Social Work Philosophy of Science and Social Work
by
Martin Bloom
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 October 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0100

Introduction

Social work is, or ought to be, an empirically based, theoretically guided, value-infused practice that helps clients resolve their own challenges (problems or possibilities) in a way that is acceptable within an appropriate sociocultural context. There is nothing in this general definition of the profession that demands any necessary connection to a philosophy of science. Philosophy of science is a study of the abstract tools and methods (in contrast with empirical ones) with regard to understanding the nature of the science, with the emphasis here on the social sciences. This involves using epistemology (the study of knowledge and its tools for understanding, such as how concepts, propositions, and theories are used in science), ethics (the study of right or moral conduct, including the subtopic of ethical duties of helping professionals), logic (the study of valid and invalid forms of reasoning, as distinguished from its content), and, last but not least, metaphysics (the study of the nature of ultimate reality, including such charming topics as the relationship between “mind” and matter, fact and value, and substance versus visible attributes of substance. Very few social workers likely know about these topics (except professional ethics), and fewer still make use of them in daily practice. Social workers don’t ordinarily lose sleep over questions of what exists (in “reality” or in our “minds” where we construct that reality). What do we know” Do we only know what we can perceive, or are abstract concepts like neurosis or wellness “real?” What is the nature of good practice? For example, Is helping a client obtain her pittance from welfare or overturning the system to demand fair treatment for all good practice? Philosophy of science is developed largely in academic settings to address a variety of complex ideas, not people or things as such. This separation is unfortunate, because social work has much to learn about its scientific bases and how these influence its practice and its evaluation choices; and philosophy of science may benefit by the posing of new kinds of socially useful questions involving living people, semi-living organizations, and comatose nations. This bibliographic article is in the uncomfortable position of having to introduce some readers to very unfamiliar territory, while at the same time providing others with coverage in depth on these same topics. The compromise that will be used is to present one introductory text on each of the several topics discussed below, along with ample citations for going into greater depth.

History of Philosophy and the History of Philosophy of Science

This section will present materials on the history of the search for “wisdom” (philosophy) and the history seeking the correct intellectual tools with which to conduct this search (philosophy of science). Russell 1945 is a vast introductory history that covers the range of Western philosophy, from the pre-Socratics to a brief look at logical analysis, while Heilbroner 1953 is a very readable book that focuses on great economic thinkers, from Adam Smith to Joseph Schumpeter. Burtt 1955 addresses the history leading to modern physical science, while Gleick 2011 leads the reader through the fascinating maze of the history of information technology and thought. With Rosenberg 2000, readers can begin to grasp the outlines of major intellectual movements in the philosophy of science in modern times. Howard 2000 offers a briefer perspective on this same theme. Kuhn 1970 represents both a history of science and a critical analysis of it, introducing terms such as “paradigm shift,” and reflecting revolutionary changes in what scientists think about, in contrast to how they perform their normal (everyday) scientific efforts. Durkheim 1951, in effect, represents a specific instance of a major shift in the social sciences, using statistical analyses for sociological theory-building.

  • Burtt, Edwin Arthur. 1955. The metaphysical foundations of modern physical science. Rev. ed. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

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    Originally published in 1926. This book provides interesting insights into the origins and developments that led to modern science. We follow Kepler, Copernicus, and Galileo as they preceded step by step (including some false steps) toward creating the tools that astronomers and rocket scientists use to this day. Physical scientists will find this volume of much interest; others can also profit from this perspective on how metaphysical ideas facilitate or limit what physical scientists do.

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    • Durkheim, Émile. 1951. Suicide: A study in sociology. New York: Free Press.

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      Originally published in 1897. Durkheim’s astonishing but carefully researched book caused a major revision in thinking about the nature of the human condition, with abstract sociological-level forces and structures producing concrete empirical facts (called social facts, like suicide rates, which were shown to be relatively constant over time and place). These abstract concepts and propositions led to new ways of understanding (recognizing) and acting on social problems, without reducing them to psychological factors.

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      • Gleick, James. 2011. The information: A history, a theory, a flood. New York: Pantheon.

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        This book presents the history of information technology, and how information became the major characteristic of the modern world. It travels from the invention of writing; to Charles Babbidge, who invented a prototype of the computer, and his pal, the Lady Ada Lovelace, who developed the mathematical programs for this computer; all the way to contemporary times and the genius of Claude Shannon (who created information theory itself). Not an easy journey, but a fascinating one.

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        • Heilbroner, Robert L. 1953. The worldly philosophers: The lives, times, and ideas of the great economic thinkers. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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          This highly accessible book discusses the ideas of the major economic thinkers, from the “wonderful world” of Adam Smith and the “gloomy world” of Parson Malthus, to the “beautiful world” of utopian socialists like John Stuart Mill, to the “inexorable world” of Karl Marx and the “savage world” of Thorstein Veblen, and finally to the “modern world” of Joseph Schumpter, all of whose ideas social workers ought to understand, because they underlie, directly or indirectly, all of the social structures in which and through which practitioners work.

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          • Howard, George S. 2000. Philosophy of science. In Encyclopedia of psychology. Vol. 6. Edited by Alan E. Kazdin, 180–184. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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            This entry is a brief survey of advances in the philosophy of science, from the late 19th century to contemporary times. Major players in this development are Bertrand Russell, with his theories of mathematics and logical atomism, leading to logical positivism, and the Vienna Circle of philosophers. Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, and other philosophers and scientists are briefly discussed.

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            • Kuhn, Thomas. 1970. The structure of scientific revolutions. 2d ed. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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              Kuhn’s book sold over a million copies and influenced thousands of scholars and students. His thesis on the nature of scientific change suggests that a given paradigm (roughly, a general way of looking at problems, and what solutions are compatible with this perspective) generates puzzles to be solved by scientists (this is the normal or ordinary activity of scientists). However, as anomalies emerge from the work of these scientists, the paradigm itself becomes questioned—an indication of a crisis in science. Out of this crisis emerges a new paradigm that is better able to solve current puzzles, and adds new ones as well.

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              • Rosenberg, Alex. 2000. Philosophy of science: A contemporary introduction. London: Routledge.

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                This is a relatively accessible introduction to complex topics. The author suggests that philosophy of science begins where science leaves off, as well as with normative or value questions, which science does not. From Newton to Darwin, science constructed a deterministic lawful world. In the 20th century, scientists and philosophers rediscovered complexity and uncertainty, and they used abstract tools to approximate answers for extraordinarily intertwined concrete questions.

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                • Russell, Bertrand. 1945. A history of western philosophy. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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                  This introduction to the history of philosophy covers major philosophers in the Western world, from Plato and Aristotle, through Leibniz, Spinoza, and Descartes, to an all-too-brief commentary on logical analysis by Bertrand Russell and friends. Russell has nothing to say about Godel, whose metamathematics undid Russell’s mathematical model. (See Gleick 2011)

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                  History of Social Work

                  Social work students learn some of the history of their profession, but probably not all of it, since some themes are controversial and dispute the nice clean image in which the profession wishes to see itself. This section of the bibliography will introduce readers to a variety of perspectives on the profession, positive and negative, because social workers need to recognize both perspectives in which they work (and where their clients live). First, Trattner 1999 presents the classical overview of American social work, with many important facts about its development and progress, and its regressions. What is so important about this type of book is the insight and sense of coherence it gives to the mass of details of the time period we are living in, while also presenting the historical background that led to these current events. Ehrenreich 1985 addresses the critical duality in social work thought and action—as an agent of social reform in a society that itself causes the apparent personal problems, or as an agent of social control where professionalized social workers are to help clients resolve the problems they themselves caused. As a special note, the National Association of Social Workers and the Council on Social Work Education sponsored a video, Legacies of Social Change: 100 Years of Professional Social Work in the United States, by John V. O’Neill. This video focuses on major figures in the history of social work, from Jane Addams, through the Roosevelt era, when social workers such as Harry Hopkins, Francis Perkins, and Jane Hoey developed major policies and programs, to recent figures like Whitney Young. Bremner 1974 contains a vast amount of primary source materials for the history of children and youth in America, including such topics as child labor, education, health care, juvenile delinquency, and others. There are literally thousands of documents, which constitute an invaluable resource to flesh out the brief mentions of events in the general history books mentioned above. Payne 2005 draws a larger international picture of the history of social work, and of its limitations when one conceives of social work as a Western invention. For another international perspective, Healy 2001 reviews the place of social work as a profession addressing human need, in comparison with a profession that should be in the vanguard in addressing human rights, with special reference to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Reisch and Andrews 2002 discusses the history (or the often unfulfilled history) of radical social work in the pursuit of real social justice in the face of an insensitive market-driven economy, while Murray 1984 and Dalrymple 2001 present arguments regarding the failure of social policies and social programs. These negative views are critically and carefully assessed in Institute for Research on Poverty 1985. Thus the history of social work and social welfare is filled with glorious achievements, monumental failures, and a continuing quest for social justice and the end to all forms of oppression.

                  • Bremner, Robert H. 1974. Children and youth in America: A documentary history. 4 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                    This enormous collection of historical documents on children and youth in America, from the early 1600s to 1973, contains articles from journals, newspapers, bulletins, and government documents of all sorts, arranged chronologically. The three time periods (in four volumes)—1600s to 1865; 1866–1932; and 1933 to 1973—address several topic areas, including child labor and youth employment; Aid to Dependent Children and child welfare services; child protection and family planning; juvenile delinquency; health care; and education. Even the short pieces have large implications, such as a one-paragraph notice from 1619 of a shipment of children from London to Virginia (cheaper than shipping adults, children will acclimatize and become workers in good time) (Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 892). Fascinating reading.

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                    • Dalrymple, Theodore. 2001. Life at the bottom: The worldview that makes the underclass. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee.

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                      The author, a physician in a London slum hospital and prison, describes case after case in which clients claim to be victims of bad social forces, bad genes, bad luck, or whatever they hear championed by do-gooder academics or practitioners, rather than take any responsibility for their own destructive actions. The author asserts that the liberal establishment refuses to recognize the violence, vulgarity, and educational failures that are the nature of (British) society today. The book ends with this: “Nero was a committed firefighter by comparison.”

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                      • Ehrenreich, John H. 1985. The altruistic imagination: A history of social work and social policy in the United States. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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                        This very accessible book explores the continuing duality in social work, from its beginning as a profession in the late 19th century to the current day. Ehrenreich emphasizes the complex historical variations between a focus on individually oriented treatment, and one on social policy addressing the societal causes of these problems endured by individuals. He describes social work’s attempts to gain professional status in order to legitimize its work with clients as experts in certain service areas, as well as getting better pay for being “professionals.”

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                        • Healy, Lynne M. 2001. International social work: Professional action in an interdependent world. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                          This book presents an argument for incorporating international social work into the curriculum, reflecting both the long historical development of social worker experiences (e.g., Jane Addams visiting Toynbee Hall in London before setting up Hull House in Chicago) and the global nature of problems (such as population movements across national boundaries, the worldwide epidemic of HIV/AIDS, the interlocking of economies leading to shared fates, etc.). Healy raises challenging questions on the universality of some social work values (versus a cultural relativist position). She offers a mixed position: some moral absolutes (e.g., human rights abuses cannot be tolerated) combined with cultural sensitivity (e.g., how best to educate people in a given culture to understand this value).

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                          • Institute for Research on Poverty. 1985. Are we losing ground? Focus 8.3: 1–11.

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                            This article offers a detailed critique of Murray 1984. The authors of this (unsigned) paper criticize essentially every major point of Murray’s argument, and thus call into question the entire thrust of the book. It is useful to contrast this short paper with Murray’s book. Focus is a publication of the Institute for Research on Poverty, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, and this issue is available online.

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                            • Murray, Charles. 1984. Losing ground: American social policy, 1950–1980. New York: Basic Books.

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                              This book was a media event at the time of publication, proposing that government’s assertive welfare policies for the poor not only did not work, but in fact made matters worse. What happened, according to the libertarian Murray, was that welfare policies of the 1960s acted as disincentives for people to work in order to help themselves improve their own lives. Murray suggests the solution is a version of “tough love,” by stopping all federal welfare programs for able-bodied adults, including AFDC, Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment insurance.

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                              • Payne, Malcolm. 2005. The origins of social work: Continuity and change. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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                                The author, a widely published scholar in Great Britain, criticizes history books on contemporary social work as being Eurocentric, gender biased, and neglectful of the people it serves (a fact which led to consumers’ rights movements). There are, in fact, many types of social work, such as the traditions of charity and mutual support in Muslim and Hindu religions. Each of these social works can learn from one another. Social work care is present in all societies, but how it is manifested reflects the current dominant political and economic values, and thus develops social control mechanisms (like organized charity organizations) to fit that time.

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                                • Reisch, Michael, and Janice Andrews. 2002. The road not taken: A history of radical social work in the United States. New York: Brunner-Routledge.

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                                  Contrary to the claims of both the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) that social justice is one of the core values of the profession, Reisch and Andrews argue that actions speak louder than words, such as the relative lack of protest when “social welfare as we know it” was demolished. Should professionals ever challenge the larger system that pays them to keep problems from erupting and disturbing society? These authors claim that the radical tradition in American social work has been neglected (e.g., the progressive ideas of Jane Addams and Lillian Wald) and the darker side of history ignored (e.g., slavery, genocide of American Indians, suppression of organized labor). They present an alternative history of social work that will startle many readers.

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                                  • Trattner, Walter I. 1999. From poor law to welfare state: A history of social welfare in America. 6th ed. New York: Free Press.

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                                    A classic history of American social work, from the colonial era to near the end of the 20th century, with good basic details and an accessible introduction to this large topic. It is interesting to read the six prefaces to the past editions; in each one Trattner hopes for a better welfare system, only to be disappointed in the political realities, and then hopes again for a better future—the triumph of hope over experience, as Samuel Johnson said of second marriages. His clear summaries of the complex maze of political events are very helpful and will provide the student with a solid background against which to compare current and future events.

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                                    Theory

                                    This section focuses on the nature of theory, with special emphasis on practice theory; that is, it addresses abstract ideas about the nature of the social-psychological world and physical environments that practitioners can use in constructing action programs to promote constructive change. To do this requires a discussion of the components of theory, including concepts, propositions (sets of concepts), theories (systems of concepts that lead to new concepts and propositions by means of empirically testing hypotheses derived from theories). Moreover, practitioners have to connect an individual client’s situation to these abstract guidelines to obtain the leverage that theories have to offer. (For example, if I employ positive reinforcement to my client’s desirable behaviors, the behavioral theory suggests that these desired behaviors will be maintained.) Ford and Urban 1998 presents a comprehensive comparative framework—a self-regulating system for dealing with the environment with directive functions (determining goals), monitoring functions (current status of client system), regulatory functions (comparing current status with goals), control function (organizing system activities to move toward goals), and action function (carrying out the activity). This framework is then used to examine the guiding assumptions of eight families of psychotherapies (reduced from some 400 therapy approaches). Guba 1990 is an edited volume on four paradigms for the sciences (social science will be emphasized here), or four ways of answering (1) ontological (or metaphysical) questions (what is the nature of reality?); (2) epistemological questions (what is the relationship between the knower and the known?); and (3) methodological questions (how should one go about finding knowledge?). Answers to these questions will differentiate positivism, postpositivism, critical theory (more clearly described as ideologically oriented inquiry), and constructivism—the four paradigms in question. Guba and Lincoln 1989 spells out the authors’ view of the fourth generation in ways to conceive evaluation—what they call “responsive constructivist evaluation,” in which all stakeholders are involved in the process in which “truth” in constructed—(since it does not exist out there on its own) by consensus among informed people. This process produces data that are linked to the values of the stakeholders, and any intervention has to be related to the context in which it is to occur. Kanfer and Phillips 1970 presents a quite different analysis of one specific family of theories (learning theory as the basis for a group of therapies, under the rubric of behavior therapy), whereas Lewis and Widerquist 2001 discusses economic theories and terms for application in social policy and the human services. Ginsberg, et al. 2004, meanwhile, presents information on human biology for social workers, as related to genetics, ecology, and health. Abrahamson 1990 introduces sociological theory in terms of concepts and research issues. In each case, the reader learns about specific kinds of concepts, sets of concepts, and systems of concepts applied in different areas, leading to different types of actions to resolve human challenges.

                                    • Abrahamson, Mark. 1990. Sociological theory: An introduction to concepts, issues, and research. 2d ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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                                      This 225-page volume is like Sociology 101, focusing on major sociological theories, both micro (such as G. H. Mead) and macro (e.g., Durkheim), by relating them to case examples and important topics (such as the social self, culture and sex roles, social organization and estrangement, solidarity and conflict, deviance and change, etc.) that demonstrate how the sociological perspective informs common human concerns. (There are other similar introductory texts that will benefit social work students.)

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                                      • Ford, Donald Herbert, and Hugh B. Urban. 1998. Contemporary models of psychotherapy: A comparative analysis. 2d ed. New York: Wiley.

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                                        This book compares eight different families of psychotherapies, from psychoanalysis to cognitive and behavioral therapies, using a comprehensive comparative framework to examine their guiding assumptions, key concepts, and propositions about normal and dysfunctional human development, and their strategies for facilitating change. There is thorough discussion of the metaphysical and epistemological assumptions for these psychotherapies, which have different implications for modes of intervention (cf. Guba 1990). An encyclopedic discussion, very helpful to students.

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                                        • Ginsberg, Leon, Larry Nackerud, and Christopher R. Larrison. 2004. Human biology for social workers: Developments, ecology, genetics, and health. Boston: Pearson Education.

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                                          This 270-page text book is Biology 101 in brief, providing a good review of the concepts used in biology, as relevant to individuals and society, as well as discussions of the facts about ecology in human affairs; genetic and heredity; the human lifespan, including considerations of many forms of disability and disease; mental illness and addictions; public health; and human sexuality—all in the context of what social workers need to know. A very useful handbook for an enormous spread of topics.

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                                          • Guba, Egon G., ed. 1990. The Paradigm Dialog. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

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                                            This book on paradigms—basic belief systems that guide specific kinds of research and practice, including postpositivism, critical theory (ideologically oriented inquiry), and constructivism, comparing them on their views of the nature of reality and how it is known (existing out there, or constructed by the viewer), and how knowledge can be obtained—all compared to the positivist paradigm that has long dominated the field. Reality may be viewed as really existing out there, or partially or fully a construction of the viewing mind, all variations of which have important implications for how practitioners operate in the world.

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                                            • Guba, Egon G., and Yvonna S. Lincoln. 1989. Fourth generation evaluation. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

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                                              When published, this book was dramatically different from earlier books on research and evaluation, claiming that all evaluation involves social, political, and value contexts—unlike the positivistic view, which only considered “objective reality.” It led to having evaluation be more responsive to stakeholders—agents, beneficiaries, and clients—since all have their unique insights to the evaluation process. How to use this perspective in evaluation and practice is more controversial, even with their eleven principles of evaluation (pp. 263–264). This book remains very accessible to readers.

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                                              • Kanfer, Frederick, and Jeanne Shirley Phillips. 1970. Learning foundations of behavior therapy. New York: Wiley.

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                                                This book focuses on learning theory as the basis for behavioral therapies, by presenting the research and theory underlying these applications with therapeutic clients. The authors construct a cohesive model addressing problems in the interaction of people with their social environments, so that practitioners can adapt it to clinical behavior change as needed. They discuss different intervention methods based on classical conditioning, operant conditioning, or a mixture of these learning paradigms, along with methods of evaluating outcomes. Very stimulating reading.

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                                                • Lewis, Michael Anthony, and Karl Widerquist. 2001. Economics for social workers: The application of economic theory to social policy and the human services. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                  This 187-page text book is Economics 101 in brief, providing a good review of the concepts used in economic analyses in today’s world, along with a sense of the theories that guide their use. Social workers will especially find the general economic perspective helpful, along with discussions of cost benefit and cost effectiveness, and the economics of poverty and of health care. A glossary keeps one’s head from spinning.

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                                                  Research and Evaluation

                                                  “Research” in this discussion of philosophy of science and social work mainly involves the evaluation of results of various helping practices that are derived from theories about changing human behavior. Evaluation is critical to practice, giving creditability to the helpfulness of an intervention to the client, to the supporting agency (profession), and to society—which pays the bills, ultimately. Bloom, et al. 2009 recognizes that the forms of time series designs called “single-system designs” are rough and approximate measures, but they are used to connect conceptual statements (hypotheses) with concrete human events (problems or possibilities) so as to describe whether or not a planned intervention had a beneficial effect on the client. Bloom and Britner 2012 brings in direct client input regarding these outcomes, in combination with the scientific one. Classical research methods can be employed with individual clients by technically trained workers, as described in Thyer 2001, on social work research methods, and Rubin 2007, on statistics for evidence-based practice and evaluation. Fischer and Corcoran 2007 presents many measures for clinical practice with children, youth, adults, and families. Some social workers, however, are not adequately trained to use complex methods that employ abstract concepts about real behavior (as noted in Webb, et al. 1966, a classic study of unobtrusive measures), and ordinary research methods (surveys, interviews, etc.) may actually distort answers and thus misdirect practitioners, depending on the results. Combined, these books reflect a major development in social work evaluation with clients (as contrasted with research with populations of available college student subjects, rats, etc.). They represent a kind of pragmatic philosophy of science in the service of practice. Shaw and Lishman 1999, among others, covers such diverse topics as quantitative and qualitative practice evaluation, collaborative evaluation with service users, feminist evaluation, and behavioral and cognitive theory in evidence-based practice. Krysik and Finn 2013 also reflects the new kind of textbook, with a strong emphasis on ethics and the political context of social work research.

                                                  • Bloom, Martin, and Preston A. Britner. 2012. Client-centered evaluation: New models for helping professionals. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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                                                    This book focuses on clients as central to the evaluation of practice, by adding two new elements to the single-system design model (see Bloom, et al. 2009). First, whether the client believes the progress made at the end of an apparently successful intervention phase (B) has attained his or her goals. Second, by instituting a maintenance phase (M) after the intervention phase, in which the client is trained to perform for him/herself whatever the intervention entails, another client judgment is made as to whether the goals are attained by the client’s own efforts.

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                                                    • Bloom, Martin, Joel Fischer, and John Orme. 2009. Evaluating practice: Guidelines for the accountable professional. 6th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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                                                      This text helps practitioners evaluate their practice in field settings. Any practice theory and its research-based evidence, within an ethical context, can be a platform for scientific and sensitive evaluation. The practitioner needs to (1) identify client challenges and thus targets for intervention; (2) measure the targets objectively and repeatedly until a clear picture of the challenge is obtained; (3) introduce an intervention, so as to compare baseline data against any changes, according to some evaluation design; and (4) interpret the results and make a practice decision on further action.

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                                                      • Fischer, J., and K. Corcoran. 2007. Measures for clinical practice: A sourcebook. Vol. 1, Couples, families, and children. 4th ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                        First of two volumes, the second dealing with adults. These volumes contain nearly five hundred rapid assessment instruments for use by practitioners in field settings—four-six for couples; sixty-one for families; fifty-eight for children; and over three hundred for adults. The authors discuss the principles of measurement and illustrate how to use them in practice. The discussion on each instrument contains information about its purpose, a brief description of the scale or index, norms against which to compare individual scores, scoring methods, issues of reliability and validity, along with primary references and where the instrument is available. Instruments are divided as described in the titles. A very useful sourcebook.

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                                                        • Krysik, Judy L., and Jerry Finn. 2013. Research for effective social work practice. 3d ed. New York: Routledge.

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                                                          This text has a well-planned presentation of basic social work research topics, with a strong emphasis on ethics and the political context of social work research. There is the contrasting of the logical positivist position—not the authors’ favorite—with what they term the interpretative approach—their favorite—which involves understanding the social conditions (context) through the meanings individuals ascribe to their personal experiences. Thus, there may be several forms of truth in one situation, including the one used by the researcher depends on his or her vantage point. This may lead to controversy among stakeholders.

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                                                          • Rubin, Allen. 2007. Statistics for evidence-based practice and evaluation. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Brook/Cole.

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                                                            This volume covers descriptive and inferential statistics, including all of the powerful equipment of the statistician—hypothesis testing, statistical significance, types of errors, analysis of variance, regression analysis, and even some powerful statistical tools applied in the last chapter to single-system designs. There are forty pages of appendices in case the social work student has forgotten any discussions from Research 101, such as nonparametric statistics, additional multivariate procedures, the use of SPSS for statistical analysis, and delightful answers to selected questions asked in each chapter, as well as a useful glossary of terms.

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                                                            • Shaw, Ian, and Joyce Lishman, eds. 1999. Evaluation and social work practice. London: SAGE.

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                                                              These editors have compiled a collection of articles that represent what might be called the new look in social work research and evaluation. For example, Shaw discusses not only academic and practice-oriented research, but also ideologically oriented evaluation. In a chapter of feminist evaluation by Beth Humphries, the issue is not only how to measure something, but how evaluation can help women’s lives. Evaluation is political. It encourages participants to question the status quo and to engage in social action to change it.

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                                                              • Thyer, Bruce A., ed. 2001. The handbook of social work research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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                                                                This handbook emphasizes the quantitative approaches to data collection and analysis in various kinds of studies (from descriptive to randomized controlled trials and single-system designs). There are discussions of statistics, information retrieval methods, and technical issues of probability, sampling, and reliability and validity in quantitative measurement. The qualitative part considers narrative case studies, grounded theory, and other inductive research methods, as well as ethical issues; gender, ethnicity, and race issues; comparative international research; and even how to apply for research grants, among other topics in this encyclopedic and useful volume.

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                                                                • Webb, Eugene J., Donald T. Campbell, Richard D. Schwartz, and Lee Sechrest. 1966. Unobtrusive measures: Nonreactive research in the social sciences. Chicago: Rand McNally.

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                                                                  Most research measures affect how clients respond, and thus distort information that was to be used to guide practice with these clients. Webb, et al. introduce a class of measures that are unobtrusive and therefore do not react with (and thus change) the client’s true beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. These include archival records; behavioral products; simple observations; and physical traces. A very important antidote to classical research methods, suitable for helping professionals working in field settings.

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                                                                  Ethical Issues in Science and Practice

                                                                  Whenever one person influences another in any way, there is some degree of ethical implication, that “this way is better than that way.” Sometimes these influences are life-critical; other times, they are perhaps socially helpful, or not. This section emphasizes the linkage between ethical actions taken by helping professionals and the scientific practices they perform on behalf of their clients (Bloom 2010). Every professional action has its ethical doppelganger. Involving clients in selecting targets for intervention means making choices of one objective in place of another—(we can’t work on every issue at the same time). Selecting one theory-guided strategy means rejecting other theories. However, rather than this being a burden on the helping professional, it also permits some clients to be actively involved in making ethical choices or expressing preferences that only he or she is privy to. (Think of the homeless person forced to go to a shelter with good food, warmth, personal assistance, etc. all “for his own good,” but who regards this relocation as imprisonment and death—in such a case, the battle is won, but the war lost.) Reamer 2014 discusses the general ethical perspective and important ethical issues in social work, with particular focus on ethical issues associated with primary prevention, while Dolgoff, et al. 2009 presents challenging case situations illustrating ethical decision making. (There are several such good texts in this area.) Singer 1999 throws down a challenge to readers to take simple actions that may solve the problem of world poverty, representing a utilitarian point of view. In contrast, Rawls 1971, a classical liberal ethical statement, is widely used in social work, assisting first the least well-off group of persons, so that if they are aided, it will be more likely that all of the involved people will obtain their fair portion of limited goods. In contrast, Nozick 1974 presents a libertarian point of view on the illegitimacy of government forcing people, through taxation, to support the welfare of less well-off people. These three items all reflect the power of a guiding ideology in the detailing of the ethics of a particular situation. Hugman and Smith 1995 discusses ethics in social work, beginning with the premise that classical social work ethics is inadequate, and that the field has moved forward in both its philosophical and its practical changes, which leads to the awareness of many new issues in social work.

                                                                  • Bloom, Martin. 2010. Client-centered evaluation: Ethics for the 21st century practitioner. Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics 7.1.

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                                                                    This article connects the ancient code of ethics (Hippocrates), with 21st-century evaluation methods so as to demonstrate that the practitioner can “help (if you can), but do no harm.” Clients are to be involved, so far as possible, in the selection of their goals, and in the other aspects of single-system evaluations. (See Bloom and Britner 2012, cited under Research and Evaluation) They are involved in identifying whether their goals were achieved (in a practitioner-guided intervention), and then, after training to do it themselves, they are to demonstrate personal responsibility with regard to successful control of the situation, which is as close to their real world situation as possible.

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                                                                    • Dolgoff, Ralph, Frank Loewenberg, and Donna Harrington. 2009. Ethical decisions for social work practice. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

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                                                                      This is one of several excellent books on ethics for social workers. It presents some challenging ethical situations at the beginnings of each chapter, and then proceeds in how to think through the ethical options facing the social worker (and clients). The central task is to grasp ethical problem solving, rather than any one solution as such, since no two situations are ever exactly alike. This book presents many such challenging cases to readers to consider.

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                                                                      • Hugman, Richard, and David Smith, eds. 1995. Ethical issues in social work. London: Routledge.

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                                                                        This anthology is guided by the idea that traditional social work ethics is inadequate, that social work has not taken seriously the contexts within which all situations take place. For example, feminist social work raises the notion of structural oppression and discrimination to any specific concerns of women, which the editors suggest is not always considered. The new social work ethics has to take seriously the experiences of the service user, even when this creates difficult practice choices.

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                                                                        • Nozick, Robert. 1974. Anarchy, state, and utopia. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                                          This book is a libertarian answer to Rawls’ ethical position (see Rawls 1971). Nozick’s central argument is that any redistribution of goods in a society is just, if it occurs in free (voluntary) exchange among consenting adults from a just starting point. This is a just situation, even if it produces horrendous inequalities among people in that society, because, as Kant said, we must always treat people as ends, never as means to some other purpose. So, forcing me to give some of my goods to a poorer neighbor through taxation is unjust, since it is treating me as a means for some utopian ideal.

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                                                                          • Rawls, John A. 1971. A theory of justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                                            The book begins with a thought experiment (like Einstein’s) in which a group of people are brought together to formulate the ethical policy and economic structure for their society—under a “veil of ignorance” (i.e., without knowing how their decisions will affect them personally). To avoid the utilitarian possibility that they may be the ones excluded from benefits going to the “greatest number,” their formulation is likely to guarantee equality for all among limited resources, especially if the least advantaged people receive their fair share—a liberal perspective.

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                                                                            • Reamer, Frederic G. 2014 (in press). Ethical issues in primary prevention. In Encyclopedia of primary prevention and health promotion. Edited by Thomas P. Gullotta and Martin Bloom. New York: Springer.

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                                                                              This article summarizes many ethical issues in connection with primary prevention practice. With regard to individuals, families, or groups, there are concerns about the invasion of privacy, issues of confidentiality, self-determination, and paternalism. There are other issues relevant to social policy and community development practices, such as distributive justice, conflicts of interests, and compliance with laws and regulations. A third area involves professional relationships, such as being aware of misconduct or impairment in colleagues, or whistle-blowing in organizations. These kinds of issues move beyond the classical philosopher’s quest for the good life. Stimulating chapter.

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                                                                              • Singer, Peter. 1999. The Singer solution to world poverty. New York Times Magazine, September 5, 60–63.

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                                                                                This brief but profound article connects one theory (a utilitarian model) to one enormous social problem, by proposing a mutual win-win situation for all players. The article ignites class discussion on ethics as few other papers do. As important as is this suggestion, I also call attention to the models presented in Rawls 1971 and Nozick 1974 for a contrary ethical positions.

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                                                                                The Philosophy of Scientific Practice

                                                                                Bloom 1975 develops a meeting point between an abstract philosophy of science and the concrete realities of social work practice, termed the “philosophy of scientific practice.” This is where abstract concepts and theories are connected to client actions through operationalizing interventions. For example, if I do X (an action identified in a theory regarding certain classes of problematic behavior) in this client situation, then Y (a desired outcome) is likely to occur. Evaluation of practitioner actions can determine when a desired outcome has occurred, offering accountability to a theory-guided profession, as well as empirical leverage in the given case. Sarbin, et al. 1960 presents a template on how clinical inference can use general information (from research or theory) combined with specific information (on the client situation) to infer some possible conclusion (the joint probability of the prior two) in order to indicate how likely a given course of action is likely to be. This is an immensely powerful idea, very relevant to all helping professionals. Carnap 1966 can be a stimulus to thinking about philosophical foundations of the social sciences and helping practices as well, because it discusses abstract concepts and theories, which are linked to observable events in the everyday world by means of correspondence rules that connect the theory level to the event level. Bloom 1965 draws a parallel between the Carnapian model of the three levels of abstraction and how they are interconnected in the sciencesthe levels of theory, measurement, and the event level of everyday reality—and a practice model that also includes the levels of theory and the worldly event level, but with strategy of action statements in place of measurement statements.

                                                                                • Bloom, Martin. 1965. Connecting formal behavioral science theory to individual social work practice. Social Service Review 39.1: 11–22.

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                                                                                  This paper develops a parallel between Carnap’s model of theory/measurement/event levels of science (see Carnap 1966), and the theory/strategy for action/client event levels as related to practice. In the practice situation, theories provide concepts and hypotheses of the form “If I (the social worker) do X in a given situation, then outcome Y is likely to occur.” First, the X actions derived from theory are translated into a strategy of action (in the world of client events). These strategies are the operational forms of the theory statement.

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                                                                                  • Bloom, Martin. 1975. The paradox of helping: Introduction to the philosophy of scientific practice. New York: Wiley.

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                                                                                    This book introduces helping professionals to the terminology of the philosophy of science—especially concepts, propositions, theories, empirical evidence, and values—which provide abstract leverage to help clients solve concrete challenges, which is the paradox of helping, and which thus becomes a philosophy of scientific practice. The book also introduces students to strategies (translating theory and research into action plans), creativity (productive rule breaking), information retrieval methods, and an early form of evaluation of practice by the practitioner in field settings.

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                                                                                    • Carnap, Rudolf. 1966. Philosophical foundations of physics: An introduction to the philosophy of science. Edited by Martin Gardner. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                                                      Carnap distinguishes universal theoretical laws (containing abstract concepts and theories that make use of the laws of logic) from empirical generalizations (regularities among observable facts); one cannot just accumulate empirical generalizations to arrive at theoretical laws. How is a theory formed? Carnap suggests by stating some idea as a hypothesis, a creative hunch about, and explanations of, the underlying nature of things. From the hypothesis, the theorist derives some statements that can be tested empirically, by connecting the theoretical terms with observable events using rules of correspondence.

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                                                                                      • Sarbin, Theodore R., Ronald Taft, and Daniel E. Bailey. 1960. Clinical inference and cognitive theory. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

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                                                                                        This book combines research on clinical inference with cognitive theory and logic, with important results for practitioners. Using general knowledge from the research literature (for example, of the form that 80 percent of X (mental health category) are Y (some class of problematic behavior); client Jones is in the X category (meeting, say, 70 percent of criteria for X membership); therefore, as a logical syllogism, there is a (joint) probability of 0.56 (80 percent times 70 percent) that Jones is a Y. This inferred probability can guide practice, such as high security or low need of security against Y behavior. A very good source for creative clinical practice.

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                                                                                        Criticism and Debate

                                                                                        Illustrating the theorem that no good deed or good idea goes unpunished, this section presents some of the current (and ancient) debates on the relationship of science and practice. People of good will may occasionally disagree on some specific point or other, or on an entire body of points, theories, or ideologies. And occasionally, in human history, these people have fought horrendous wars or instigated murderous inquisitions or destructive insurrections to prove their point of view was the correct one. We trust that the following discussions will not excite the passions of readers to that extent, although one should recall that Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake (in 1600) for some of his (correct) astronomic views. Ashman and Baringer 2001 reflects on the whole scope of “wars” between scientists on a variety of philosophy of science issues, particularly those who clustered around the flag of realism, that something really existed out there, and that we could find out about it through empirical tools, versus those who claimed that there were many other aspects of human behavior and life that were left out of that perspective, which led to many nasty situations (like Eurocentric thinking, patriarchal perspectives, etc.). If you think the wars are over (as these editors infer), perhaps we all have another think coming, as disputes between realism and idealism seems to flourish perennially. Slife, et al. 2005 finds other kinds of conflict within psychology, described in various terms as “liberal,” but also “individualistic,” ideas, compared to more romantic, but also socially sensitive, ideas. Harding 2008 looks at science from below—not its most flattering perspective—in examining various forms of feminisms, postcolonialities, and modernities. Chelimsky and Shadish 1997 looks at evaluation at a distance—perhaps also not its most flattering perspective, but something we had better get used to—in the 21st century, by way of impressions of evaluators from around the world. Challenges on the way to our front doors include issues of advocacy versus truth in evaluation, as well as the challenge of evaluating programs versus empowering people to evaluate their own programs. The debate among Gitterman and Knight 2013a, Gitterman and Knight 2013b, and Thyer 2013 is a classic discussion of the separation of the arts (of practice) and the knowledge base for practice (from the sciences, Bird and Ladyman 2013 presents a helpful current anthology on classic philosophy of science issues). Bloom, et al. 2009, in s section on “Recent Criticisms on Single-System Design,” reviews many of the criticisms this new evaluation model over the first thirty-five years of its use. However, no criticism stays dead forever, and students are likely to see new versions in the coming decades.

                                                                                        • Ashman, Keith M., and Philip S. Baringer, eds. 2001. After the science wars. London: Routledge.

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                                                                                          This anthology presents a spectrum of opinions on the “science wars,” roughly defined as heated arguments between purist scientists (where conclusions were reached solely on empirical evidence) and constructionists (all knowledge arises from building consensus among a group of scientists and others)—which leads to a position that we cannot prefer any one set of beliefs over any other, a postmodernism or anti-Enlightenment perspective. This is something like a romantic-intuitive approach to knowing.

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                                                                                          • Bird, Alexander, and James Ladyman, eds. 2013. Arguing about science. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                            This anthology focuses on philosophy of science issues, by combining a number of classic papers (by Karl Popper, Stephen Jay Gould, Evelyn Fox Keller, and others) along with papers that are less well known addressing these same issues. The editors provide helpful introductory essays for each topic and include classic issues in the philosophy of science, such as “What is science?” “What is the nature of scientific explanation?” “What about the management of risk and uncertainty in the public sphere,” and others. These excerpted materials are quite accessible to student readers, which should also lead them to read the whole originals.

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                                                                                            • Bloom, Martin, Joel Fischer, and John G. Orme. 2009. Recent criticisms of single-system evaluation. In Evaluating practice: Guidelines for the accountable professional. 6th ed. By Martin Bloom, Joel Fischer, and John G. Orme, 558–566. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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                                                                                              This brief section contains a discussion of the many criticisms of single-system design, and the authors attempted responses to them. Some of these criticisms are practice oriented. Other criticisms relate to the philosophy of science, such as that evaluation is just another form of positivism, which neglects contexts, etc. Yet another problem is that there is little evidence that using single-system designs helps enhance practice. A final set of criticisms are technological in nature, including issues of autocorrelation. There is some truth in all these criticisms, but the benefits of evaluating are worth the risks.

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                                                                                              • Chelimsky, Eleanor, and William A. Shadish, eds. 1997. Evaluation for the 21st century: A handbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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                                                                                                This book presents some papers from the International Evaluation Conference held in Vancouver, Canada, in 1995, a watershed event with 1,600 evaluators from sixty-six countries reflecting on where evaluation is likely going in the 21st century, given changes in global politics, changes in access to quality of life and sustainable development, and changes toward more affordable forms of government. There are new actors involved, new topics, and new purposes of evaluation as well: All are legitimate concerns, but each makes different demands on evaluation.

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                                                                                                • Gitterman, Alex, and Carolyn Knight. 2013a. Evidence-guided practice: Integrating the science and art in social work. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services 94.2: 70–78.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1606/1044-3894.4282Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  The Gitterman/Knight debate with Thyer (Thyer 2013) is a current version of the hundred-year-old discussion of art versus science in social work. Gitterman and Knight argue that evidence-based practice (EBP) continues the art versus science distinction, while their evidence-guided practice integrates the two, since it uses values, practitioner style, client contributions, as well as empirical evidence in dealing with messy issues.

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                                                                                                  • Gitterman, Alex, and Carolyn Knight. 2013b. Response to Thyer’s “Evidence-based practice or evidence-guided practice.” Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services 94.2: 85–86.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1606/1044-3894.4284Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Gitterman and Knight disagree with Thyer 2013 on the role of theory (helpful for them; potentially harmful to Thyer).

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                                                                                                    • Harding, Sandra G. 2008. Science from below: Feminisms, postcolonialites, and modernities. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                      This book, by a leading philosopher of science, focuses on the science and politics of modernity, especially as dealing with women as the subjects of history and how we know them. From a feminist point of view, it is necessary to begin research from women’s lives as they live it, not from conceptual frameworks, so as to create the kinds of knowledge that women need to empower themselves (and their families). (The same is true for non-Western men.) Everything is in plurals; there are many forms of feminism, modernity, and postcolonialities and how people have dealt with them. For example, Western modernity has brought great benefits to some, but also great disasters to others. This is a strong, hard-hitting perspective, but heavy on jargon and difficult to read.

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                                                                                                      • Slife, Brent D., Jeffrey S. Rebeo, and Frank C. Richardson, eds. 2005. Critical thinking about psychology: Hidden assumptions and plausible alternatives. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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                                                                                                        These editors argue that psychology has often taken for granted its philosophical base, its research methods, and its professional practice. Chapters in this book are paired—one illustrating hidden assumptions (such as assuming “liberal individualism”) while the other illustrates plausible alternatives (such as “moral duties to others”). Topics covered include clinical psychology, social psychology, experimental psychology, and cognitive psychology.

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                                                                                                        • Thyer, Bruce A. 2013. Evidence-based practice or evidence-guided practice: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services 94.2: 79–84.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1606/1044-3894.4283Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Thyer counters Gitterman and Knight 2013a in that he agrees with their goals (better practice through a useful model of practice), but EBP, properly understood, already includes all their ideas on values, etc.

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