Competency-based Education in Social Work: Are we there yet?


Fall 9-11-2015



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Walter Enloe

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Megan Morrissey

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Gail Trimberger


The purpose of this research was to generate an operational definition of competencybased education and then use this definition to determine the extent that the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) 2008 Educational Policy Accreditation Standards (EPAS) is a competency-based model. In 2008 CSWE moved from a content driven educational model to an outcome based model of educational delivery. As education in the United States pushes for accountability in education, educational programs across the country are attempting find innovative ways to measure the outcome of student learning. Competency-based education is one model that is favorable among many academic institutions and accreditation standards because it links theory to practice; which aligns better with liberal arts programs (Clark, 1976; Hall & Jones, 1976; Johnstone & Soares, 2014; Pace, 2013). The research indicates that there is no standard definition of competency-based education and agreement on the criteria that encompass this model (Book, 2014; Le, Wolfe, & Steinberg, 2014; Riesman, 1979). This research study reviewed the literature written on competency-based education and interviewed key informants from various disciplines and backgrounds to gain a deeper understanding of this phenomena. The data was compiled to develop a comprehensive definition of competency-based education including is components and criterion. Using this definition, a rubric was developed to perform a content analysis on CSWE’s 2008 EPAS to determine the extent that the criterion of competency-based education exists. Findings were reviewed and validated by social work educators in the field. It was determined that the 2008 EPAS is emerging as a competency-based education model but feedback from social work educators was mixed on pursuing a prescriptive model like competency-based education, as defined in this research.


Adult Education, Curriculum, Teachers/ Teaching

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