In This Article School Social Work

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Journals
  • History of School Social Work
  • School Assessment and Measures
  • Macro Practice
  • Educational Policies Guiding Practice
  • Evidence-based Teaching Strategies for Improved Outcomes
  • International Context

Social Work School Social Work
Paula Allen-Meares, Cynthia Franklin, Laura Hopson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 April 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0110


School social work is a subspecialty within the social work profession. The field has been in existence in the United States for over one hundred years and is practiced in many other countries. Although the actual number of school social workers worldwide is unknown, the field serves children in most states in the United States. According to the School Social Work Association of America, “School social workers bring unique knowledge and skills to the school system and the student services team. School Social Workers are instrumental in furthering the purpose of the schools: To provide a setting for teaching, learning, and for the attainment of competence and confidence. School social workers are hired by school districts to enhance the district’s ability to meet its academic mission, especially where home, school and community collaboration is the key to achieving that mission.” This entry covers introductory works on school social work practice, works on the history of school social work, and journals that support the field of school social work. Reviews of evidence-based practices and empirical studies that support the work of school social workers are further highlighted along with some of the best prevention and intervention practices in the field. Web-based resources for obtaining evidenced-based practices and commonly used school-based measurement instruments are suggested. Effective resources for understanding the macro dimensions of school-based practices are summarized, such as working with communities, school policies, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Finally, school social work in the international context is considered.

Introductory Works

The resources in this section provide an introduction to the school social work profession. They were selected because they present an introduction to the roles and responsibilities of school social workers with discussion of interventions and the use of case examples to illustrate concepts. Allen-Meares 2015 provides information on effective interventions, current research, current information on macro and political forces that shape education, educational policy, and the need for systems change in schools. Openshaw 2008 provides an introduction to school social work practice and group practice techniques by grade and presenting problem. Constable, et al. 2008 also describes practice skills relevant for school social workers and updated information on political forces that shape the profession. Frey and Dupper 2005 presents the authors’ perspective on current trends and needs for the profession. Kelly 2008 also focuses on new trends, particularly on the need for evidence-based practice in school social work. Other texts also provide extensive analysis of evidence-based research and outcome measures (Chavkin 1993, Franklin, et al. 2012, Thyer and Myers 2007).

  • Allen-Meares, Paula, ed. 2015. Social work services in schools. 7th ed. New York: Pearson, Allyn, and Bacon.

    E-mail Citation »

    This text discusses major issues confronting education and provides direction for implementing and evaluating school social work services. Case examples are provided to illustrate concepts. The book also provides information about knowledge required by social work professional organizations. Each chapter ends with additional readings and questions for discussion and/or exercises.

  • Chavkin, Nancy Feyl. 1993. The use of research in social work practice: A case example from school social work. Westport, CT: Praeger.

    E-mail Citation »

    Tests the theory that there is a relationship between organizational structure and the use of research recommendations in school social work. Part 1 explores the complex relationship between applied social science research and practice. Part 2 is the case example of the use of Lela B. Costin’s recommendation for changes in the goals and methods of school social service delivery. Part 3 presents the implications of the case for practice, policy, and theory and provides suggestions for future research.

  • Constable, Robert T., Carol Rippey Massat, Shirley McDonald, and John P. Flynn. 2008. School social work: Practice, policy, and research. 7th ed. Chicago: Lyceum.

    E-mail Citation »

    This introductory guide to social work practice in schools covers legislation affecting school social workers and current trends in the economic, social, and political climate for schools. The book also includes content on group work, work with families, attendance, case management, working with the child welfare system, social skills training, violence reduction, crisis intervention, and peer mediation.

  • Franklin, Cynthia, Mary Beth Harris, and Paula Allen-Meares, eds. 2012. The school services source book: A guide for school-based professionals. 2d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    This comprehensive sourcebook covers every aspect of school service delivery, arming practitioners with the nuts and bolts of evidence-based practice. Each of the chapters includes a summary of the problem area, step-by-step instructions on how to implement an evidence-based program, and methods to measure the outcomes.

  • Frey, Andy J., and David R. Dupper. 2005. A broader conceptual approach to clinical practice for the 21st century. Children and Schools 27:33–44.

    DOI: 10.1093/cs/27.1.33E-mail Citation »

    Frey and Dupper provide a framework for conceptualizing school social work practice that illustrates the ecological aspects of the clinical knowledge and skills needed for effective social work practice in schools. The article also differentiates the role of school social workers from that of other school-based professionals.

  • Kelly, Michael S. 2008. The domains and demands of school social work practice: A guide to working effectively with students, families, and schools. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195343304.001.0001E-mail Citation »

    Describes new developments and trends in the school social work profession. Topics include evidence-based practice, demonstrating the effectiveness of school social work practice, common clinical issues addressed by school social workers, and proposed future directions for school social work practice and research.

  • Openshaw, Linda. 2008. Social work in schools: Principles and practice. New York: Guilford.

    E-mail Citation »

    This introductory text includes practical skills for observation, assessment, intervention, and research. It includes information on the various roles and functions of school social workers and discusses school social work from an ecological perspective. The book groups content by grade level and presenting problems, including violence, trauma, parental absence, substance abuse, bereavement, and mental health issues. Examples and discussion questions included.

  • Thyer, Bruce A., and Laura L. Myers. 2007. A social worker’s guide to evaluating practice outcomes. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education.

    E-mail Citation »

    Provides social work practitioners with an easy-to-follow guide to selecting measures useful in evaluating the outcomes of social work practice and in applying these in the context of simple group or single-system research designs.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.