Engaging MSW Students in Policy Practice

Evaluation of Civic and Course-Learning Outcomes

  • Younghee Lim University of Mississippi
  • Mi-Youn Yang
  • Elaine M. Maccio
  • Trey Bickham
Keywords: Policy practice efficacy, service-learning outcomes, course-learning outcomes, competence


Social policy courses are a staple in social work curricula, particularly in graduate-level social work education. Indeed, policy practice is among the nine social work competencies stipulated by the Council on Social Work Education. The purpose of the present study is to measure the effectiveness of service-learning over traditional-learning methods in obtaining civic and course-learning outcomes. This study utilized a purposive sample of 89 graduate-level social work students enrolled in advanced social policy courses (30 in a service-learning section, and 59 in traditional sections). Employing a quasi-experimental design, this study found that service-learning is associated with better civic and course-learning outcomes. Service-learning may be utilized to enhance policy practice efficacy based on knowledge, skills, values, and competence. 

Author Biography

Younghee Lim, University of Mississippi
Younghee Lim is an associate professor in the department of social work.


Abes, E. S., Jackson, G., & Jones, S. R. (2002). Factors that motivate and deter faculty use of service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 9, 5-17. Retrieved from https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/p/pod/dod-idx/factors-that-motivate-and-deter-faculty-use-of-service.pdf?c=mjcsl;idno=3239521.0009.101;format=pdf

Ames, N., & Diepstra, S. A. (2006). Using intergenerational oral history service-learning projects to teach human behavior concepts: A qualitative analysis. Educational Gerontology, 32, 721-735. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/03601270600835447

Anderson, D. K. (2006). Mucking through the swamp: Changing the pedagogy of a social welfare policy course. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 26(1/2), 1-17. doi: https://doi.org/10.1300/J067v26n01_01

Anderson, D. K., & Harris, B. M. (2005). Teaching social welfare policy: A comparison of two pedagogical approaches. Journal of Social Work Education, 41(3), 511-526. doi: https://doi.org/10.5175/JSWE.2005.200303120

Anderson, D. K., Langer, C. W., Furman, R., & Bender, K. (2005). Using film to teach social welfare policy. Advances in Social Work, 6(2), 253-265.

Bhargava, S., & Manoli, D. (2015). Psychological frictions and the incomplete take-up of social benefits: Evidence from an IRS field experiment. American Economic Review, 105(11), 3489-3529. doi: https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.20121493

Blouin, D. D., & Perry, E. M. (2009). Whom does service-learning really serve? Community-based organizations’ perspectives on service learning. Teaching Sociology, 37(2), 120-135. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0092055X0903700201

Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (1995). A service-learning curriculum for faculty. Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning, 2, 112-122.

Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (1996). Implementing service-learning in higher education. Journal of Higher Education, 67, 221-239. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/2943981

Byers, L. G., & Gray, K. (2012). The meaning of service learning in an MSW course. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 32(3), 257-267. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2012.688095

Campus Compact. (n.d.). Service-learning in the disciplines. Retrieved from Stylus Publishing website: https://styluspub.presswarehouse.com/Books/SearchResults.aspx?str=service-learning+in+the+disciplines

Cipolle, S. B. (2010). Service-learning and social justice: Engaging students in social change. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Cohen, J. (1988), Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Cooperative Education and Internship Association. (n.d.). History of cooperative education and internships 2013. Retrieved from https://www.ceiainc.org/about/history/

Council on Social Work Education. (2015). 2015 Educational policy and accreditation standards for baccalaureate and master’s social work programs. Retrieved from http://www.cswe.org/File.aspx?id=81660

Cronley, C., Madden, E., Davis, J., & Prebele, K. (2014). Factors influencing service-learning utilization in social work: Results from an online survey of faculty. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 34(2), 147-166. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2014.890692

Droppa, D. C. (2007a). Social welfare policy and services: Service learning through social policy projects in human service organizations. In M. Nadel, V. Majewski, & M. Sullivan-Cosetti (Eds.), Social work and service learning: Partnerships for social justice (pp. 61-75). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Droppa, D. C. (2007b). Developing student competency in policy practice through policy projects in human service organizations. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, 12(2), 83-97. doi: https://doi.org/10.18084/1084-7219.12.283

Duke University. (2018). Service-learning. Retrieved from https://servicelearning.duke.edu/

Figueira-McDonough, J. (1993). Policy practice: The neglected side of social work intervention. Social Work, 38, 179-188.

Forte, J. A. (1997). Calling students to serve the homeless: A project to promote altruism and community service. Journal of Social Work Education, 33(1), 151-166. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.1997.10778860

Gordon, E. B. (1994). Promoting the relevance of policy to practice: Using the ADA to teach social policy. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 10(1-2), 165-176. doi: https://doi.org/10.1300/J067v10n01_11

Gutheil, I. A., Chernesky, R. H., & Sherratt, M. L. (2006). Influencing student attitudes toward older adults: Results of a service-learning collaboration. Educational Gerontology, 32, 771-784. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/03601270600835470

Henman, P. (2012). Making social policy “sexy”: Evaluating a teaching innovation. Australian Social Work, 65(3), 341-354. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2011.652139

Hou, S., & Wilder, S. (2015). Faculty adoption of service-learning: Motivations, barriers, and strategies among service-learning faculty at a public research institution. SAGE Open, 5(1), 1-7. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244015572283

Jaeger, A. J., & Thornton, C. H. (2006). Neither honor nor compensation: Faculty and public service. Educational Policy, 20(2), 345-366. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0895904805284050

Jansson, B. (2013). Becoming an effective policy advocate (7th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Karasik, R. J., & Wallingford, M. S. (2007). Finding community: Developing and maintaining effective intergenerational service-learning partnerships. Educational Gerontology, 33, 775-793. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/03601270701498475

Kielsmeier, J. C., Scales, P. C., Roehlkepartain, E. C., & Neal, M. (2004). Community service and service-learning in public schools. Reclaiming Children & Youth, 13(3), 138-143.

Kilbane, T., Freire, P. R., Hong, P. Y. P., & Pryce, J. M. (2014). A case-based collaborative learning model for teaching advocacy. Social Work Education, 33(8), 1054-1069. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2014.937415

Lim, Y. (2015). SW 7504: Advanced Social Policy [Syllabus]. Baton Rouge: School of Social Work, Louisiana State University.

Lim, Y., Maccio, E. M., Bickham, T., & Dabney, W. F. (2017). Research-based service-learning: Outcomes of a social policy course. Social Work Education, 36(7), 809-822. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2017.1350639

Lu, Y., & Lambright, K. T. (2010). Looking beyond the undergraduate classroom: Factors influencing service learning’s effectiveness at improving graduate students’ professional skills. College Teaching, 58(4), 118-126. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/87567550903583777

Macke, C., Taylor, J. A., & Taylor, J. (2013). Using team-based learning to teach social work research, human behavior, and policy. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, 18(Suppl. 1), 63-75.

Madden, E. E., Davis, J., & Cronley, C. (2014). A comparative analysis of service learning in social work and criminal justice education. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(5), 470-483. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2014.880680

Mercier, L., Harold, R., Johnson, K., & Pond, D. (2016). LGBT family camp as cultural immersion for social work students. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, 21(1), 97-115. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.18084/1084-7219.21.1.97

Miller, S. E., Tice, C. J., & Harnek Hall, D. M. (2008). The generalist model: Where do the micro and macro converge? Advances in Social Work, 9(2), 79-90.

Moore, D. T. (2010). Forms and issues in experiential learning. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 2010(124), 3-13. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.415

Parker-Gwin, R., & Mabry, J. B. (1998). Service learning as pedagogy and civic education: Comparing outcomes for three models. Teaching Sociology, 26, 276-291. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/1318768

Peterson, T. H. (2009). Engaged scholarship: Reflections and research on the pedagogy of social change. Teaching in Higher Education, 14(5), 541-552. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/13562510903186741

Plueger, D. (2009). Earned income tax credit participation rate for tax year 2005. Retrieved from U.S. Internal Revenue Service website: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/09resconeitcpart.pdf

Purdue University. (2018). Service learning: Service learning assessment tools. Retrieved from http://guides.lib.purdue.edu/c.php?g=352961&p=2378210

Rocha, C. J. (2000). Evaluating experiential teaching methods in a policy practice course: The case for service learning to increase political participation. Journal of Social Work Education, 36(1), 53-63. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2000.10778989

Rocha, C. J., & Johnson, A. K. (1997). Teaching family policy through a policy practice framework. Journal of Social Work Education, 33(3), 433-444. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.1997.10778884

Roemer, C. M. (2000). Associations of civic attitudes in service learning [Master’s thesis]. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/slcedt/50/

Sather, P., Carlson, P., & Weitz, B. (2007). Research: Infusing service learning into research, social policy, and community-based practice. In M. Nadel, V. Majewski, & M. Sullivan-Cosetti (Eds.), Social work and service learning: Partnerships for social justice (pp. 93-105). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Stanton, T. K., Giles, D. E., Jr., & Cruz, N. I. (1999). Service-learning: A movement’s pioneers reflect on its origins, practice, and future. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Uehara, E., Flynn, M., Fong, R., Brekke, J., Barth, R. P., Coulton, C.,…Walters, K. (2013). Grand challenges for social work. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 4(3), 165-170. doi: https://doi.org/10.5243/jsswr.2013.11

U.S. Census Bureau. (n.d.). QuickFacts: Louisiana. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/22033,22,00

U.S. Internal Revenue Service. (2015a). 2015 EITC income limits, maximum credit amounts and tax law updates. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/individuals/earned-income-tax-credit/eitc-income-limits-maximum-credit-amounts

U.S. Internal Revenue Service. (2015b). Free tax return preparation for qualifying taxpayers. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-you-by-volunteers

Weiss-Gal, I., & Gal, J. (2008). Social workers and policy practice: The role of social and professional values. Journal of Social Service Research, 34(4), 15-27. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/01488370802162301

Wells, M. (2006). Making statistics “real” for social work students. Journal of Social Work Education, 42, 397-404. doi: https://doi.org/10.5175/JSWE.2006.200400466

Williams, N. R., King, M., & Koob, J. J. (2002). Social work students go to camp: The effects of service-learning on perceived self-efficacy. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 22, 55-70. doi: https://doi.org/10.1300/J067v22n03_05

Young, J. (2014). iPolicy: Exploring and evaluating the use of iPads in a social welfare policy course. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 32(1/2), 39-53. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/15228835.2013.860366