Methods: Primary data were collected utilizing a combination of convenience and purposive sampling to obtain a sample of undergraduate and graduate social work students (N=70). Purposive sampling methods for the qualitative interviews and content analysis were also utilized to obtain a sample of social work program directors (N=7) and course syllabi from 10 social work programs (N=157), including 101 (64%) from seven undergraduate programs and 56 (36%) from three graduate programs social work programs in a southern state.
The mean age of student participants was 34, 33% were undergraduate students, 43.5% graduate students, and 23% doctoral students. Of this sample, 28% held an undergraduate degree in a field other than social work. Mean scores for knowledge of ADHD among students revealed a general understanding of ADHD in terms of characteristics, symptoms, and treatment, and participants demonstrated positive attitudes (less stigmatizing beliefs) towards individuals with ADHD.
Results: Several themes emerged from the qualitative interviews that were synonymous with the integrating features of the Signature Pedagogy Framework including thinking and performing like a social worker, development of the professional self, and signature characteristics of teaching and learning. Through the merging of the three strands of data, this study provided a multidimensional view of how program design influences explicit curriculum and the direct impact on the mental health literacy of social work students.
Implications: Findings suggest that although many social work programs emphasize the importance of preparing generalist social work practitioners, CSWE requirements continue to influence explicit curriculum which can limit the mobility of programs. As the demand for social workers within the mental health workforce continues to increase, social work programs must consider the trajectory of the profession and consider alternative methods of infusing content that will enhance the mental health literacy of social work students.