Abstract: Promising Practices in Social Work Research Education: Findings and Innovations (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

11521 Promising Practices in Social Work Research Education: Findings and Innovations

Sunday, January 17, 2010: 10:45 AM
Marina (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Tina Maschi, PhD , Fordham University, Assistant Professor, New York, NY
Melissa Wells, PhD , University of New Hampshire, Durham, Assistant Professor, Durham, NH
Greta Yoder Slater, PhD , Ball State University, Assistant Professor, Muncie, IN
Background/Purpose: Evidence suggests social work educators use a variety of strategies designed to improve social work students' knowledge, skills, and attitudes towards research. These strategies include the use of individual and group projects, field-based research projects, and secondary data analysis (e.g.,Bolen,2006;Cox & Burdick, 2001;Ello,2006;Howard et al., 2003;Trotter& Leech, 2003). Alternative research methods, such as service learning and participatory action research, also are used to engage social work students in the research process (Knee,2002;Reese, 2004;Wells, 2006). However, research in this area consists mostly of case studies, anecdotal evidence, or exploratory designs. This study systematically examines the teaching strategies used among a national sample of 250 social work research instructors in diverse school settings. This presentation will report the results of a 2009 national study of social work research instructors, supported with a CSWE Scholars Award.

Methods: Social workers teaching research and statistics courses were invited to participate in a web-based survey of current practices in social work research education. The sample included 250 instructors recruited using the CSWE Focus newsletter, the BPD listserv, and the Social Work Research and Evaluation listserv. Measurement of teaching attitudes and practices included a variety of items including open-ended qualitative questions, categorical, and likert-scale (1= strongly disagree to 7=strongly agree) questions. Variables included examples of activities used in class, faculty perceptions of student anxiety and difficulty mastering content, research content integration throughout curriculum, specific tools and research equipment used, content taught, and faculty self-care practices.

Results: The most common methods of evaluation of student learning were: papers (85.3%of respondents use these), presentations (63.8%), exams (62.1%), quizzes (59.3%), applied data analysis assignments (58.2%), and applied data collection assignments (57.6%). Faculty deliver content primarily in the traditional way (91.2%) versus online (8.8%) or a hybrid approach (17.6%). A majority of faculty teach qualitative content (96.7%) and many cover a specific approach. Instructors who teach exclusively in at the BSW level reported significantly higher integration of research content across the curriculum than did instructors who reported teaching exclusively at the MSW or combined (BSW/MSW/PhD)levels (F2,180=3.32,p=.038). BSW level faculty reported significantly higher integration of practice content in the research or statistics courses than MSW or combined (BSW/MSW/PhD) levels (F2,181=4.46,p=.013). Factor analysis of the three subscales revealed a two factor solution that explained between 55-65% of the variance in each scale. Multivariate group comparisons, scale properties, and qualitative findings will also be presented.

Conclusion/Implications: These findings suggest that social work research instructors use a variety of strategies to enhance students confidence and competence with research. This information can be used to develop or improve research courses and teaching strategies that facilitate students' integration of research into practice. Uncovering the strategies that lead to successful engagement of social work students in the research process can also have long-term positive impacts on their integration of research and professional practice. Evaluation strategies that target students' high anxiety and low confidence levels about research should also be advanced in social work education.