Models for professional judgement in social work

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In order to further research on decision-making in social work, a richer theoretical underpinning of models of decision-making is required. There has been significant theoretical advance in other disciplines from which we might learn and develop supportive theoretical constructs. This article outlines some major theoretical approaches to modelling individual judgement including expected utility, fuzzy set theory, signal detection, heuristics and biases, judgement analysis and bounded rationality models. Models are drawn from diverse fields such as computing, economics, psychology and operations research and are illustrated with social work examples. The models are sequenced from those that are more prescriptive (based on mathematical models of how a rational person should act) through to those that are more descriptive (creating models from studies of how people make decisions in real life). Implications are drawn out for future research on judgement and decision-making in social work. It is time for research on social work decision-making to be taken to a new level by creating and adapting models to inform empirical studies. This will require interdisciplinary collaboration and clarity in selecting, adapting and creating models appropriate to the complex environment of social work decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)546-562
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Work
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Nov 2012


  • judgment
  • judgement
  • decision
  • model
  • social work.


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