University Grant Funds Pilot of New Student Evaluation Methodology

Clinical Assistant Professors Anne Dempsey and Nicholas Lanzieri were awarded a 2018 NYU Curricular Development Challenge Fund grant to pilot a new methodology for objectively evaluating and providing feedback on the skills of MSW students in NYU Silver’s foundational Practice and Field integrated curriculum. The methodology, Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), is common in training for physicians and nurses, but has only recently been adapted and found promising for use with social work students.

In OSCE, students engage in simulated case scenarios with actors rigorously trained to play standardized clients in those scenarios and to provide students with constructive feedback. The students are also observed and evaluated by experienced practitioners using a standardized rating scale. According to Professor Dempsey, “implementing the OSCE enables students to engage in practice opportunities that resemble ones they might encounter in their field placement and immediately receive a professional and objective assessment of their competencies, as well as feedback from the client perspective from the actor. Such immediate feedback, which promotes student learning, is not consistently possible in a busy and often overburdened field learning environment.”

Professors Dempsey and Lanzieri designed their pilot project based on recommendations in the literature on implementing OSCE exercises within schools of social work but customized it to accommodate NYU Silver’s specific curriculum and program. They executed the pilot at the conclusion of the School’s summer 2018 Practice I course. MSW students enrolled in that course participated in the OSCE, which was comprised of two case scenarios that were representative of authentic client situations, consistent with a social worker’s field of practice. Alumni and active students from NYU Tisch School of the Arts received training and acted as the standardized clients. Members of the NYU Silver faculty served as the raters using the Social Work Practice Performance Rating Scale.

On the day of the OSCE, participating students conducted interviews with the standardized clients in each scenario and received immediate feedback after each from the standardized clients and the raters. When both scenarios were completed, students were asked to respond to a series of reflective questions. Student then received written feedback from their course instructor on their overall OSCE performance. Students also received a video recording of their interactions with the standardized clients so they could view their performance.

Overall, student feedback was very positive. They appreciated the opportunity to practice their skills of engagement and assessment outside of their field internships. Although being observed by the faculty raters was a bit disconcerting at first, students stated that receiving immediate feedback on their skills was beneficial and it promoted their learning. Students also appreciated receiving feedback from the perspective of the client via the actors in each scenario.

Based on the success of the pilot, Professors Dempsey and Lanzieri are seeking additional grant support in order to utilize the OSCE with a greater number of students.