Formerly IGSW News | VOLUME 21 | SUMMER 2014

From the Director

What do practitioners want and need?

A Look at Quality, Effectiveness of Continuing
Professional Education for Social Work in the U.S.

By Scott Miyake Geron

ScottThis summer I've been reading and thinking a lot about continuing professional education—not surprising considering what we do here. Over the past three years, I've worked with Betty Ruth and Mark Gianino, colleagues and fellow researchers at the BU School of Social Work, to conduct a study of the current quality and effectiveness of the continuing professional education system for social work in the United States. The study, commissioned by the Association of Social Work Boards' American Foundation for Research and Consumer Education in Social Work Regulation, included a national survey of states and Canadian provinces, and an in-depth examination of a single state, to understand what works and what doesn't. Right now, I'm most impressed by what practitioners in the focus groups, led by Mark Gianino, said they want and need from continuing education and why. For example:

How to actually use it. "Talking about how you're going to integrate it, to me that's really the whole point of continuing education. It's learning content and then figuring out how to actually use it when you're sitting with a real-live human being who's suffering." —Practitioner

Something new. "I want to see things that I've never seen in my work now, so that's really what draws me in." —Practitioner

Core values. "…I think the danger is of losing sight of some important…core value [such as] social justice and how that relates to what we do." —Practitioner

The study reveals a great deal about the strengths and weaknesses of the continuing professional education system, and not just in social work but in most health and social service professions. I'll keep you posted as we put together our final report and make our recommendations. Keeping in mind the value of learning what's new and how to integrate it into practice based on our core values is not a bad place to start.

Scott Miyake Geron is director of the Center for Aging & Disability Education & Research and associate professor at Boston University.

Boston University photo of Scott Miyake Geron

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Copyright © 2014 Trustees of Boston University. All rights reserved. This article may not be duplicated or distributed in any form without written permission from the publisher: Center for Aging & Disability Education & Research, Boston University School of Social Work, 264 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215, U.S.A.; e-mail: