The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Social Worker Attitudes About Technology

Friday, January 17, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Jaclyn M. Williams, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Background and Purpose: The purpose of this study is to validate a new instrument, the Social Worker Attitudes About Technology Scale (SWAATS). The SWAATS is designed to measure social workers’ attitudes about the use of technology in social work practice. The use of technology in social work practice has sharply increased in the past two decades and has affected nearly every level of the social work profession. However even social workers who see advantages which technology can bring to the profession acknowledge its difficulties and ethical concerns. Knowledge of the attitudes of social workers about technology use in the profession can alert researchers to potential problem areas in the use of technology in social work practice. It is hypothesized that the SWAATS is multi-dimensional – consisting of three factors: perceived usefulness, technology self-efficacy, and ethical compatibility.

Methods: An initial item pool was examined by an expert panel to review the scale for face and content validity. The revised SWAATS, as well as two validation instruments and a demographics questionnaire, was administered via an online survey to a purposive sample of 112 social work students enrolled in an online or face-to-face social work course at a large, southeastern public university. As future practitioners, social work students will soon be faced with choices about technology use in social work practice. Analyses were run in PASW 18 including: missing values analysis, reliability analyses, and analyses of construct validity. To examine the factor structure of the scale, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was run in Lisrel 8.8.

Results: The initial 126-item pool was reduced to 30 items based on preliminary reviewer feedback. An analysis of alpha-if-item-deleted scores from a reliability analysis led to a final instrument of 18 items. The final Cronbach’s alpha for the global scale is .91 and the alpha for the Technology Self-Efficacy subscale is .86, (SEM = 2.52); for the Perceived Usefulness subscale is .84, (SEM = 2.86); and for the Ethical Compatibility subscale is .81, (SEM = 2.27). Confirmatory factor analyses indicated good model fit for the multidimensional measure. The statistical results of the confirmatory factor analysis are as follows: χ2 /df = 1.76, CFI = .95, NNFI (TLI) = .94, RMSEA = .072, SRMR = .081. Evidence of convergent construct validity was tested by examining correlations between SWAATS subscales and subscales measuring computer/Internet self-efficacy, the perceived usefulness of computer technology and a single item indicator measuring ethical compatibility. All hypothesized relationships were supported by significant correlations. Evidence of discriminant construct validity was also tested (between SWAATS and sex) and no significant relationship was found - supporting the discriminant validity hypothesis.

Conclusions and Implications: The final instrument is an 18 item, three factor scale. The results of this validation study indicate that the SWAATS may be a valid and reliable measure of the attitudes of social workers on the use of technology in social work practice. Future research should focus on norming the scale on practicing social workers and social workers with different demographic characteristics.