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									                                   The University of Montana
                                       School of Social Work
                      BSW Competency Examination Questions

                     Competency Requirements for Social Work Graduates

The School of Social Work offers the first professional degree for social work practitioners, the Bachelor of Arts
degree. In preparing students for bachelor’s level practice, the school has accepted the responsibility for
ensuring that each graduate is competent to practice social work. Rather than assessing competency on the
number of hours of instruction, the passing of specific courses, or the completion of 450 practicum hours,
students will be required to demonstrate specific practice behaviors in seven major areas related to social work as
assessed by a comprehensive written examination based on course work and practicum experience. Each student
completing The University of Montana Social Work Program will demonstrate their competency in direct response
to the seven questions listed below.

Title Page Format

                                                Student Name
                                           The University of Montana
                                             School of Social Work
                                                BSW Program
                                           Competency Examination

                                            Field Practicum Agency
                                           Time Period of Placement


APA Style

The Competency Examination is to be written using APA style. This includes the use of an abbreviated running
head (abbreviated title) with page numbers. This also includes APA style of referencing within the text and in the
Competency Examination Questions

* NOTE: In all questions the student is to focus on utilizing critical assessment supported by adequate

(1)     Organizational and Community Context of Practice

        A. Describe the agency in terms of its
                (1) History
                (2) Mission
                (3) Goals and objectives
                (4) Administrative structure
                (5) Key programs and services

        B. Describe how the agency is funded and the sources of these funds.

        C. Describe the characteristics common to the people served by the agency.

        D. Describe significant characteristics of the community (i.e. social, economic, political, demographic)
           and explain how those served by the agency and the services provided by the agency are influenced
           by these variables.

        E. If other agencies or programs offer similar social services, describe them and the linkages between
           them and the practicum agency.

        F.   Discuss how the agency determines the effectiveness of its programs and services in relation to its
             goals and objectives, including how it utilizes evaluative information to improve agency programs,
             services, and staff performance. Make recommendations designed to improve the agency's program
             evaluation procedures.

(2)     Assessment of Existing Social Policy

        Note: As used here, the term social policy refers to decisions, directives, and guidelines articulated in
              laws and regulations at the national and state level, or promulgated by other state and national
              level organizations such as those that accredit or certify the operations of health and welfare
              programs. Social policy does not refer to internal policies and procedures used to govern day-to-
              day functioning of social agencies.

        A. Describe the major social problem(s) and conditions addressed by the agency.

        B. Describe a social policy intended to address this social problem(s) that has a significant impact on
           those served by the agency, on the agency's services and programs, and on how the professional
           staff functions within the program.

        C. Analyze the social policy in terms of:
                (1) The key points in its historical development and original intent
                (2) How it attempts to address the causes and consequences of the social problem, including its
                    implied social values and its assumptions about the etiology of the social problem.
                (3) Its major provisions and the programs designed to implement it.
                (4) The adequacy of the social policy in addressing the social problem.

        D. Discuss social policy alternatives that would reflect social work's vision and values and which might
           better address the needs of clients served by your agency.

        E. Describe how your practicum activities in community development, advocacy, community
           organization, and/or social planning contributed to the clarifying and/or promotion of these social
           policy alternatives. What else could your agency do to further such proposed changes?
Overview of Questions 3 through 6

These four questions are to be answered by referring to a specific example of a change effort you provided. This
example can be focused on an individual client, family, group, organization, community or social change effort.
In this exam the word client may be defined as an individual, a family, organization, group, agency, community,
or government. Intervention may also be understood as: project, effort, activity. Your response may be to
describe a social work intervention at the micro, mezzo, or macro level of practice. You may choose to write
about an intervention with a family or individual, or you may choose to write about a project you participated at
the group, community, or social change level. Each of these is considered a social work intervention, and all of
the stages of the planned change process (3-problem identification, 4-development of an intervention plan, 5-
implementation of the intervention plan, 6-evaluation and feedback) can apply to your intervention. It is not
necessary to write about a successful intervention in order to demonstrate your learning and competence. You
may also write about an intervention that did not go as well as planned, because you can demonstrate that you
learned from that experience.

(3)     Problem Identification and Assessment

        A. Identify your client or client system and presenting issue, concern, or problem.

        B. Explain how your agency became involved with the client/client system with which you worked,
           including who requested the service.

        C. Discuss the expectations of the person(s) requesting service from the agency.

        D.    Describe your problem identification and assessment activities, including the information you sought
             and the procedures and tools utilized to obtain it.

        E. Based on your assessment activities and your theoretical understanding of client concerns and
           problems, what was your conceptualization of the problem?

        F. What was the client/client system's conceptualization of the problem? If others viewed the concern
           differently, how did they conceptualize it?

        G. Describe how social work conceptual frameworks (e.g. ecological perspective, generalist perspective,
           strengths perspective, feminist perspective, person-in-environment, social systems theory) assisted
           you in your assessment.

(4)     Development of an Intervention Plan

        A. Discuss the various forms of intervention you considered, including the factors which led to the
           selection of a particular intervention plan.

        B. Describe the intervention plan, including your goals and objectives.

        C. Discuss the role played by the client/client system in the identification of goals and objectives and
           choice of intervention plan.

        D. What theory or theories of social work practice underlie this intervention plan?
(5)   Implementation of the Intervention Plan

      Note: When addressing this question, clearly define your terms, cite any relevant literature regarding
            intervention strategies, and illustrate with examples.

      A. Describe the implementation of your intervention plan, addressing the elements listed below in your
             (1) The expectations and responsibilities of those involved in the effort to bring about the desired
             (2) Specific activities you undertook in order to achieve your goals and objectives and those of
                 your client
             (3) Social work roles you assumed as part of the intervention plan
             (4) How and why, if at all, your plans (including goals and objectives) were altered during the
                 intervention process
             (5) Efforts required to engage and maintain the active participation of those involved
             (6) Resources required to implement the plan
             (7) Efforts made to address client strengths, empowerment and diversity
             (8) Ethical and/or legal concerns encountered while developing and carrying out your

      B. Describe the process of disengagement, even if the client(s) continued to receive services after your
         practicum experience was completed.

(6)   Evaluation and Feedback

      A. Evaluate the effectiveness of your intervention in achieving the goals and objectives you established
         in question 4 and/or the revised goals and objectives established during the implementation of your
             (1) Describe the evaluation tools and techniques you employed in your final evaluation, even if
                 the intervention continued beyond your personal involvement.
             (2) Present the data and observations you gathered in evaluating the effectiveness of your social
                 work intervention and how you dealt with these problems.
             (3) In retrospect, how could you have been more effective in achieving your objectives and in
                 evaluating the effectiveness of this intervention?

      B. How will you utilize the results of your evaluation to improve your professional practice?

      C. Discuss any implications for systems change and social justice efforts resulting from your intervention
(7)     The Profession of Social Work

        A. Reflect on ways in which the social problems addressed by your agency have changed historically,
           including public debates and tensions about what causes these problems and how best to address

        B. Describe and evaluate the social work profession’s contemporary approaches to dealing with clients
           such as those served by the agency. Make recommendations for an improved approach if you think
           changes are needed.

        C. In light of your academic and field experiences, describe your view of the profession’s attempts to
           achieve its overall mission of “(1) helping individuals, groups or communities enhance or restore their
           capacity for social functioning and (2) creating societal conditions favorable to this goal.” What
           directions should the profession take to adequately prepare for and address emerging social
           problems and concerns?

        D. Describe your personal and professional stance, views and values as a social worker. What do you
           see as the core mission of the profession? Include in your response how your personal values and
           beliefs shaped your view of the profession.

                             Scheduling the Competency Examination

Competency exams must be submitted to the School of Social Work two weeks prior to the end of the semester
(note: finals week is not considered a part of the semester). Failure to submit the competency exam by semester
deadline may result in the exam not being graded until the following semester. This may result in delayed
graduation for the student. Extensions are given only for serious or emergency situations, and the extension
must be obtained directly from the BSW Practicum Coordinator. If the examination is submitted after the
assigned due date, a deduction of .5 will be made from the final rating.

The faculty reader (evaluator) will be selected randomly. Students may request, in advance, that a certain
faculty member not be a reader. Faculty may also request that they not read a particular student’s exam. The
Faculty Supervisor of the student’s practicum will not be assigned to be the evaluator for that student.

                              Preparing the Competency Examination

The burden of documenting, demonstrating, and defending the professional competencies of practice skills, the
application of appropriate social work principles, and the use of intervention techniques will be upon the student.
Drawing directly from field work experiences, utilizing supervision and consultation with any other appropriate
resources, the student is expected to adequately address the competency examination questions. The student’s
faculty supervisor for practicum is responsible for assisting the student in preparing the examination. The
supervisor cannot be assigned as reader for any students s/he has supervised in practicum because of this
conflict of interest.

Students are urged to write concisely, but not at the expense of thoroughness. Written materials should be
sufficiently complete to attest to student competency without further elaboration. All students must insure that
the confidentiality of clients is protected in the competency examination. Clients’ identify must be completely
disguised. Agency proprietary information is also to be protected.

The submission of supplementary case records, reports, letters, and/or statistical data is encouraged, provided
such materials are tied to the specific answers. These materials can be submitted in the form of appendices to
the examination.

The minimum length of the paper is to e 35 pages, and the maximum length of the paper is to be 50 pages, not
including bibliography and appendices. A 12 point font is to be used. Be aware that faculty members will only
give ratings on a total of 50 pages, so do not exceed that limit.

Turn the paper into either the practicum office of the School of Social Work office.
                Writing Your Competency Examination—Strategies for Success

The writing of the competency examination is a challenging process and a high expectation for an undergraduate
student. However, it will help students to take a final step of integrating theory and practice which might not e
taken otherwise. Students often report that having to address in thorough detail each of the seven questions
helps them to understand in much greater depth what will be expected of them as social workers. It also guides
them to a much more extensive understanding of how the entire curriculum and practicum experience are
tailored in an interactive way to offer students the opportunity to prepare for professional practice.

You will be more successful in the completion of your competency examination and in the final if you follow these
basic guidelines:

       Begin early to organize yourself and the time needed to plan and write the competency examination.
       Read each question regularly, determining what information is needed to complete each one.
       Begin early to research information you need to gather.
       Structure your learning agreement and learning activities so that you will have ample opportunity to learn
        by experience what you will be required to write about.
       Set up 7 files, one for each question, and begin early to make notes and keep logs which can be used in
        each question.
       Set aside blocks of time to work on your competency examination, and set deadlines for yourself
        throughout the two semester practicum.
       Take advantage of the Field Practicum Seminar assignment of writing drafts of questions 1, 2, and 7.
        This will help you get off to an early start.
       Utilize your faculty supervisor to assist you in your writing. It is his or her responsibility to help you by
        reading drafts, making suggestions, and encouraging your efforts. Give your faculty supervisor drafts to
        read as time goes on rather than expecting him or her to read your entire paper shortly before its due
       Attend the competency examination workshop offered once each semester by the Practicum Coordinator
        and Assistant Practicum Coordinator. This workshop will address writing style, organization, binding,
        content, and faculty expectations. Sample competency examinations will be offered for you to review.
       Remember that several drafts of each question is the norm and will result in a good paper.
       When writing your final draft, consider the following:
            o    Be as thorough and descriptive as possible.
            o    Use examples and illustrations of your learning.
            o    Go beyond description to analysis in your writing. Discuss the implications of what you are
                 learning, assess the impact on clients, and utilize professional perspectives and theories.
            o    Back up your statements with evidence such as personal experience, research, practice wisdom
                 of your agency field instructor, NASW Code of Ethics, textbooks, and journal articles which
                 discuss empirical evidence of the effectiveness of practice.
       Be as clear as possible, utilizing detail that will “bring your intervention to life” for the reader, that will
        show your understanding of theories and values underlying interventions and social policy, that will
        demonstrate your thoughtfulness about the profession of social work, and that will showcase your own
        views and conclusions.

It is important to use the “Guide to Success in Writing Your Competency Examination” by Cindy Garthwait and
Charlie Wellenstein, available on the School of Social Work web site (in BSW student practicum section).
                            Evaluation of the Competency Examination

The faculty member evaluator is responsible for reading the competency examination and reporting an
assessment of the student’s competence, in writing, to the Practicum Coordinator. Faculty members responsible
for reading a student’s competency examination will include numerical ratings of the student’s performance on all
questions, as well as qualitative comments.

By the end of the semester in which the paper is due (unless the paper is turned in late), the faculty reader will
give the written evaluation to the Practicum Coordinator, who will then record the score and average it with the
second semester practicum score. The full 10 credits of practicum come half from the practicum and half from
the competency examination. The competency evaluation and overall grade for the practicum will then be sent
to the student, including their grade for the completed practicum.

The student must include updated contact information, including address and phone number with the
Competency Examination when it is submitted for evaluation.

Each of the seven questions will be rated by the faculty reader on a seven point scale:
          1 = unacceptable answer
          2 = considerably below average answer
          3 = below average answer
          4 = average answer
          5 = good answer
          6 = excellent answer
          7 = outstanding answer

To receive full credit, the student must submit the examination in APA format. Formatting, grammar, spelling,
and organization count for ten percent of the overall grade.

                              Failing Competency Examination Grades

Rewriting Exam Questions:
If a student is assigned a rating of <2 (F) on any one question, arrangements shall be made with the reader to
re-write the question(s) on which the failing grade was assigned. Only the original reader of the paper will work
with the student in remediating the deficiency. When the reader agrees that a satisfactory response to the failed
item(s) has been developed, the student will be deemed to have passed the examination, and a new overall
rating will be computed.

Requesting a Second Reader:
Students must achieve 2.0 or above on all questions to pass the examination with no requirement for rewriting of
questions. If the overall average exam score is 3.5 or above (C or better), and all questions are scored 2.0 or
better, the grade shall stand and the student will not be re-examined. Only if the overall score is less than 3.5
(below C), will the student be allowed to request a second reader. If the student elects a second faculty reader,
the second reader will not know the rating given by the first reader. The final score will then be the average of
the scores of the two readers.

Grading of Practicum Experience and Competency Examination:
The final practicum grade is derived from both the second semester practicum evaluation competed by the
agency field instructor and the rating on the competency examination. Each of these is rated on a 7 point scale.
The ratings received on each item are averaged together to determine the final letter grade assigned to
practicum. Both areas must be passed in order for the student to complete the practicum.

The ratings and corresponding grades are as follows;
        6.00—7.00       A
        4.50—5.99       B
        3.50—4.49       C
        2.00—3.49       D
        0.00—1.99       F                                         \Competency Exam Questions (revised 11/25/09)

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