CHAD MCDONALD portrait
  • Research Assistant Professor, College Of Social Work
  • Interim Director - Social Research Institute, College Of Social Work
801-581-6155

Professional Organizations

  • National Staff Development and Training Association . 07/01/2019 - present. Position : Executive Advisory Council Member.
  • Society for Social Work and Research. 11/01/2018 - present. Position : Member.
  • First Star Academy - University of Utah. 08/2016 - present. Position : Board Member and Academic Sub-Committee Chair.
  • California Evidence Based Clearing House (CEBC). 01/2016 - 07/2016. Position : Advisory Committee Member.
  • National Human Services Training Evaluation Symposium (NHSTES) . 05/2014 - present. Position : Steering Committee Member.
  • Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). 05/2014 - present. Position : Member.
  • Arbinger Institute. 11/2010 - present. Position : Certified Facilitator for Utah's Department of Human Services.

Teaching Philosophy

Social Work

My pedagogical approach is based on the social work principles of well-being and praxis. I use the parallel process of modeling for learners in the classroom behaviors that are hoped to be transferred to the field. Modeling the principles and skills of effective social work, I create a classroom environment that builds upon learners’ past experiences and knowledge gained both formally and informally, while introducing and connecting new ideas and concepts as they relate to a social worker’s values and biases. I push the students to consider how these values and biases support or challenge the practical application of effective social work, fostering the development of critical thinking and concrete practice skills. Learning, practicing, and reflecting upon the principles of organizational and professional competence, partnership, cultural responsiveness, safety, permanency and well-being, and increasing the skills of how social workers engage, team, assess, plan, and intervene are the foundation of my social work pedagogy, and lie at the heart of the social work profession.

Conceptualization of Learning and Teaching

In order to strengthen the students’ likelihood of being able to learn the intended skills and contributing to the learning of others, I start the course with a series of exercises that allow students to get to know each other better as people whose worries, fears, hopes and dreams are as valid as their own, which sets the stage for building trust and creates an environment where everyone is as much a teacher as a learner in the classroom. For example, a common activity in my classroom involves the critical analysis of a value-laden vignette as we discuss the various biases and values amongst the students in the classroom and how their values and biases might impact the decisions and behaviors they make while interacting with others. I engage students in exercises where we discuss what it means to apply the core conditions of genuineness, empathy, and respect both in and out of the classroom. In particular, we emphasize the fundamentals of engaging as they are the way for all principles and skills to be applied in the classroom and the field, which helps to reduce resistance in professional and personal relationships. One area that often pushes student’s learning edge, often creating unease, involves discussions in class around how our way of being toward others is more impactful than our behaviors. How, for example, does a social worker “help” a child and parent be reunified, if in his or her heart the social worker does not believe reunification is possible or is annoyed by the parent, or simply fails to see them as a person whose worries, fears, hopes and dreams are as valid as their own? In order to help address difficult questions and circumstances such as the one above, I work with students to develop general positive regard for themselves and others as they learn how to apply the principles and skills both in and out of the classroom.

I like to use dialogues and “real plays” (real scenarios the students are facing or experiencing) to learn how to effectively and respectfully interact with all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, and culture. To aid in this process, we use in-class exercises and assignments that provide students the opportunity to practice new skills that were modeled for them, while providing tools that aid in the transference and practical application of what is learned from these experiences. For example, in one of my courses I teach, I run modules on teaming as an actual child and family team. Within that group, we develop our agenda, assess the needs, and determine the goals or objectives. While students are learning about key components of effective teaming skills, they take turns facilitating such “Child and Family Team Meetings,” setting agendas, engaging others, listening to and teaching each other, and dealing with concerns as they arise. I try and help students understand that becoming a good social worker involves not only learning history, facts, and concrete skills, but also learning how to listen and become lifelong learners. Finally, I model for the students the feedback model of allowing each student the opportunity to think about three things they did well and one thing they would do differently about each concept of interest, in order to facilitate their ongoing learning processes.

Implementation of the Philosophy

I try to further develop critical consciousness and deepen the students’ learning skills by combining various types of readings and experiences. I not only bring in reading material specific to social work and the social sciences, but I also bring in readings that community partners are currently interested in as well. For example, in the area of development or well-being, many of our community partners are interested in understanding how trauma impacts development and behaviors. The materials I provide are generally current and applicable, and they frequently tell stories that are not covered in college courses or other classes. In addition, it is imperative that the students and I share our own practice experiences both as professionals and community members.

I also bring my research into my teaching, which addresses pedagogical and organizing models for all people with or without power and privilege, and how all might work together in the cause for social justice and empowerment. I focus on the relationship between a caseworker and the children and families he or she serves in child welfare cases, and how the entire child and family team can leverage their access to individual and family empowerment. The goal is for learners to understand how the perceived power in a position impacts their approach and experience of different events. It challenges the idea that being the primary caseworker amounts to having the solutions or knowing what is best. Through real-playing different perspectives, participants can recognize the side effects of their perceived power as caseworker when it reveals itself and have a chance to modify their behavior, thus becoming more aware of how to best interact in different situations. I have used this and other pedagogical tools in my classes to help students better understand the power dynamics both in the classroom and in the field.

 

Professional Development Goals for the Students

One common thing I do while teaching is develop a “working agreement” with all students at the beginning of the course, which is a way of setting expectations of each other that we can count on. This helps create a safe and meaningful learning environment. This practice of developing a working agreement is paralleled with the expectation of developing working agreements with all of the people they might work with. I also ask the students to for regular feedback usually at the end of each day, in order for them to have a chance to reflect on what was most effective regarding the content and delivery style, as well as what they most want to take away from the day’s learning. I offer resource guides to each student to be able utilize after the course to help them better apply the principles or skills taught. I also conduct mid-term and end of term evaluations that are similar to multiple-choice questions as a means of emphasizing the key points to retain. The students are provided immediate feedback on these evaluations and the results are not held against their final grade, but are more a measure of effectiveness of my teaching to help indicate areas where a significant number of students did not seem to understand a concept that the curriculum is intended to convey. The students are expected to practice the methods of receiving and giving feedback with the families they serve and setting goals together based on the feedback they are given by the families they serve.

Professional Growth Plan

            My future goals for growth as a teacher include increasing my use of flipping the classroom so that lectures and reading can be largely completed outside the classroom by the student, providing more time for discussions and activities in class to critically analyze the theory and concepts being taught and practical exercises in applying the concepts. I plan to increase my use of various learning methods to engage all students more fully in learning and meeting the classroom objectives. 

Conclusion

I bring my pedagogical approach of well-being and praxis to all aspects of my professional life. I take my various roles as mentor, teacher, coach, trainer, professor, and fellow citizen very seriously. I encourage students to privately speak with me about any concern they may have. Many come to talk about the course, their future career options, and general issues they are having in the course. I try to take the time to help them learn how to personally take charge of resolving their own concerns, a behavior that is hoped they would use with the families they serve. Finally, I use my collaborative and respectful learning and teaching approach when working with co-workers and colleagues so we can build on each other’s knowledge to create more innovative learning experiences.