Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Preparing Social Workers to Promote Environmental Justice: A Pilot Study (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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693P (WITHDRAWN) Preparing Social Workers to Promote Environmental Justice: A Pilot Study

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
John Mathias, PhD, Assistant Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Shamra Boel-Studt, PhD, MSW, Associate Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Karen Randolph, PhD, Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Background and Purpose: In the current context of global environmental change, social work practitioners will increasingly be called upon to address the impacts of environmental issues on vulnerable populations. In recognition of this trend, professional organizations require the integration of content on the environment into social work education (Council on Social Work Education, 2015), and there is a growing body of social work research on environmental topics (Mason et al, 2018; Krings et al., 2019). While there is also a literature on pedagogy and teaching tools for this emerging area (e.g., Teixeira & Krings, 2015; Androff et al, 2017), little evidence exists on how best to prepare social workers to promote environmental justice. This presentation reports results of a pilot study assessing the efficacy of one approach: a three-hour module on climate change and environmental justice that can be incorporated into core social work curricula.

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.