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Teaching Efficacy and Context: Integrating Social Justice Content into Social Work Education


Social work education programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) are expected to cultivate the knowledge and skills students require to competently challenge social injustices and advance social and economic justice in their professional practice (CSWE, 2008a). Because social work educators play a key role in this effort (Gil, 1998; Van Soest & Garcia, 2003), this study explored educators' beliefs have about their ability to fulfill this role. This exploration integrated teacher efficacy theory (Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, & Hoy, 1998) and ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 1994) to determine to what extent the educational context as well as the personal and professional characteristics of educators affected these beliefs. Over 500 full-time social work educators responded to a request to complete a 56-item online survey instrument regarding their efficacy beliefs about their ability to integrate social justice content into their teaching in addition to information regarding the educational context in which they taught as well their personal and professional characteristics.

These educators reported a high level of efficacy beliefs about their abilities to (a) facilitate student engagement and (b) encourage student learning when integrating social justice content into their teaching. In addition, the educational context was demonstrated to be influential on educators' efficacy beliefs. In particular, an educators' resolve to integrate this content and the availability of programmatic support proved significant. Further, educators' ethnic identity as well as the mastery experience of integrating human rights content proved most relevant to one or both sets of efficacy beliefs. In addition, from respondents' written comments, the effects of program mission and integration, faculty preparation and engagement, students' positionality, and the challenge of connecting an abstract concept to concrete practices were each revealed as relevant to efforts to integrate social justice content into teaching. Finally, implications for future research including the need to establish whether educators' efficacy beliefs reflect their actual teaching performances as well as the practical application of these findings for social work education programs are provided.

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