professor Imogen Taylor, is Emeritus Professor (Social Work and Social Care) at the University of Sussex. She was discussant and (with Prof Jill Manthorpe) co-chair of the seminar. She has collaborated with Professor Bogo on several social work education projects.

Marion Bogo is Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. Download her presentation from the seminar.

Others at the seminar included Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, Mary Keating of Skills for Care, and, representing The College of Social Work, Hilary Tompsett. Mary Baginsky of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit convened the seminar.

This was the first in a new seminar series (by invitation only) from the Social Care Workforce Research Unit.

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