Social Work Speaks Out: Findings From a Survey of North American Lgbtq Social Work Students
This symposium reports on the findings from a large-scale online survey of LGBTQ students to gain insight into social work education. The first paper examines use of LGBTQ students as appropriate evaluators of social work curricula, focusing specifically on the inclusion of LGBT-related readings and examples, management of LGBT-related classroom topics, and inclusion of materials on issues facing LGBTQ social workers. The second paper reports the impact of the implicit curriculum (e.g., non-discrimination policies, faculty and administrative supportiveness, peer comfort) on LGBTQ students’ perceptions of overall support. The third paper examines sexual and gender identity categories in survey research and their relationship to perceptions of support through the assessment of educational factors on students support. The last paper focuses on transgender issues in social work education, examining the quality and quantity of curriculum content, response of faculty and students to transgender topics, and the presence of university and program policies regarding discrimination based on gender identity.
Methods: An 81-item online survey was completed by LGBTQ students within BSW/MSW programs in Canada or the U.S. (n=1,018). Items included open-and closed-ended questions regarding demographic information, university and program policies, assessment of the curriculum, students’ experiences in the social work program, perceived support, and recommendations for improvement. Qualitative data were analyzed using content analysis (ATLAS-ti); quantitative data were analyzed using SPSS 20 software for frequencies, descriptives and regressions.
Results: After highlighting differences between student and faculty assessments of readiness to practice, presenters will discuss curricular infusion opportunities for LGBTQ topics, with a focus on the dearth of transgender issues and unique challenges facing LGBT social workers. A model will be presented exploring some of the university and program factors related to LGBTQ student’s perceptions of support. Special concerns related to transgender topics are also reviewed.
Conclusion: The symposium is designed to illuminate the challenges of conducting research on social work education related to LGBTQ students and topics, while raising awareness of potential areas for improving social work programs. The papers will help faculty and researchers prepare students for practice with LGBTQ populations, work to improve LGBTQ-related university and program policies, and design further research on these topics.