Choosing and Using Single-System Design
Many people receive their first introduction to the scientific method in their early school years. The first experiments which students undertake typically involve plants, chemicals, or small animals in a tightly controlled experimental environment. These experiments enable students to establish a relatively clear cause-and-effect relationship between the outcome of the experiment and the manipulation of the variables.
As soon as a researcher introduces a human element, proving a cause and effect relationship becomes more difficult—as the researcher cannot enact total control of another person even in an experimental environment. Social workers serve clients in highly complex real-world environments. Clients often implement recommended interventions outside of social workers’ direct observation. Yet, evidence-based research calls for social workers to establish cause-and-effect relations between selected interventions and client outcomes as much possible. To meet this challenge, social workers must understand the study designs available to them and all of the variations of that design that can increase the rigor of the experiment and improve the likelihood of verifying a cause-and-effect relationship.
In this week’s case study, you decide whether the social worker in the case study has appropriately chosen a single-system design and implemented it in such a way that it can be considered an appropriate example of evidence-based research.
- Read the case study Social Work Research: Single Subject and criteria for using single-system designs as evidence of effective practices in this week’s resources.
- Consider whether the study design described in the case study will serve the purpose of evaluating the program’s practice approach (case management with solution-focused and task-centered approaches).
- Consider whether these approaches are well suited to evaluation by the types of measurement used in the study.
- Consider to what objective measurement the numerical scales used to measure problem-change and task completion corresponds.
- Consider what new knowledge and evidence for the efficacy of the treatment approaches Chris has generated with her study.
- Write an evaluation of the proposed study design described in the case study file.
- Explain whether the outcome of Chris’ study with her client George would lead you to adopt the model of case management with solution-focused and task-centered approaches, and substantiate your choice.
Provide recommendations for improvements should Chris and her colleagues wish to submit the study to the evidence-based practice registry. Include a rationale for your recommendations.
Resources to be used:
Dudley, J. R. (2020). Social work evaluation: Enhancing what we do (3rd ed.) Oxford University Press.
Chapter 9, “Is the Intervention Effective?” (pp. 236–241: Read from “Client Satisfaction & Effectiveness” to “Target Problem Scale”)
Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen S. (Eds.). (2014b). Social work case studies: Concentration year. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing. [Vital Source e-reader].
Read the following section:
“Social Work Research: Single Subject” (pp. 70–72)