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What can we learn about social work assessment from the textbooks?

Crisp, B. and Anderson, M. and Orme, J. and Green Lister, Pam (2006) What can we learn about social work assessment from the textbooks? Journal of Social Work, 6 (3). pp. 337-359. ISSN 1468-0173

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Although often criticized for inadequacies, textbooks are both highly influential and a readily available source of information about contemporary thinking in social work theory and practice. As part of a series of studies about facilitating learning and teaching about assessment in social work, the authors have been conducting a review of how this professional task is presented in textbooks which are currently known to be used in programmes of social work education in the UK. Relevant chapters of each of the selected textbooks were subjected to an in-depth analysis in order to determine how assessment was understood, assessment processes, relevance to the UK practice context and evidence bases. What are considered the key issues in, and skills required for, social work assessment are contested, with considerable variety between textbooks as to the extent of detail and topics covered in relation to assessment. Some issues which are prominent in the policy context, such as the need to ensure the involvement of service user and carer perspectives, and multidisciplinary assessment, were hardly mentioned. Changes in emphasis over time and differences in emphasis between textbooks published in the UK and North America were found. Given the many differences in emphasis and depth of content between textbooks ostensibly outlining the same aspects of practice, it is essential that educators have a clear rationale for recommending particular textbooks.