Methods: The study employed a mixed methods design using a convenience sample. Participants were 11 undergraduate students enrolled in a required core course entitled, Human Behavior and the Social Environment (HBSE). The Climate Change Attitude Survey (CCAS; Christensen & Knezek, 2015), measuring attitudes and beliefs about environmental justice and climate change (16 Likert items, 1 open-ended question), was administered before and after the module. Two other instruments measuring knowledge of environmental topics (5 open-ended questions) and feedback on the module (6 Likert items, 1 open-ended question) respectively, were administered after the module had been completed. Descriptive statistics were calculated for Likert scale items; content analysis was used to analyze responses to open-ended questions; and the paired samples t-test were used to examine change in participant beliefs and attitudes.
Results: The CCAS demonstrated high internal consistency at pre-test (α = .87) and posttest (α = .86). Mean CCAS scores (possible range 16-80) increased from pretest (M = 63.0, SD = 7.25) to posttest (M = 68.45; SD = 8.15; t(10) = 2.95; p = .015; 95%CI 9.58, 1.33). Item-level analyses revealed areas of changing attitudes and beliefs and included significantly greater agreement with statements such as “I believe our climate is changing.” , “I am concerned about global climate change.”, “Climate change has more impact on people of color and low-income populations than on other groups.” Open-ended responses showed broad student interest in environmental topics and receptivity to new knowledge about disproportionate negative environmental impacts on populations served by social workers. Participants rated six components of the module (readings, lecture, video, discussion, activities, and the final exercise). Scores on the feedback forms indicated they viewed the module components as contributing to their learning (Mitem1-6 = 4.54; SD = .42).
Conclusions and Implications: In keeping with the conference theme, we consider implications for transforming social workers’ knowledge and values regarding environmental justice and, thereby, expanding the profession’s capacity to make change in this arena. While further inquiry is needed, there is reason to believe that integrating environmental content into core courses like HBSE could have a broad impact on the profession and contribute to promoting environmental justice.