Abstract: A Mixed Methods Study on the Effectiveness of Integrating Evidence-Based Instructional Strategies to Teach Trauma Content (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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A Mixed Methods Study on the Effectiveness of Integrating Evidence-Based Instructional Strategies to Teach Trauma Content

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Bridget Weller, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Western Michigan University, MI
Winifred Wilson, MA, Doctoral Student, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
Melinda McCormick, PhD, Assistant Professor, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
Jessica Gladden, PhD, Assistant Professor, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
Andrea Hopkins, JD, MSW Student, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo
Background and Purpose: Although lectures are helpful in sharing information with students, an over reliance on this teaching approach may hinder student learning. In fact, current science indicates that students retain information longer when instructors use interactive and application-based activities in the classroom. Despite research documenting the importance of specific activities, a gap in the literature remains as to whether integrating multiple evidence-based approaches are effective when teaching trauma content related to vulnerable populations. The purpose of this explanatory mixed-methods study was to evaluate the effectiveness of integrating evidence-based instructional strategies in a graduate-level course on trauma and black adolescents. This study addressed the following research question: How does qualitative information gathered from graduate students help explain any quantitative differences in confidence and skills when working with black adolescents who experience trauma?

Methods: This explanatory sequential mixed-methods study used a sample of students who participated in a graduate-level course titled “Trauma and Black Adolescents.” The sampling frame included any student who participated in one of the five sections of the course. Quantitative data were gathered using a retrospective pretest-posttest design. Students volunteered at the end of the course to rate their confidence and skills both prior to starting the course (retrospective pretest data) and at the conclusion of the course (post-test data). Data were analyzed using Mplus 8.4, and missing data was addressed using FMIL. A total of 56 individuals completed the anonymous pretest/post-test assessment, yielding a response rate of 88%. This sample was 86% female and 43% identified as first-generation college students. A majority of the sample identified as non-Hispanic white (57%) followed by non-Hispanic black (25%).

Qualitative data were collected from 12 graduate students who participated in either an interview or focus group. All qualitative data were digitally recorded and transcribed. Nvivo 12 qualitative software was used for data management. Emergent themes were systematically identified as informed by grounded theory methods. Using the same sampling frame, a total of 12 individuals volunteered to participate in the study. 10 participants engaged in qualitative interviews and 2 participants were in a focus group. A majority of the samples was female (83%) and 41% identified as black, 41% as white and the remaining as multiracial.

Results: Results from the paired sample t-test indicated significant improvements for all items measured. For example, students’ confidence in applying research-informed interventions for the intended population were found, with mean scores for “before” (M=1.90, SD=1.08) and mean scores for “after” the course (M=3.45, SD=.85) conditions; t(30)=10.14, p <.001). Results from the interviews and focus group indicated that students thought changes in score were related to the following instructional activities: guided note taking, group discussions, role-plays, group presentations, and choice of a final assignment based on learning needs.

Conclusion: Results indicated that students perceived an improvement in their confidence and skills working with black adolescents exposed to trauma, which students described as occurring because of specific instructional activities.