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Journal of Social Service Research, 36:362–376, 2010
c Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
Copyright
ISSN: 0148-8376 print / 1540-7314 online
DOI: 10.1080/01488376.2010.494086

Utilizing a Required Documentation Course to Improve the
Recording Skills of Undergraduate Social Work Students
Ana M. Leon
Julie Pepe

ABSTRACT. Baccalaureate social workers respond to documentation and record-keeping demands of
regulatory organizations that oversee or fund social service agencies. Learning to accurately document
client needs, progress, and service delivery outcomes is important in ensuring that clients are receiving
effective services. Despite the importance of documentation skills, many undergraduate social work
programs do not provide sufficient curriculum content on client record keeping. The authors report
the results of a study that examined changes in baccalaureate social work students’ perceptions of
their documentation skills after completing a required documentation course. The sample size included
101 students at pretest and 97 students completing the post-test. Statistically significant findings show
students perceived an increase in knowledge in three areas of documentation: 1) formats, 2) content,
and 3) writing skills. The authors discuss implications for social work education and practice.
KEYWORDS. Social work documentation, record keeping, social work notes, documentation course

Today’s rapidly changing agency environments require that baccalaureate-level social
workers adhere to record keeping requirements
by accurately documenting information on
client assessments, social service interventions,
and outcome-based progress (Dziegielewski &
Leon, 2001; Kagle & Kopels, 2008). Documentation skills often have to compete with other
course content in undergraduate programs.
Many bachelor of social work (BSW) programs
find it challenging to infuse documentation content into undergraduate-level practice courses,
leaving their graduates with minimal knowledge
and limited opportunities to apply documentation formats and content. Consequently, students
may only acquire a rudimentary understanding

of documentation skills. BSW programs also
assume that content on documentation will be
sufficiently integrated once the student is in
field education. Although field internships may
provide “on-the-job documentation training,”
today’s tight economy and shrinking agency
resources prohibit overloaded supervisors and
other personnel to adequately provide that training. Furthermore, busy agency schedules and
responsibilities prevent agency supervisors from
providing more than just the documentation basics required by BSW students. Bachelor-level
social workers without adequate documentation
training already employed in social service
agencies find it even more challenging to
keep pace with the myriad of documentation

Ana M. Leon, PhD, LCSW, is an Associate Professor at University of Central Florida, School of Social
Work, Orlando, FL.
Julie Pepe, MS, is an Instructor at University of Central Florida, Department of Statistics, Orlando, FL.
Address correspondence to: Ana M. Leon, PhD, LCSW, University of Central Florida, School of Social
Work, P.O. Box 163358, Orlando, FL 32816-3358 (E-mail: leon@mail.ucf.edu).
362

BSW Social Work Documentation

changes required by funding and regulatory
organizations. No one can argue that all social
work professionals, regardless of their level of
education and credentialing, do need to have an
adequate command of and experience with documentation skills. Despite this realization, most
schools of social work do not offer documentation courses to their undergraduate students, and
very little research exists on social work documentation. This article reports on the results of a
pilot research study that utilized a pre/post-test
design to examine the impact of a required
social work documentation course offered to undergraduate students during a 2-year period. The
authors discuss implications for baccalaureate
social work education and practice.

OVERVIEW OF THE HISTORY OF
SOCIAL WORK DOCUMENTATION
Social work documentation first referred to
as social work recording has its early roots in
social casework during the 1920s with the work
of Sheffield (1920) who advocated for including in the social work record both factual content and the worker’s assessment of that information. Mary Richmond (1925) further argued
the importance of narrative records for ensuring continuity in client service delivery, evaluation of practice, and training. Others like Bristol (1936) and Hamilton (1946) emphasized the
role of documentation in social work practice,
and both emphasized the importance of individualizing records to fit the unique situations
of clients. These discussions also included the
beginning principles on how records should be
written and formatted and a recognition that the
social work records’ primary function was to
provide the worker, the supervisor, and the organization information on service activities provided to clients (Kagle & Kopels, 2008). During
the 1940s and 1950s, Hamilton introduced process recording as a tool to capture the essence
of client-practitioner contact while helping the
practitioner better understand the client dynamics. Hamilton believed that recording skills develop simultaneously with practice skills. Later
during the 1960s and 1970s, process recordings
would also gain popularity as a tool that not

363

only helped practitioners examine the content of
the client contact but also helped practitioners
scrutinize their verbal responses and countertransferential reactions to the client (Black &
Feld, 2006; Neuman & Friedman, 1997). Considered a valuable tool that offered retrospective insight for the beginning practitioner, when
used in every client situation, process recordings were labor intensive and placed unrealistic demands on both practitioner and supervisor
(Graybeal & Ruff, 1995; Kagle & Kopels, 2008;
Walsh, 2002). During the 1970s and 1980s,
these considerations gave way to using social
work process recordings sparingly and mostly
in educational settings and in those field internships in which the primary function was to provide an intensive training experience. Instead,
agencies during those decades focused on using the client record as a way to meet regulatory and funding agency accountability requirements. Changes in social work documentation
during the 1980s reflected the introduction of
new behavioral models, increasing use of video
and audio taping, as well as the beginning use of
computers to capture client information (Grishman, 1995; Kagle & Kopels, 2008; Mutschler,
1990; Staudt & Craft, 1992). Inherent in the
newer models of intervention, such as cognitive
behavioral therapy, is the concept of accountability and demonstrating measurable client change
through documentation. These new approaches
required that social workers keep ongoing information in the client’s record that reflected
changes in line with treatment goals (Hartman
& Wickey, 1978; McDevitt, 1994). The focus on
clients’ privacy rights influenced documentation
during the 1970s and 1980s. Those efforts included: 1) changes in the National Association
of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics; 2)
the Privacy Act of 1974; 3) the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act; and 4) an emphasis on risk management (Cumming et al., 2007;
Kagle, 1983; Kagle & Kopels, 2008). Similarly,
from the 1990s on, there was an emphasis on
computer technology, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, confidentiality related revisions to the NASW Code of
Ethics, and increasing accountability to regulatory agencies. Furthermore, subpoenas for client
records challenged social workers to engage in

364

A. M. Leon and J. Pepe

writing brief, objective, and informative notes
that could be accessed by all stakeholders including the client, supervisor, agency, the court system, and outside regulatory and funding agencies (Gelman, Pollack, & Weiner, 1999; Kagle &
Kopels, 2008; O’Rourke, 2009). Today’s documentation challenges reflect the social worker’s
accountability to all of these parties. With the
21st century came the expectation that social
work documentation respond to managed care’s
requirements that client record information contain briefer but more outcome-based notes and
treatment plans that include the use of objective
measurements that clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of social work interventions on client
problems (Callahan, 1996).

IMPORTANCE OF DOCUMENTATION
Client documentation is important to the
client, the social work professional, and the
agency (Ames, 1999). Accurate and informative documentation ensures service delivery continuity because it includes the client’s assessment, treatment or goals planning, service delivery interventions, and progress (Dziegielewski
& Leon, 2001). This historical continuity combined with current information allows the client
and the social worker to “map out” the helping process and to make the necessary changes
that facilitate client progress. Various forms of
client documentation that include the assessment and treatment plan allow the professional
to identify and replace the ineffective helping
strategies that are not promoting client change
(Kagle, 1982; Kagle & Kopels, 2008). Updated
client documentation allows for communication
and collaboration with other agency team members who also provide services to the client. Social workers can use documentation to assist
clients when (with appropriate client consent)
they share documentation with other related external agencies and professionals. In those cases,
referral-related documentation serves to help
the social worker advocate for the client and
helps the professionals in other agencies gain an
overview of the client’s history and needs. Sometimes clients’ special circumstances require the
sharing of documentation for specific decision-

making by legal or protective agencies (Gelman, 1992). Court hearings for divorce, child
custody, or child abuse charges are some instances that require detailed documentation for
someone in authority to use in decision-making.
For the agency, documentation provides the
necessary information required for reimbursement purposes and to meet compliance requirements of regulatory third-party payers such as
Medicaid (Dziegielewski, Green, & Hawkins,
2002).

DOCUMENTATION IN SOCIAL WORK
EDUCATION
There are limited resources and even less research on the importance of integrating documentation in baccalaureate social work education. The studies that do exist are older
and have focused on managed care issues affecting 2nd-year clinical students and field instructors (Brooks & Riley, 1996) or have examined hospital workers’ recording practices
(Cumming et al., 2007). A closely related study
(Dziegielewski, Green, & Hawkins, 2002) used
a group of professional social workers to examine the effects of a continuing education documentation workshop. That study revealed that
professional social workers wanted more training in documentation and record keeping. Ames
(2002) conducted an exploratory study that examined whether social work educators include
documentation skills in the practice curriculum
and examined the teaching methods used. That
study used a small sample of 20 faculty members in seven Council on Social Work Educationaccredited masters in social work (MSW) and
BSW programs in the mid-Atlantic region and
found that most of the participants did include
documentation content in the curriculum, but
they varied in teaching strategies, content, and
material used. Guidelines for documentation and
record keeping were updated during the 1980s
and 1990s and were used by social work educators and practitioners (Kagle, 1982, 1993; Wilson, 1980). Today, social work educators rely
on the revised guidelines provided by Kagle
and Kopels to teach documentation content in
practice courses. Training social work students

BSW Social Work Documentation

in documentation skills includes more than just
learning to record client-related information on
psychosocial assessments and progress notes
(Berger & Ai, 2000). Kane (2001) further reaffirms the importance of documentation skills
when he points out that students especially at
the undergraduate level may not be adequately
prepared to handle risk management or managed
care-related challenges presented by increasing
changes in documentation requirements (Kane,
Houston-Vega, & Nuehring, 2002).
BSW students should be taught documentation skills at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels
of service delivery. Throughout the course of
their undergraduate programs, students should
become familiar with basic documentation skills
needed to document individual client problems
and progress on assessment forms, psychosocial
assessments, and progress and termination
notes. At the mezzo level, the student’s documentation content should include learning to
document information related to family or group
client systems. Usually this includes documenting family session or group session notes. Many
BSW programs provide basic documentation
content at the micro and mezzo levels. However, undergraduate programs may place less
emphasis on how to document at the macro or
organization level. Macro-level documentation
includes writing memos, professional letters to
other agencies, incident reports, and meeting
minutes.
Equally important for undergraduate students is the emphasis on the triadic relationship
between assessment, interviewing, and documentation skills (Mumm, 2006). The interrelationship between these three aspects of service
delivery is essential in ultimately documenting
client progress as well as in writing agencyrelated documentation. Social work students engaged in client documentation use many skills
to ensure accurate and informative documentation. These skills include the combination of
assessment, interviewing, interpersonal communication, and critical-thinking skills (Cournoyer
& Stanley, 2002). How one interviews and assesses a client will determine how informative
the client contact will be and consequently how
much essential content one can include in the
client documentation.

365

Providing accurate, written records that serve
the client, agencies, and managed care organizations is not an easy task and requires that social
work educators more assertively educate and
prepare students on professional record keeping
(Corcoran & Gingerich, 1994; Kagle, 1984).
Many social work courses provide components
on practice documentation and attempt to integrate recording principles with theory and practice concepts (Dziegielewski, 1998). While all
field practicum require that students document
service delivery information and client progress,
not all agencies take time to accurately train
students on the specifics of maintaining efficient
and effective client records. Perhaps in some
cases, schools of social work and field internship
agencies make erroneous assumptions that the
other entity is more responsible for providing
the student with training in this area. Classroom
instructors and field agency supervisors are both
responsible for reinforcing the development of
professional documentation skills and must depend on each other for successful completion of
this task. Subsequently, efforts to close the gap
between the classroom that emphasizes theory
and practice and the field internship education
experience that stresses direct practice should
be undertaken (Tebb, 1991). This requires close
collaboration between the classroom and field
agency in efforts to assess the challenges and
opportunities faced by students and agencies
in effective documentation. This collaboration
helps students understand how classroom
theory, field interventions, and client outcome
measures are important components of effective
documentation and are not mutually exclusive.
Social workers today must ground their services
in evidence-based interventions and more
importantly include documentation that these
interventions impact clients’ lives.

METHODS
Participants and Procedures
The study used a quantitative, pretest/posttest survey research design to collect data from
a convenience sample of BSW undergraduatelevel students enrolled in a required documenta-

366

A. M. Leon and J. Pepe

tion skills course at a large metropolitan university. The study used students from two groups
representing the same course taught during 2
consecutive years by two instructors. The first
instructor taught two sections of the course each
semester while another MSW-level instructor
taught the third course section. The first instructor was responsible for explaining the study
to students in all course sections at the beginning of the semester and for collecting the
completed pre- and post-surveys. Both instructors have taught the documentation course previously, were very experienced in the course’s
content, and have considerable agency experience. Throughout the semester, the instructors
met regularly to discuss the course and teaching strategies. The first data collection period
(pretest) at the start of the study had 101 students
who completed the questionnaire. The final data
collection (post-test) at the end of the study contained 97 students. The university’s institutional
review board granted approval for the study.
Study participation was voluntary, and there was
no penalty for refusing to participate or refusing
to answer any particular questions on the survey. To ensure that students did not feel coerced,
the first instructor left the classroom after explaining the study. Students then left the survey
on a classroom table for the researcher to collect. The survey did not include any identifying
or protected information. Students completed a
questionnaire regarding perception of documentation skills at the start of the semester and an
identically worded questionnaire with the items
presented in a different order at the end of the
semester. To protect privacy, individual student
identification was not collected in the pre/post
data. The study had four research hypotheses:
1. A required social work documentation course
will increase BSW student knowledge of documentation skills in three areas:

r Documentation formats
r Documentation content
r Writing skills
2. There is a relationship between previous documentation training and confidence in knowing what content to include in progress/case

notes among BSW students taking a required
social work documentation course.
3. There is a relationship between knowing what
content to include in progress/case notes and
on-the-job training on documentation among
BSW students taking a required social work
documentation course.
4. BSW students will report increased confidence in documentation preparedness after
taking a required social work documentation
course.

Description of the Documentation Course
The course is a 15-week required course that
meets for 2 hours and 50 minutes once a week.
Senior-level BSW students enroll in this course
in the fall semester prior to entering their spring
semester block field education internship. Each
of the three course sections has approximately 35
students enrolled. Both instructors followed the
same course syllabus and used the same handouts, readings, and course assignments. As indicated previously, the instructors had taught the
course several times prior to the study, and the
first instructor served as the course mentor.
In teaching the course, the instructors
integrate the generalist perspective in helping
students understand the important relationship between interviewing, assessment, and
documentation skills. Students learn that they
cannot document properly unless they have this
“triadic skills set.” In other words, interviewing
and assessing clients is essential for good
documentation. Therefore, at the beginning of
the semester, the instructors reacquaint students
with previously learned content on interviewing
and assessment skills. Throughout the semester,
the instructors also remind students of how
generalist practitioners use documentation to
assess client needs and resources and to provide,
obtain, and improve resources for clients.
Through a variety of documentation exercises,
students are encouraged to practice identifying
client strengths, conceptualizing those strengths
for the written context, and documenting the
strengths objectively. Another important focus
of the course is on the documentation of special
client situations such as child abuse and neglect

BSW Social Work Documentation

and high-risk situations that include suicide,
homicide, and psychosis. Students are expected
to integrate previous generalist knowledge in
identifying and documenting the behaviors and
needs of high-risk clients. This integration helps
the student determine what aspects of the client
contact needs to be included in documentation.
For example, the student with a suicidal client
is encouraged to document the situation to
capture the essential details such as the client’s
behavioral manifestations, suicide plan details,
and access to support systems.
A variety of teaching and learning strategies
help students develop their documentation skills.
Towards that end, the course uses the following
teaching strategies:

r Role plays: Students in the course work in

r

r

r

r
r
r

dyads and use real agency forms and take
turns interviewing each other as the client.
This exercise integrates interviewing, assessment, and documentation skills.
Use of role actors: University student actors assume the client’s role using a scenario script provided by the instructor
while some social work students role play
the social worker role, and social work students in the class observe the role play and
document the session dynamics, description of the actors, etc.
Use of videotaped client scenarios: After
viewing a video clip, students integrate assessment and documentation skills by describing in writing client behaviors, emotions, and circumstances.
Use of television sitcoms: Students use
popular sitcom television shows to describe through written documentation the
dynamics of a family system, describe an
individual family member, or document
family characteristics such as problemsolving patterns.
Integration of reading exercises: Students
use critical-thinking skills to analyze assigned readings.
Treatment team exercises: Students work
in teams to develop a treatment plan for a
client portrayed in a video clip.
Macro documentation exercises: Students
are given client and agency scenarios to
practice how to write a memo, a referral

367

letter, a professional letter, and policies and
procedures.
Other assignments include: 1) an agency analysis paper where students visit an agency in the
community and critique the agency’s documentation policies and procedures; 2) a short paper
requiring students to critique one of the assigned
readings; and 3) a macro assignment asking students to observe a public community meeting
and to write minutes reflective of the meeting.

Measures
The survey was composed of 40 Likert
scale items plus 10 demographic questions and
1 open-ended response. The survey questions
asked for student perceptions of their documentation skills in three major areas: 1) documentation formats; 2) documentation content; and 3)
writing skills. Sample questions from the survey
include the following.

Format-Related Sample Questions
Ques. #15: “I am currently able to document
client contacts using a specific documentation
format (soap, dap, etc.).”
Ques. #38: “I know what content to include
when I document high-risk client situations such
as a client expressing suicidal ideations.”

Content-Related Sample Questions
Ques. #33: “I know the specific content that I
should include when I write a progress/case note
on a family session.”
Ques. #17: “I know what content to include
in the goals section of a client treatment plan.”

Writing Skills Sample Questions
Ques. #28: “I have the writing skills to write
a progress/case note that is brief but still informative.”
Ques. #9: “Writing a progress note comes
easy to me.”
The Likert scale was consistent for all items
but some items needed to be reverse-scored
prior to any computation of totals. Those items
were: Q14, “What to include in a progress/case
note should be taught only in my field
practicum/internship and not in the classroom”;

368

A. M. Leon and J. Pepe

and Q24, “It takes me a long time to write
a client progress/case note.” Pre- and postquestionnaires had identical items except for
Q25 on the pretest: “I know the different components that should be included in a professional letter advocating on behalf of my client,”
which was inadvertently left off of the postquestionnaire. The post-questionnaire had one
item inadvertently repeated. The analysis includes the first occurrence of that item. Item
numbers used in this report refer to pretest numerical ordering. Item responses were considered numerical values for the purpose of comparison between pre- and post-time periods.
Students completed the survey during the first
class session prior to any instructor lecture content and on the final day of the semester at the
end of the class session.

Statistical Analyses
For Hypotheses 1 and 4, the researchers used a
total sample of 198 students which included both
pretest (n = 101) and post-test (n = 97). For Hypotheses 2 and 3, the sample only included the
pretest responses. The researchers determined
that when examining the variable “previous documentation training” (from Hypothesis #2) in
relation to scores, it would not be appropriate
to use scores attained after the course completion. The documentation course was designed to
add new knowledge; however, there was concern
as to whether students could accurately remember where or when they had learned the specific
knowledge reflected in the hypotheses. Therefore, the statistical analysis of Hypotheses 2 and
3 included only pre-scores reflected of prior documentation training and percent of time at work
spent on increasing skills. In contrast, Hypotheses 1 and 4 compared pre- and post-scores and required use of the entire data set. The researchers
identified questions from the survey that represented the variables in each of the hypotheses.
For example, for Hypothesis 1, the pretest and
post-test were compared using 2 survey questions on format, 19 survey questions on content,
and 12 survey questions on writing skills. Due
to the data structure (students not individually
identified), the statistical test used for analysis
was an independent t-test of means.

For Hypothesis 2, only pre-scores were used
to compare the documentation training question
measured nominally as “yes,” “no,” and “cannot remember” with 16 questions that measured
whether students knew what content to include
in documentation. This hypothesis was analyzed
using an independent t-test of means. The “cannot remember” responses were combined with
the “no” group. Hypothesis 3 also used only prescores and compared the “on-the-job training”
question responses with 16 questions that asked
if students knew what content to include in their
documentation. Because the students were not
individually identified, the analysis for Hypothesis 4 included an independent t-test of means
comparing pre- and post-total scores using all
questions except Q6 and Q29, which were related to previous coursework.
To test research questions, the researchers
used SPSS and the .5 level of statistical significance and generated descriptive and inferential
statistics. Data were analyzed using independent
mean comparisons. The disadvantage in using
independent means tests is that some true differences may not be evident due to the increased
variability terms used in the testing process. The
highest percentage of missing data was 1.5% for
any question other than the demographic questions which had a maximum missing amount of
data of 5.6% for income. The amount of missing
information was determined to be very small and
not replaced.

RESULTS
Description of the Sample
All participants in the study were undergraduate social work students from a large metropolitan university enrolled in a 15-week required
documentation course. A total of 101 students
completed the pretest, and 97 completed the
post-test (see Table 1). Students participated in
the study either during the fall of 2008 or fall of
2009. As expected the majority of the students
were female (pretest, 82%; post-test, 84%). Most
students in the study were Caucasian (pretest,
47%; post-test, 55%), and the majority (pretest,
67%; post-test, 71%) of the sample was between

BSW Social Work Documentation

TABLE 1. Demographic Description of the
Sample
Pretest
(n = 101)
Gender
Female
Male
Ethnicity
Caucasian
African American
Other
Age
18–22 years
23–27 years
28–32 years
33–37 years
38–42 years
43–47 years
48–52 years
53 years and older
Income
Less than $10,000
$20,000–$29,999
$30,000–$39,999
$40,000–$49,999
$50,000–$59,999
$60,000–$69,999
$70,000–$79,999
$80,000–$89,999
$90,000–$99,999
More than $100,000
Marital Status
Single
Married
Other
Employment
Yes
No
Pursuing MSW
Yes
No

369

pursuing their undergraduate degree. Additionally, more than a third of the students in both
groups (pretest, 68%; post-test, 66%) reported
that they will be pursuing an MSW degree.

Post-test
(n = 97)

82%
17%

83
17

84%
15%

82
15

47%
16%
16%

48
16
16

55%
22%
5%

53
21
5

44%
23%
15%
5%
1%
8%
2%
2%

44
23
15
5
1
8
2
2

41%
30%
11%
4%
1%
8%
2%
1%

40
29
11
4
1
8
2
1

20%
15%
18%
12%
11%
4%
2%
4%
3%
5%

20
15
18
12
11
4
2
4
3
5

22%
14%
19%
11%
8%
5%
2%
3%
5%
6%

21
14
18
11
8
5
2
3
5
6

66%
21%
13%

67
21
13

69%
20%
11%

67
19
11

32%
67%

32
68

32%
67%

31
65

68%
5%

69
5

66%
9%

64
9

Note. Some percentages do not add to 100% because of missing
responses.

the ages of 18 and 27 years. The U.S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development (2009) established a median income limit of $60,700 for
the metropolitan area where the study took place.
Seventy-six percent of the sample was below that
median income limit. More than a third of students in both the pretest and post-test groups
(pretest, 66%; post-test, 69%) were single students and only 32% (pretest, n = 31; post-test,
n = 32) in both groups were employed while

Hypothesis 1
A required social work documentation course
will increase BSW student knowledge of documentation skills in three areas:

r Documentation formats
r Documentation content
r Writing skills
Three independent t-tests were used to analyze differences from the start of the semester
until the end of the semester. There is a statistically significant difference between student
perception scores for documentation format (t =
–3.86; p < .001), documentation content (t = –
21.52; p < .001), and writing skills (t = –10.35;
p < .001) at the beginning of taking a BSW class
and at the end of the class. The pretest mean
for document formats (2 items) is 4.16, compared with the post-test mean of 8.02. Comparison of documentation content (18 items) shows
that the pretest mean is 56.8 while the posttest mean is 78.32. The pretest mean for writing skills (12 items) is 41.60 compared with the
post-test mean of 51.95. The amount of variation
accounted for pre/post change is 63.2%, 58.0%,
and 35.1% respectively for format, content, and
writing skills. These percentages or effect sizes
measure the amount of variation accounted for
by the pre/post variable with the variable of the
test. Based on the effect size (.63), the change in
scores is considered large. The change in scores
from the beginning to the end was considered
to have a large practical significance. The mean
scores for the pre- and post-survey in the three
documentation skill areas (format, content, and
writing skills) increased, indicating that students
rated the items higher, and larger values indicated higher confidence and/or knowledge. The
sample sizes differ because of some missing information (see Table 2).

370

A. M. Leon and J. Pepe

TABLE 2. Hypothesis 1: Comparison of Pretest and Post-Test Mean Scores for Documentation
Formats, Content, and Writing
A required social work documentation course will increase BSW student knowledge of
documentation skills in three areas: documentation formats, documentation content,
and writing skills.
Pre-Score

Documentation Formats
Documentation Content
Documentation Writing

Post-Score

n

Mean

Std. Dev.

n

Mean

Std. Dev.

99
98
97

4.16
56.80
41.59

1.62
9.90
7.83

97
94
97

8.02
78.32
51.95

1.32
8.39
6.22

Hypothesis 2
There is a relationship between previous documentation training and confidence in knowing
what content to include in progress/case notes
among BSW students taking a required social
work documentation course. An independent ttest was used to analyze differences from the
start of the semester until the end of the semester.
There is a statistically significant difference between student perception scores for documentation content (t = 8.74; p < .001) for students
with prior documentation training (n = 14) and
those without any previous training (n = 85)
based on student information provided at the
start of the semester. The amount of variation
in the total score calculated that is accounted for
by prior document training variable is 11.9%.
The pretest scores were used to test for differences in content scores (16 items) for students
with and without prior document content training. The mean score for the students with prior
training was 53.57 (n = 14) which is significantly higher than the mean score of 44.84 (n =
85) for the group of students without any prior
training (n = 85) (See Table 4). This indicates
that training makes a difference in the student’s
perception of content knowledge. The effect size
is medium for this relationship. Table 3 gives the
sample size, mean, and standard deviation for the
two groups.

the-job training on documentation among BSW
students taking a required social work documentation course. The pretest scores were used to
test for differences in content scores for students
spending time at work increasing skills compared to students that do not spend time at work
on increasing skills. The mean score for the students spending time at work on these skills was
50.11 (n = 26) which is significantly higher than
the mean score of 44.63 (n = 73) for the group
of students without any prior training (n = 85)
(see Table 4). This indicates that spending time
at work on increasing skills makes a difference
in the student’s perception of content knowledge
(16 items). The effect size is very small for this
relationship, probably because different work
environments may be very different in respect
to the mentoring of the student work. There is
a statistically significant difference between student perception scores for knowing what content
to include (t = –5.49; p < .006) for students
with some percentage of time spent at work toward increasing their skills (n = 26) and those
who do not spend any time on the job working
to increase their knowledge (n = 73) based on
student information provided at the start of the
semester. The amount of variation in the total
score calculated that is accounted for by time
spent at work is 0.75%.

Hypothesis 4
Hypothesis 3
There is a relationship between knowing what
content to include in progress/case notes and on-

BSW students will report increased confidence in documentation preparedness (37
items) after taking a required social work


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