Judy Heitzman

Kent School of Social Work
Social Work 677 - Advanced Social Work Practice III

Judy Heitzman prepares master’s level students for their careers as social workers. For her Part-time Faculty Learning Community project, she introduced her students to the Elements of Thought from the Paul Elder Critical Thinking model through a classroom experience where students selected three elements and practiced asking questions designed to elicit information related to those particular elements. Heitzman sought to accomplish the following learning goals: “1) To engage students on multiple learning levels regarding Crises Assessment, Triage, Intervention, and Evaluation, while applying the elements of critical thinking; 2) To build students’ confidence in their crisis intervention skills, and 3) To encourage competence in crisis intervention through a visceral experience.”

After familiarizing the students with using Elements of Thought, Heitzman offered a presentation on crisis intervention utilizing a Power Point presentation, followed by a group think-pair-share exercise and class discussion. Following the completion of these classroom activities, she divided the students into groups of four to five and distributed a case study, based on one of her own crisis intervention experiences as a social worker. For the case, students became part of a crisis response team deployed to a neighborhood three days after a tornado had devastated the area. They were to inconspicuously assess the mental and physical health and crisis management of the individuals they meet. Groups were then given information via lists and photos of a variety of scenes that one would encounter in such a scenario.

Group members then selected a facilitator and scribe for their group and selected relevant assessment questions from the Elements of Thought wheel. Members were then asked to identify the following in the case study: 1) Type and Stage of Crisis, 2) Triage – Risk Assessment factors, 3) How to prioritize intervention needs based on their assessment, 4) Identify three types of Evaluation/Follow up activities, 5) Answer the following questions: A). Where would you go first? B) What would you do first? C) What principles of Critical Thinking are you using? D) What principles of Social Work Code of Ethics are you using, and E) How would you measure the efficacy of your intervention? Students had 30 minutes in groups to work on these questions, then 10 minutes each for their scribe to present findings to the class.

Following the presentations, each group completed an assessment of their findings and compared them to the other groups. Students were to identify which elements of thought they had chosen and why each was relevant to the exercise. Upon the completion of the class discussion, all class members “used a Likert scale to rate the following items: 1) New Information learned, 2) Applicability of Information, 3) Likelihood of use of Information, 4) Change in personal comfort in providing Crisis Intervention, and 5) Any other Pertinent Information the student identifies.”

Heitzman reported that students responded favorably to the exercise and identified several components of new learning. Students also expressed increased confidence in their ability to think critically in a crisis situation. As Heitzman noted: “Students near the end of their formal social work training, they need to ability and opportunity to integrate many concepts and skills. This crisis intervention classroom exercise enabled students to develop and practice the skills needed to become successful in their field.”

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