5 Steps to Achieve CSWE Accreditation

A practical guide to accreditation and reaccreditation success.

5 Steps to Achieve CSWE Accreditation

A practical guide to CSWE’s accreditation and reaccreditation success.

Securing CSWE accreditation is a critical step for any higher education social work program, but it’s no simple task! CSWE, or the Council on Social Work Education, has developed a rigorous accreditation process designed to ensure that social work students across the country are set up to successfully practice foundational competencies and become ethical, effective, inclusive practitioners of social work.

Achieving CSWE accreditation signifies to your current and prospective students that they will receive a high-quality, marketable education that will enable them to impact the most change in their communities after graduation!

Meeting this milestone is far from instantaneous, but by following the steps outlined below, you will be able to organize everything you need to meet CSWE’s requirements for accreditation.


Establish Foundational Elements for Program Review

The program review consists of a review of the learning environment and your program’s learning outcomes. This step requires the most advanced planning and should be squared away before students begin the program. 

This is the fun part! Design your program’s mission statement and define the impact your program will have on its participants and the local and global community by extension. 

Your program mission should align with the purpose of the social work profession: to foster social, racial, economic, and environmental justice and create conditions that facilitate the realization of human rights, the elimination of poverty, and the enhancement of life for all people. This purpose is achieved through the values of service, social justice, the dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, integrity, competence, human rights, and scientific inquiry. 

Your mission statement should take into account the historical, political, economic, environmental, social, cultural, demographic, institutional, local, regional, and global contexts and their bearing on the needs and opportunities of practice communities. 

For more information about how Program Mission is defined and reviewed, see Section 1: Program Mission in the 2022 EPAS. 

To support future generations of social workers who represent, engage in, and advocate for the diverse communities around them, your program must optimize accessibility and equity. To do so, anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion (ADEI)  approaches must be ingrained in the program’s explicit and implicit curricula. 

To learn more about how ADEI is defined and reviewed, see Section 2: Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the 2022 EPAS. 

So many factors can influence student success in the classroom and in their professional practice. While you will surely dedicate significant resources to developing your explicit curriculum, the implicit curriculum can be just as critical for student success. This includes student development; admissions; advising, retention, and termination; student participation in governance; faculty support; administrative and governance structure; and program resources. Each of these must be carefully considered through a lens of equity and inclusion.

To learn more about how the implicit curriculum is defined and reviewed, see Section 4: Implicit Curriculum in the 2022 EPAS. 


Centralize Data Collection

While Step 1 covered many of the administrative elements of your program’s preparation for CSWE accreditation, the bulk of the effort required year-over-year comes down to data collection. CSWE’s review of your program’s efficacy examines the systems and processes in place for: 

  • Assessing student competency in the 9 social work competencies
  • Promoting and managing student field education
  • Reviewing the assessment plan and outcomes related to student achievement

By collecting all of the above data in one centralized system from the outset, organizing and submitting the data CSWE needs to see is easy.

Fortunately, Tevera was designed with exactly these tasks in mind!


Execute Your Assessment Plan

CSWE requires that students be assessed by program faculty or field staff at least 2 times on each competency in the 2022 EPAS. At least one measure must be informed by real or simulated practice, while the other could be assessed based on student performance on an exit exam, portfolio, capstone project, seminar assignment, final presentation, competency-based paper, or course-embedded measure. 

Any assessment data should be collected via a rubric, in which the criteria for the basis of competency-based assessment are clearly defined and demonstrable by the student. 

Each measure should have an “Outcome Measure Benchmark”, defining the minimum acceptable score that a student could receive to be deemed meeting the competency. 

Learn more about CSWE’s guidance on the Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes here

Gathering all assessment data in one system is easier than ever with Tevera! Program faculty and field instructors alike will be able to evaluate student performance and any assessment rubrics can be aligned with the 9 social work competencies. 

Learn more about using Tevera for assessment here. 


Facilitate Field Education

CSWE calls field education the signature pedagogy of social work education. The field education experience allows students to integrate their theoretical knowledge in real-world practice scenarios and develop the fundamental skills required for future professional work. 

In order to support the student field experience, your program will need to: 

  • Ensure generalist and specialized practice opportunities for all students.
  • Orient and place students in appropriate field experience settings.
    • Verify students are working with appropriately qualified field instructors. 
      • Provide orientation and resources for field instructors. 
    • Create a policy for student placement at a place of employment. 
  • Monitor and support student learning while in their field placement. 
  • Create a framework by which field instructors can evaluate student learning congruent with the 9 social work competencies. 
  • Verify student field experience hours accrued (400 hours for baccalaureate students and 900 hours for masters students). 
  • Implement a system to evaluate field instructor and field education setting effectiveness. 

Learn more about CSWE’s expectations for the student field experience in the 2022 EPAS Accreditation Standard 3.3: Field Education.

With Tevera’s field experience solution, you can place students, collect necessary documentation, maintain a database of placement sites and qualified supervisors, verify field experience hours, and more.  Learn more here.


Review Program Outcomes

Upon collecting all assessment data, your program will need a process in place for reviewing the assessment plan and outcomes related to student achievement of the 9 social work competencies. (2022-EPAS, 5.0.1(c)) 

Gaining the insight you need into student learning outcomes is easy with Tevera! Our accreditation standards reports can aggregate the data gathered on any field evaluations along with any other assessment measures that are aligned with the competencies, giving your program a holistic picture of student achievement across the breadth of your explicit curriculum. 

Reports can also be filtered to show disaggregated outcomes for different groups, allowing you to easily pull data for each program option as required by CSWE. 

Learn more about using Tevera to review program outcomes here. 

Book an overview today to learn more about Tevera and see it in action!