Back to:
Current year's news releases
All news releases
News and information home

Gibbs Receives International Attention for Teaching Evidence-Based Practice in Social Work

RELEASED: April 11, 2005

Professor Len Gibbs
Professor Len Gibbs

EAU CLAIRE — Invitations to speak in professional and academic settings are piling up on the desk of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire social work professor Len Gibbs, a sure sign that his specialty, evidence-based practice, is becoming a hot topic in the field of social work.

Gibbs, a national expert on evidence-based practice in social work, conducts workshops on evidence-based practice and critical thinking at professional conferences and universities throughout the nation. He writes extensively on the subject and is author of several books including "Evidence-Based Practice for the Helping Professions and Scientific Reasoning for Social Workers: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice."

"Things have happened that I never would have expected," Gibbs said, referring to a series of upcoming national and international presentations. "Opportunities to share what our fieldwork and research students are doing seem to be coming out of the woodwork."

Gibbs describes evidence-based practice as a process that brings together skills and technology to pose questions, search efficiently for current best evidence, critically appraise what you find, and take action (or no action) depending on what you discover.

"EBP started in medicine and percolated down to us," Gibbs said. "It has great potential in helping people make decisions in their work and is significant as a guide for people in the helping professions to make decisions. It can also be useful for consumers to make informed decisions."

Evidence-based practice harnesses the access to information through the Internet, Gibbs said. "For the first time people who know how to utilize computer searches can pose and answer questions about best practice as problems arise — just in time, not just in case," he said.

"Social workers have a lot of power — they can remove a child from a home, for example," Gibbs said. "It's absolutely necessary that our students learn to think critically and humanely. The bottom line in my classes is about helping students make better judgments and decisions in their own lives and as they make decisions affecting others."

Gibbs teaches students to find and critically appraise the best evidence. "We want them to think on their feet and find evidence fast," he said.

In March Gibbs, Eileen Gambrill of UC-Berkeley and Stephanie Baus of Tulane University led a faculty development workshop in New York on teaching evidence-based practice. Gibbs and Gambrill also led a workshop at the University of Toronto's School of Social Work as part of the school's Evidence-Based Practice Initiative.

This month Gibbs will give two keynote addresses, the first at Ohio State for the National Symposium on Doctoral Research in Social Work, and the second in Nashville at Belmont University's Undergraduate Research Symposium.

In November Gibbs will teach for a week at England's Oxford University at the invitation of Frances Gardner, director of graduate studies in evidence-based social work in the department of social policy and social work.

Oxford is the first institution in the world to offer a social work program in evidence-based practice, Gibbs said. He plans to show students there a DVD of UW-Eau Claire students as they worked in teams on a final exam. The students used evidence-based practice to answer two questions about the juvenile delinquency prevention program "Scared Straight" and the most effective prevention program for alcohol misuse among middle and high school students.

"I am so proud of these students," Gibbs said. "They had 30 minutes each for these questions. They demonstrated how the evidence-based process allows them to answer questions and make decisions that are based on the best research available and in a timely fashion."

Gibbs plans to develop an online course to teach best evidence practice skills to teams who work with clients in alcohol and other drug abuse programs. He submitted a funding proposal to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for an online interactive e-course in collaboration with HealthSoft Corp.

"Evidence-based practice cuts across every one of the helping professions and should include their clients in the effort," Gibbs said. "This course will allow us to reach more people with training so they can implement EBP in their practice."

Gibbs earned a Ph.D. in social work from UW-Madison. He received the 1992 UW-Eau Claire Excellence in Scholarship Award.

-30-

JW/JB

Back to:
Current year's news releases

All news releases
News and information home

Excellence. Our Measure. Our Motto. Our Goal.