Research content fulfills an important role in expanding the practice knowledge of social work students (Rubin & Babbie, 2008). A number of studies have reported a negative research perception in social work students (Green, Bretzin, Leininger, & Stauffer, 2001; Maschi, Bradley, Youdin, Killian, Cleaveland, & Barbera, 2007). The research anxiety of students may prevent students from fully appreciating research and developing research skills (Montcalm, 1999). Positive research perceptions may well be empowering. However, little is known about how research perceptions influence the empowerment of social work students. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to find relationship between research perceptions and empowerment of social work students.
This cross-sectional survey research was conducted through purposive sampling of 283 MSW and BSW students. A structured questionnaire was used to gather data between the spring semester of 2008 and 2009. To measure the dependent variable: social work empowerment, this study used a modified Social Work Empowerment Scale (Cronbach's alpha= .789, Secret, Romf, & Ford, 2003). The main independent variables included two research perception questions: 1) perception of how useful a research course would be (1=not useful to 10=very useful) and 2) the extent of the student's fear of taking the research course (1=no fear to 10=much fear) (Royse, 1999). In addition, this study included self-efficacy, computer anxiety, age, and number of math courses taken as controls. The respondents ranged in age from 18 to 66 with a mean age of 30.4 years and around 90 percent were female. Approximately 74 percent of the respondents were Caucasian. In addition, 63 percent were BSW students and 36.9 percent were MSW students.
Hierarchical regression results revealed the usefulness of research was significantly related to increase of social work empowerment of students (B=.332, p<.05). Self-efficacy was significantly associated with increase of social work empowerment (B=.443, p<.001). Computer anxiety was significantly related to decrease of social work empowerment (B=-.101, p<.001). In addition, age was a significant predictor in increase of social work empowerment. Also, the results of this study showed that R square was .024 in step 1, .202 in step 2, and .219 in step 3 (N=283, df=6, p<.001). There were no multicollinearity problems due to high tolerance values (.837 to .945).
Conclusions and Implications:
First, the study found that social work students who have positive research perception (usefulness of research for practice) demonstrated higher empowerment. Social work faculty members should emphasize the usefulness of research for assessment, intervention, and evaluation. Their positive perception might influence active participation to research classes and research skills. Second, the study found that students who had higher self-efficacy also had higher empowerment. Social work research instructors need to encourage social students to have high self-efficacy, leading to success in research courses. Finally, the study found that students who had higher computer anxiety had lower social work employment. Many non-traditional students have anxiety to use computer. If students have more chances to participate in computer classes, their level of perceptions of research and empowerment will be improved.