BPD Update Online, Spring 2004
BSW GeroRich Projects
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Innovation and Curriculum Infusion

Nancy R. Hooyman, PI,
Hartford Geriatric Enrichment
in Social Work Education Program,
GeroRich Program Coordinating Center

(206) 221-4278 OR

GeroRich Project Principle Investigators
Nancy Hooyman (Left) with a Project Director

BSW faculty are key players in The John A. Hartford Foundation's Geriatric Enrichment in Social Work Education (GeroRich) Program, which funded 24 BSW and 30 joint programs in July 2001. Since then, BSW programs have provided vital leadership in implementing and evaluating exemplary curricular innovations oriented to the dual goals of gerontological pervasiveness and sustainability. As is typical of BSW faculty as a whole, project directors were committed, resourceful, and creative in engaging faculty, students, practitioners, and administrators to embed and institutionalize gerontological content in foundation courses.

The GeroRich Program focused on curricular and organizational change to infuse and sustain aging content into foundation social work courses. By its emphasis on the macro level of change, it was complementary to the CSWE SAGE-SW project's goal of individual faculty development for curriculum infusion. The GeroRich Program goal of pervasiveness - that all social work students acquire foundation gerontological competencies or knowledge, skills, and values (rather than specialization or advanced content), - was congruent with the generalist mission of BSW education.

The importance of time devoted to the planning process, as the first step of a longer-term change process, was central to the success of the 67 GeroRich Projects.

A careful planning process that includes attention to the contextual features of the organizational culture and that engages key stakeholders is paramount to effective curriculum change. Key stakeholders include faculty, students, administrators, practitioners, and/or older adults in the local community (the stakeholder configuration will be unique to each program's situation). Change strategies must also address organizational barriers (e.g. time, resources, other curricular demands, accreditation self study, diverse faculty teaching styles) and be framed to be congruent with the program's organizational culture. We strongly believe that other unfunded programs can implement such a change process, albeit at a slower or more incremental pace than when funds are available to support faculty time.

Based upon the GeroRich Projects' accomplishments, the following areas are identified as central to the curriculum infusion and change process:

1) Faculty Engagement,
2) Student Recruitment,
3) Community Partnerships,
4) Practica/Field,
5) Service Learning,
6) Academic Partnerships, and
7) Cross-Cutting Themes (Connecting with Diverse Constituencies).

This article highlights only a few innovations by BSW programs. To learn more about the innovations and accomplishments of your BPD colleagues, we encourage you to visit our website, www.gerorich.org. The website includes a rich array of resources related to the process of change, innovations, and a cross-project summary of the knowledge, skills, and values, and the supporting curricular materials (e.g., readings, assignments, exercises, case studies, media), infused into foundation courses.

Faculty Engagement Innovations

Small Group Planning for GeroRich Projects

As social work researchers and educators, we all recognize the importance of gathering data to guide our interventions. Empirically-based methods underlie some of the most innovative faculty recruitment approaches, such as that at the State University of New York College at Brockport. Core components of their approach include identifying needs through assessment, developing materials to meet those needs, reinforcing those who did change, translating connections to practice, and evaluating the intervention.

. A thorough assessment: Faculty members were surveyed regarding their research interests related to gerontology, their perceptions of potential barriers to curriculum change, and resources they needed to enrich their teaching with gerontological content.

. Up-to-date, empirically based, and comprehensive information: A two-day "mini geriatric fellowship" included six topics, each lasting 1.5 hours: geriatric assessment, successful aging, elder abuse, cultural diversity and aging, Social Security, and end-of-life decisions/ethical issues. Topics were selected with faculty input.

. Recognition and rewards: A stipend of $300 was given to faculty who took part in the two-day "mini geriatric fellowship."

. Practice Partnerships: Faculty received $100 to participate in a one-day internship in a community-based agency and a long-term care setting, chosen from among 12 different practice sites serving older adults. Additional funding was provided by an Area Health Education Center to expose faculty to rural geriatric health practice and field sites.

. Up-to-date information: Faculty were given binders with content distributed by Hartford/CSWE-SAGE SW (e.g., a CD with aging resources) along with a locally produced CD on elder abuse, an elder abuse identification flow chart, and a host of other important aging resources. Faculty also received the latest curriculum on "Ethno geriatrics" developed and compiled by the Stanford Geriatric Education Center.

. The outcomes: Faculty acquired new information directly applicable to their courses and developed relationships with agency staff, who agreed to be guest speakers in their classes. As one indicator of faculty engagement, 75% of full-time faculty now attend bi-monthly dinners to discuss gerontological issues in a relaxed setting.

This article on GeroRich Projects continues on the next page...

Spiral, Horizontal Line Spinning

BPD Update Online, Volume 26, No. 2, Spring 2004

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