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Social Work Students and the Research Process: Exploring the Thinking, Feeling, and Doing of Research

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The purpose of thispilot study was to explore howsocial workstudents enrolled in a research course report their thoughts,feelings. andsatisfaction with the research process. A pretestandpositest, self-report measures. the State-Trait Anxiety Scale (Y1). and subscales of the Research Process Survey wereusedto track the thoughts. feelings. andactions of 111 social workresearch studentsduring afifteen-week semester. Results of paired sample t-tests revealed that although social workstudents experienceda decrease in negative thoughtsandfeelings (e.g.. anxiety) aboutthe research process. they were not satisfied with it. These findings haveimportant im­ plications for social workeducation. Helping studentsincrease not only theirpositive thoughts andfeelings aboutresearch but also theirsatisfaction level canassist with the long-termeducational goal to educate social workprofessionals who canprovide higll-quality services. evaluate practice. andimprove practice. policy. andsocial service delivery.
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Social Work Students and the Research Process:
Exploring the Thinking, Feeling, and Doing of Research
Tina Maschi, Carolyn Bradley, Robert Youdin, Mary Lou Killian,
Carol Cleaveland, and Rosemary A. Barbera
The purpose of this pilot study was to explore how social work students enrolled in a
research course report their thoughts, feelings, and satisfaction with the research
process. A pretest and posttest, self-report measures, the State-Trait Anxiety Scale
(Y1), and subscales of the Research Process Survey were used to track the thoughts,
feelings, and actions of 111 social work research students during a fifteen-week
semester. Results of paired sample t-tests revealed that although social work students
experienced a decrease in negative thoughts and feelings (e.g., anxiety) about the
research process, they were not satisfied with it. These findings have important im-
plications for social work education. Helping students increase not only their positive
thoughts and feelings about research but also their satisfaction level can assist with
the long-term educational goal to educate social work professionals who can provide
high-quality services, evaluate practice, and improve practice, policy, and social
service delivery.
Keywords: CSWE accreditation standards, social work education, research,
teaching, student writing, student satisfaction, library research
Research coursework is an inevitable part of every social work student’s edu-
cational experience and a formative step that shapes how he or she will inte-
grate research knowledge and skills into professional practice. The Council of
Social Work Education (2002) Educational Policy and Accreditation Stan-
dards mandates that social work education programs provide “qualitative and
The Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, Vol. 13, No. 1 (2007)
© 2007 by the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors. All rights reserved.
Tina Maschi, Ph.D., LCSW, ACSW, is assistant professor in the Fordham University Graduate School
of Social Service, New York City. Carolyn Bradley, Ph.D., LCSW, LCADC, is assistant professor in the
Monmouth University Department of Social Work in West Long Branch, New Jersey. Robert Youdin,
Ph.D., is lecturer and Mary Lou Killian, Ph.D., is specialist professor in the Monmouth University De-
partment of Social Work, West Long Branch, New Jersey. Carol Cleaveland, Ph.D., LSW, is assistant
professor, George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Rosemary A. Barbera, Ph.D., MSS, MA, is
assistant professor in the Monmouth University Department of Social Work.
quantitative research content” with the explicit purpose that social work stu-
dents learn to “develop, use, and effectively communicate empirically based
knowledge and evidence-based interventions” (p. 12). A common method used
to evaluate social work students’ attainment of research knowledge and skills
is to require students to write a research proposal or report, a task to which so-
cial work research texts often dedicate at least a chapter (e.g., Engel & Schutt,
2005; Friedman, 2006; Kreuger & Neuman, 2005). Conducting research and
writing a research report are often carried out over the course of one or two se-
mesters and require social work students to identify a topic, conduct a library lit-
erature search, organize and synthesize the literature, craft research questions
and/or hypotheses, develop a research design, propose and/or carry out the
study, and write the final report.
As systematic as this type of research assignment sounds, more than two
decades of literature suggests that social work students often experience nega-
tive emotional, cognitive, or behavioral responses to research coursework, par-
ticularly during the initial learning stages (Adam, Zosky, & Unrau, 2004; Briar,
Weissman, & Rubin, 1981; Secret, Ford, & Rompf, 2003; Taylor, 1990). These
common negative feelings, thoughts, and behaviors include anxiety and fear,
self-doubt and confusion, and procrastination and task aversion (Davis, 2003;
Forte, 1995; Royce & Rompf, 1992; Wilson & Rosenthal, 1993). Research also
suggests that prolonged engagement in research often increases students’ sense
of self-efficacy and confidence about research (Holden, Anastas, & Meenaghan,
2003; Holden, Meenaghan, Anastas, & Metrey, 2002). Although we have a
general understanding of students’ affective or cognitive processes of research,
we have yet to fully explore how the interaction of thoughts, feelings, and ac-
tions affects social work students’ comprehension and overall satisfaction with
the research process. Gaining a better understanding of this process can help
educators to identify what emotional, cognitive, and behavioral factors affect
social work students’ integration of research knowledge and skills into practice.
This information can also be used to develop and improve teaching strategies for
students to effectively navigate the thinking, feeling, and doing of research, es-
pecially among BSW students, who are often new to research coursework.
The library science profession offers a potential explanation for students’ ex-
periences conducting library research for research papers ( Jiao & Onwuegbuzie,
1999; Kracker, 2002). In particular, Carol Kuhlthau (2005) proposed the
Information Search Process model, which is a six-stage process and outcome
model that describes the dynamic process of students’ emotions, cognitions,
and behaviors from the start of the library information search process to the
conclusion of the final paper. A progression of thoughts, feelings, and actions
are commonly associated with the six steps in the process model, which consists
of task initiation, topic selection, prefocus exploration, focus formation, infor-
mation collection, and search closure.
More than two decades of empirical research on Kuhlthau’s Information
Search Process model suggests that students’ initial feelings of confusion and
2 Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work
anxiety at the start of the research assignment (i.e., task initiation and topic
selection) commonly transform to confidence, competence, and satisfaction at
project completion and search closure (Kuhlthau, 2005; Kuhlthau & Tama,
2001). Similarly, initial vague thoughts about what and how to research of-
ten become focused as the project progresses and certain action strategies are
used (Kuhlthau, 1993). Despite the longitudinal validation of the Information
Search Process model with a wide array of groups such as high school and col-
lege students, legal professionals, and public library users (Kuhlthau, 1988,
1993; Kuhlthau & Tama, 2001; Kuhlthau, Turock, George, & Belvin, 1990),
the interaction of thoughts and feelings and satisfaction with the research pro-
cess has not yet been fully explored with social work students.
Therefore, the purpose of this outcome study is to build upon the extant lit-
erature by exploring the affective (feelings) and cognitive (thoughts) dimen-
sions among social work students enrolled in a research course that required a
final research paper. A pre- and posttest design and a purposive sample using
the standardized State-Trait Anxiety Scale (Spielberger, 1983) and the Re-
search Process Survey (Kracker, 2002) were used to examine the thoughts, feel-
ings, and actions of 111 northeastern United States social work students en-
rolled in a research course. The research question that guided the investigation
was, How do social work students enrolled in a research course describe their
thoughts, feelings, and satisfaction with the research process at the beginning
and completion of a research course that required students to conduct research
and write a final report?
Based on a review of the literature, the following hypotheses were tested: So-
cial work students enrolled in a research course will report significantly higher
levels of anxiety about the research process at pretest levels than at posttest lev-
els. Social work students enrolled in a research course will report significantly
lower levels of positive thoughts, feelings, and satisfaction about the research
process at pretest than at posttest levels.
Results of a series of paired t-tests revealed a statistically significant decrease
in anxiety and an increase in overall thoughts and feelings about the research
process. However, students also reported a decrease in overall satisfaction.
These findings suggest that students’ thoughts and feelings at the beginning
and end of a research course can significantly change for better or worse. As
these findings demonstrated, although social work students experienced a de-
crease in negative thoughts and feelings (e.g., anxiety) about the research pro-
cess, this did not also mean they were satisfied with it.
Research on social work students’ experiences of learning research has im-
portant implications for social work practice, education, and research. And in-
creased understanding of the co-occurring thoughts, feelings, and actions of
social work research students can assist educators and students to normalize
common thoughts and feelings about the research process. Strategies also can
be developed or improved to enhance their confidence and competence with the
process. This increased confidence and competence may in turn translate into
Exploring the Thinking, Feeling, and Doing of Research 3
their professional lives with the explicit goal of using their research knowledge
and skills to “provide high-quality services; to initiate change; to improve prac-
tice, policy, and social service delivery; and to evaluate their own practice”
(Council on Social Work Education, 2002, p. 12).
Method
Research Design
An investigation of social work students’ experiences of the research process
was conducted in 2005 during the fifteen-week fall semester. The setting was a
private midsized liberal arts university in the northeastern United States. The
BSW students (2 percent; n = 120) and MSW students (3 percent; n = 210)
represented 5 percent of the approximate total student population of 6,100.
A pretest and posttest design and a Web-based self-report survey were used to
track the thoughts, feelings, and actions of a purposive sample of social work
students enrolled in a social work research coursework.
Sample
The target population was 153 social work students enrolled in BSW or
MSW research courses. Invitations were sent to the 153 students, and 111
social work students agreed to participate in the online survey, resulting in a
73 percent response rate. The majority of the 111 participants were female (82
percent; n = 92), between the ages of nineteen and twenty-four (41 percent;
n = 45), and white (79.5 percent; n = 89). Most of them were full-time students
(79 percent; n = 78). About one-quarter of the sample (23.8 percent; n = 25)
were BSW students, and the majority (76 percent; n = 79) were MSW students.
About one of out five students (n = 23) reported having no prior research
course.
Measures
The measures for this investigation were used to chronicle the thoughts and
feelings of social work students at the beginning (time 1) and end (time 2) of a
research assignment. Pretest (baseline) and posttest surveys that included
Spielberger’s standardized State-Trait Anxiety Scale were used to track their
thoughts and feelings, and the subscales of Kracker’s Research Process Survey
were used to track their overall feelings and thoughts and satisfaction with the
research process. The Culturally Competent Socio-Demographic Questionnaire
(Maschi, Youdin, & Bradley, 2005) was used to gather relevant sociodemo-
graphic information.
Anxiety Anxiety was conceptually defined as an “unpleasant emotional state
or condition” (Spielberger, 1983, p. 4) often consisting of subjective feelings of
tension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry. It was operationalized using
the standardized state anxiety form, a self-report survey that consists of twenty
4 Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work
items that use a four-item Likert scale (1 = not at all, 2 = somewhat, 3 = mod-
erately so, and 4 = very much so). Participants who complete the survey are
asked to describe how they generally feel about their most recent research expe-
rience. It includes both negative and positive statements such as “I feel calm,” “I
am tense,” “I feel self-confident,” “I feel confused,” and “I feel pleased.” Negative
statements were reverse scored prior to the preparation of the summative scale
for data analysis purposes.
Thoughts, feelings, and satisfaction with the research process The research process
was conceptualized as an awareness of the cognitive and affective dimensions
of the research process (Kuhlthau, 2005). It was operationalized by using three
subscales of the eighteen-item Research Process Survey. Developed by Kracker
(2002), the Research Process Survey is a self-report survey used to measure
students’ cognitive and affective awareness and satisfaction with the research
process consistent with Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process Model. Social
work research students were asked to respond to positive and negative state-
ments about the research process by using a five-point Likert scale (1 = strongly
disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = sometimes, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree).
For the purposes of this investigation, three subscales regarding the research
process were used: overall thoughts, overall feelings, and satisfaction. The first
additive scale, overall thoughts about the research process, consisted of the fol-
lowing two items: “I don’t understand how to do research” and “When looking
for a research topic, I usually go with the first idea that comes to mind.” The sec-
ond additive scale, overall feelings about the research process, was measured us-
ing the following two items: “Overall, I dislike the research process” and “I am
comfortable with research paper assignments.” The third additive scale, satis-
faction with the research process, was composed of the following two items: “I
generally feel satisfied with my research” and “I usually feel disappointed with
my research.” Negatively worded items were recoded in the reverse direction
prior to data analysis.
Demographic variables Maschi, Youdin, and Bradley’s Culturally Competent
Socio-Demographic Questionnaire was used to collect demographic informa-
tion during the initial data collection (time 1). For the purposes of this analysis,
the following demographic information was used: student status, age, gender,
and race/ethnicity. Student status was measured as a dichotomous variable. So-
cial work students responded that they were BSW or MSW students (0 = BSW;
1 = MSW). Age was measured as a continuous variable and determined by the
question “What is your age in years?” Gender was measured as either male
or female (male = 0; female = 1). Race/ethnicity was determined by the ques-
tion “What is your race/ethnicity?” in which respondents could choose from
seven categories: white (not of Hispanic origin), African American, Hispanic,
Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaskan Native, interracial, and other
race/ethnicities not listed. For the purposes of the analysis, race/ethnicity was
coded as a binary variable (majority or white = 1; minority/nonwhite = 0).
Exploring the Thinking, Feeling, and Doing of Research 5
Data Collection Procedures
Data were collected from BSW and MSW students enrolled in research
courses at the beginning (pretest) and end (posttest) of the research course.
During the fall 2005 term, twelve social work research course sections were
offered, of which three were BSW courses (i.e., two foundation social work re-
search courses and one data analysis course). Of the nine MSW courses, one
section was a foundation research course and the other eight sections were ad-
vanced research methods (i.e., three practice evaluation course, one program
evaluation course, and four courses on the implications and applications of so-
cial justice and human rights).
Social work students enrolled in at least one of these research courses were
invited to participate in the study via an e-mail invitation. This e-mail invitation
provided a link to the secure online survey, which generated a unique token
number or study identification number. Two e-mail reminders were sent to stu-
dents who did not complete the survey within three days of the initial invitation,
and then within seven days. Students who did not respond to the initial e-mail
invitation and two e-mail reminders were then dropped from the participant
pool. The anonymous token number provided in the e-mail was used to match
students’ pretest and posttest measures.
The study was approved by the university internal review board, and stu-
dents had to provide voluntary informed consent via the Web-based link in or-
der to complete the survey. The students took the survey at the beginning (week
1 pretest survey) and end (week 15 posttest) of the semester; it took about fifteen
to twenty minutes to complete. The online survey results were automatically
uploaded to an Excel spreadsheet that was transferred to Statistical Software for
the Social Sciences for the purposes of data analysis.
Data Analysis
Statistical Software for the Social Sciences 14.0 was used to analyze the hy-
potheses about social work students and the research process. A series of analy-
ses was conducted, including descriptive statistics and paired t-tests of time 1
and time 2 anxiety and affective and cognitive processes about the research pro-
cess. Cases with missing data were dropped from the analyses for the anxiety,
overall thoughts, and feelings scales, resulting in eighty-seven cases. Cases with
missing data were dropped from the analysis of the satisfaction scale, resulting
in eighty-two cases. Since the overall sample was largely homogeneous, no sig-
nificant differences were noted between the sample retained and the full sample.
Findings
In order to test the study hypotheses, a series of dependent paired t-tests was
conducted. The dependent or paired samples t-test was used for the single
sample of social work research students in order to compare their pre- and post-
6 Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work
test mean scores on the variables of central interest: anxiety, overall thoughts,
overall feelings, and satisfaction with the research process.
The results of the dependent paired t-test for anxiety show a significant dif-
ference between pretest and posttest anxiety scores. As shown in table 1, the
mean score of the pretest levels of anxiety (t1 anxiety) is 68.09, compared to
63.47 at posttest (t2 anxiety), a decrease of 4.62. The 4.62 point difference is
statistically significant at the .01 level, with 86 degrees of freedom. As shown in
table 2, pre- and posttest anxiety scores show a significant decrease in levels
of anxiety among social work students enrolled in research courses (t
(df = 86)
=
2.08; p = .02).
Results of the dependent paired t-test for the overall thoughts scale revealed
a pretest mean score (t1 thoughts) of 6.56, whereas the posttest mean score (t2
thoughts) was 6.89 (see table 1). The difference between time 1 and time 2
thoughts was 0.32. As shown in table 2, the 0.32 point difference is statistically
significant (p = .034), with 86 degrees of freedom. The pre- and posttest scores
show a significant change in social work research students’ overall positive
thoughts about the research process (t
(df = 86)
= –1.85; p = .034).
The mean scores of overall feelings about the research process were exam-
ined next. As shown in table 1, the pretest mean score (t1 feelings) was 4.64,
and the posttest mean score was 6.40. The difference was 1.76. As shown in
table 2, the 1.76 point increase is statistically significant at the .01 level with 86
degrees of freedom, which suggests a significant change in social work students’
overall positive feelings about the research process (t
(df = 86)
= –7.87; p = .001).
The next dependent paired t-test comparing social work students’ pretest
and posttest scores for overall satisfaction showed a pretest mean score of 5.35,
compared to the posttest mean score of 5.05 (see table 1). The difference be-
tween time 1 and time 2 satisfaction scores was 0.31. As displayed in table 2, the
0.31 point decrease is statistically significant ( p = .022), with 81 degrees of
freedom (t
(df = 81)
= 2.03; p < .05). This finding suggests that overall satisfaction
Exploring the Thinking, Feeling, and Doing of Research 7
Table 1 Mean scores of social work students’ anxiety, overall thoughts,
feelings, and satisfaction scores between pretest and posttest
measures
Variables MNSD
T1 Anxiety 68.09 87 18.48
T2 Anxiety 63.47 87 20.60
T1Overall thoughts 6.56 87 1.80
T2 Overall thoughts 6.89 87 1.88
T1 Overall feelings 4.64 87 1.97
T2 Overall feelings 6.40 87 .80
T1 Satisfaction 5.35 82 1.27
T2 Satisfaction 5.05 82 1.27
decreased at the completion of the research course and research report writing
assignment.
In conclusion, the results of the dependent paired t-test show that the anxi-
ety levels of social work students enrolled in research courses significantly de-
creased, and their overall positive thoughts and feelings about the research
process significantly increased. However, their overall satisfaction with the re-
search process significantly decreased between pre- and post measures. These
findings warrant further discussion regarding their consistency with the extant
literature and their implications for social work practice and education. A dis-
cussion of these implications follows.
Discussion
The purpose of this study was to explore the overall thoughts, feelings, and
satisfaction with the research process of a sample of social work students en-
rolled a research course. The data from this investigation found support for the
first hypothesis, which predicted that pretest anxiety levels concerning research
coursework would decrease at the final posttest scores. In contrast, the data
only partially support the second hypothesis. As predicted, results of a series of
paired t-tests revealed an increase in overall positive thoughts and feelings
about the research process between pre- and posttest measures. However, stu-
dents were found to experience a decrease in overall satisfaction with the re-
search process from pretest to posttest measurement. This decrease in satis-
faction with the research process was in the inverse direction of what was
predicted.
These findings suggest that social work students’ research experiences, espe-
cially when they are conducting research and writing research reports, involve
a complex interplay of thoughts, feelings, and satisfaction concerning research
8 Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work
Table 2 Results of paired samples t-tests among social work research
students between pretest and posttest measures of anxiety, overall
thoughts, feelings, and satisfaction with the research process
Paired differences
95% CI of
difference
Sig
Mean dif SD sem Lower Upper tdf(1 tailed)
T1 & T3 anxiety
a
4.62 20.69 2.08 0.21 9.03 2.08 86 .020
T1 & T2 thoughts
a
–0.32 1.63 0.17 –0.69 0.02 –1.85 86 .034
T1 & T2 feelings
a
–1.76 2.09 0.22 –2.20 –1.31 –7.87 86 .001
T1 & T2 satisfaction
b
0.31 1.36 0.15 0.01 0.60 2.03 81 .022
a
N = 87
b
N = 82
that may shift from the start to the finish of a project. This change in thoughts
and feelings may in turn influence the level to which these students achieve
mastery of course material, self-confidence and competence, and satisfaction
with their work. Consistent with the outcomes as described by Kuhlthau’s In-
formation Search Process model, this thinking, feeling, and doing of research
appears to be a dynamic process that varies between the beginning and the end
of a student’s research project.
This investigation builds upon the extant literature by providing a portrait of
the co-occurring thoughts, feelings, and satisfaction with the process among
social work students at the beginning and the end of the research coursework.
These findings are consistent with other research studies that demonstrate a
positive effect of social work students’ sense of self-efficacy and knowledge of
the research process (Holden et al., 2002, 2003; Unrau & Grinnell, 2005). Ad-
ditionally, consistent with the Information Search Process model and social
work education literature, anxiety about research is common among students,
especially during the initial stages of a research project (e.g., Davis, 2003;
Kracker, 2002; Wilson & Rosenthal, 1993). However, the present investigation
builds upon the extant literature by simultaneously examining the overall
thoughts and feelings of social work students and their satisfaction with the re-
search process. It was found that the finding that students may report a decrease
in anxiety and an increase in positive thoughts and overall feelings about the re-
search process does not mean that students will report satisfaction with the
process. Possible reasons for the discrepancy may be similar to those for nega-
tive outcomes of mandated treatment for clients: successful completion of a
program does not guarantee satisfaction with the process or the results. Quali-
tative results from this study revealed that 98 percent of the students took a re-
search course because it was a program requirement, not because it was a topic
of interest. Perhaps if students’ initial resistance to research is not actively ad-
dressed as part of the process, dissatisfaction will be the result, regardless of
their comprehension of the material.
For social work educators, the finding regarding student satisfaction with re-
search is of particular concern. While the literature addresses issues such as
fear and anxiety regarding the research process (Gustavsson & MacEachron,
2001; Hyduk & Large, 1999), the area of student satisfaction has been left un-
addressed. Continued failure to investigate how satisfaction affects student in-
terest in research may result in an increased divide between social work re-
searchers and other social work practitioners.
These findings also have important implications for social work practice and
education. Feelings are an essential part of the research process. If feelings are
an integral part of the human experience and may affect learning, ignoring
them in research courses commonly associated with high anxiety may seri-
ously undermine our profession’s long-term educational objectives for social
work graduates to integrate research into practice. As in social work practice
situations with clients, students’ feelings in the classroomespecially fear and
Exploring the Thinking, Feeling, and Doing of Research 9
anxiety about researchshould not go unchecked during the research process.
Ignoring this elephant in the middle of the classroom may greatly inhibit stu-
dents’ abilities to learn and to work logically, systematically, and effectively in
their research coursework and may undermine the long-term educational goal
of integration of research knowledge and skills into practice.
Although these findings have important implications for social work practice
and education, methodological limitations limit confidence in the results. Limi-
tations of the research design include the use of a small nonrandom sample
from a private university in one geographic location of the United States. There-
fore, these findings are not representative, nor are they generalizable to the
larger population of social work students. Additionally, the use of unstandard-
ized measures (i.e., the Research Process Survey) makes internal validity and
reliability questionable. Despite these limitations, these results suggest future
directions for research.
Future research should examine both students’ processes and outcomes of
research. In particular, future studies can examine whether completion of a re-
search project may decrease one’s desire to do research and trust of the research
process. Additionally, tracking students across different points in time over the
course of the semester will provide important information about students’ lived
experiences of research courses. These studies should incorporate the use of
longitudinal mixed-methods designs. The use of qualitative data from students
and teachers could provide a thick description of the complex process that is al-
most nonexistent in the social work literature.
As so little is known regarding the area of student satisfaction, it might best
be explored through the use of qualitative methodology. Areas to be explored in
such an inquiry might be formulated through the use of adult learning theories
that address issues such as level of anxiety and need for encouragement
(Knowles, 1990), perception of threat to success (Reynolds, 1985), types of re-
search methodology taught, curriculum design, and instructional strategies.
Quantitative studies that use a nationally representative sample of social
work students and standardized measures could enhance our understanding of
social work students and the research process by providing robust findings that
are representative and generalizable. A large survey study can also gather im-
portant information about the nuances of learning research in different uni-
versities of different sizes that emphasize teaching versus research missions as
well as in different geographic regions, such as urban, suburban, and rural lo-
cations. Applied research in this area can assist with the development and im-
provement of teaching strategies that help social work students navigate the
thinking, feeling, and doing of research. Assisting students to achieve mastery
and satisfaction with the research process will help bridge research into prac-
tice. This mastery and satisfaction with the research process may greatly en-
hance the probability that they will use their knowledge and skills to provide
high-quality services, evaluate practice, and improve practice, policy, and social
service delivery in their professional lives.
10 Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work
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12 Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work
... The social work profession has been identified as the slowest to generate and take up knowledge in evidence-based practice (Gray et al., 2009). Among social work students too, studies have identified 'ambivalence' 'reluctance', 'resistance' and 'anxiety' at the prospect of completing research courses in social work programmes (Bolin et al., 2012;Gredig & Bartelsen-Raemy, 2018;Green et al., 2001;Maschi et al., 2007;Morgenshtern et al., 2011;Secret et al., 2003). This finding is not new; in 1987, Epstein described social work students as 'research reluctant', observing that 'no other part of the social work curriculum has been so consistently received by students with as much groaning, moaning, eye-rolling, hyperventilation, and waiver strategizing as the research course' (Epstein, 1987, p. 71). ...
... A more recent study confirmed social work students' 'apprehension' towards research courses (Morgenshtern et al., 2011), while another reported on students' 'disappointing' lack of interest and 'enthusiasm' for research courses (Bolin et al., 2012, p. 238). A more promising observation by Maschi et al. (2007) was that, while students initially experienced research anxiety, this decreased in the process of the research course. Also on a more positive note, Secret et al. (2003) identified higher degrees of interest in research courses among social work students than previously thought. ...
... Further it should be noted that the studies modelling students' interest in research courses focussed on students enrolled in specific programmes run by a university in the USA (see, for example, Bolin et al., 2012;Maschi et al., 2007), Canada (see, for example, Morgenshtern et al., 2011), Israel (Lazar, 1991) or Switzerland (Gredig & Bartelsen-Raemy, 2018). Accordingly, the authors of these contributions regularly pointed out that generalisations should be made with caution as the findings might be dependent on the specific programme or university, or the wider context. ...
Article
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Several studies have confirmed social work students’ reluctance about research courses. However, there remains little understanding of the determinants of students’ interest in research courses. This study aimed to contribute to a more robust understanding of underlying dynamics influencing students’ feelings regarding research courses through a comparison of students entering a BSW programme in Australia and Switzerland. We hypothesized that a) students’ interest in research courses was predicted by students’ fear of research courses and research orientation, b) their research orientation was determined by their fear of research courses, and c) their fear was predicted by their statistics anxiety and general self-efficacy. For data collection, we used an anonymous self-administered online questionnaire. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics, multivariate analyses and structural equation modelling. The sample included 165 Australian and 245 Swiss students (N=410). In both student groups, interest in research courses was predicted by students’ fear of research courses and their research orientation. Fear of research courses was predicted by general self-efficacy and statistics anxiety. Fear of research courses did not determine research orientation. Regardless of the diverse contexts, in both groups the predictors of research interest proved to be the same.
... Although some social work scholars have focused exclusively on the value of pedagogical approaches that provide experiential opportunities for students to apply research skills, others have elaborated more clearly on other specific dimensions of learning that influence the success of experiential approaches (Blakemore & Howard, 2015;Maschi et al., 2007;Maschi, Probst, & Bradley, 2009). Blakemore and Howard (2015), for instance, identified specific cognitive skills, including critical thinking, creative thinking, and strategic thinking that research focused programs can foster. ...
... This approach resonates with research by Whipple et al. (2015), who underscored how BSW students increased their competency in research skills by engaging in authentic research activities. Other social work scholars suggest that experiential approaches to teaching research, which emphasize the behavioral or skills dimensions of learning, are equally important to those that focus on cognitive and affective dimensions (Maschi et al., 2007;Maschi et al., 2009). To this end, Maschi et al. (2007) urged social work educators to recognize the affective, cognitive, and experiential dimensions of learning that are relevant to learning research skills and the interrelatedness of these dimensions. ...
... Other social work scholars suggest that experiential approaches to teaching research, which emphasize the behavioral or skills dimensions of learning, are equally important to those that focus on cognitive and affective dimensions (Maschi et al., 2007;Maschi et al., 2009). To this end, Maschi et al. (2007) urged social work educators to recognize the affective, cognitive, and experiential dimensions of learning that are relevant to learning research skills and the interrelatedness of these dimensions. In doing so, they encouraged educators to consider a holistic approach to teaching research that engages learners in the ". . . ...
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Research training is a key area of social work education and integral to the success of future practitioners. Innovative pedagogical models for teaching research have been proposed, including those based on experiential approaches. This exploratory study evaluated a research practicum (RP) model for social work students. The intended outcome of the study was to develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive model for RP that encompasses experiential, cognitive, relational, and affective dimensions of learning. In total, 16 students and 14 instructors completed an online survey and open-ended questions about their experiences. Mentorship was identified as a key component facilitating student learning during the RP across cognitive, affective, behavioral, and relational dimensions. Mentoring provided students in this study with modeling, guidance, and scaffolding; offering a secure foundation for developing their research skills; and envisioning themselves as researchers. The findings suggest that a RP can provide students the setting in which to develop a broad range of skills and competencies in social work research.
... Indeed, teaching the evidence-based practice process (EBPP) is more recently viewed as a correction for an overly rigid embrace of the value of research without considering practice wisdom and client preferences (Okypych & Yu, 2014). Maschi et al. (2007) reported using an array of activities in the classroom, including discussing student anxiety (emotion-focused strategies), relating research to students' current lives (cognitive-focused activities), and having the students complete several hands-on assignments (action-focused strategies). Using a different approach, Whipple et al. (2015) completed focus groups with students in their school who chose to complete a student research project. ...
... Students in the Whipple et al. study felt strongest in their abilities when they were completing focus groups or data analysistasks with clear outcomes, rather than literature reviews, where they struggled to develop a bigger picture perspective on the research area. Multiple studies confirm that students learn the most about research and have the best attitudes about it when their learning is enriched by hands-on experiences (Green et al., 2001;Maschi et al., 2007;Whipple et al., 2015). ...
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Challenges abound in assisting social work students to comprehend the value of scientific inquiry and to use research to inform their practice. Student research anxiety and low levels of research confidence are often at the heart of this reluctance. This article offers a conceptual rationale and strategies for developing a flipped classroom approach in teaching research. Kolb’s experiential learning cycle provides a theoretical lens to understand the importance of hands-on experiences for student learning and how these experiences can assist student development of research-related competencies. The authors propose a conceptual model and application of Kolb’s cycle through case examples at both the BSW and MSW levels. The authors recommend application of a flipped classroom approach to increase opportunities for self-paced learning and as a useful strategy for students who are second language learners.
... While systematic inquiry and research are an inherent part of day-to-day social work practice, a disconnection between research and practice remains (Dodd & Epstein, 2012;Wahler, 2019). Social work students and practitioners continue to view research as difficult, intimidating and irrelevant to their dayto-day practice (Dodd & Epstein, 2012;Earley, 2014;Epstein, 1987;Green et al., 2001;Maschi et al., 2007Maschi et al., , 2013Nind et al., 2020;Secret et al., 2017;Wagner et al., 2011;Wahler, 2019). This disconnect is compounded by a lack of rigorous research on how best to teach research concepts to social work students (Spensberger et al., 2020). ...
... Students often struggle to learn and retain adequate levels of research knowledge as they move through their MSW program. This research-practice disconnect can be reinforced in the field and classroom by faculty, field instructors and fellow students who often report negative experiences, low expectations, little enthusiasm and poor self-efficacy with statistics and research methods courses (Dodd & Epstein, 2012;Elliot et al., 2013;Epstein, 2010Epstein, , 1987Green et al., 2001;Maschi et al., 2007Maschi et al., , 2013Proctor, 1996). The practice of research can also be emotionally challenging for all students, but particularly for historically marginalized groups who must grapple with the oppressive history of social and medical research in America (Henderson et al., 2016;Nind et al., 2020). ...
Article
Full-text available
Systematic inquiry is an inherent part of social work practice. Despite this fact, social work students and practitioners continue to view research as difficult, intimidating and irrelevant. This disconnect is compounded by a lack of rigorous study on how best to teach research concepts to social work students. One way to bridge this gap is to provide a more robust integration of research principles and practices into the MSW curriculum through practice-based research specializations. Yet, a systematic evaluation of the number and character of these specializations is still lacking. To address this reality, we first review the ways that social workers engage in research as a function of their everyday practice, and discuss how social work curricula can better integrate research as a part of practice. We then provide data on research curricula delivery collected in 2017 from 227 accredited two-year MSW programs in the U.S. that include the number of research specializations and research courses each graduate program offers. Based on these findings we suggest a model that bridges the research-practice divide, and conclude with an illustrative case example.
... In literature, it is observed that high research anxiety decreases academic performance (Büyüköztürk, 1999;Onwuegbuzie & Wilson, 2003;Tekin, 2007) and self-confidence (Lei, 2008;Rezaei & Zamani-Miandashti, 2013), research anxiety level of students that take research method lesson is low (Hebert, Kulkin & Ahn, 2014;Lei, 2008;Maschi et al., 2007;Saracaloğlu, Varol & Ercan, 2005;Unrau & Beck, 2004) and critical thinking skills of students with low research anxiety level is high (Çokluk-Bökeoğlu & Yılmaz, 2005). ...
... So, some measures can be taken. When the literature was examined, it is seen that students that take research method and statistic course have low level of research anxiety (Hebert, Kulkin & Ahn, 2014;Lei, 2008;Maschi et al., 2007;Saracaloğlu, Varol & Ercan, 2005;Unrau & Beck, 2004). Therefore, it can be suggested that students should take these if it is between 0.69 and 0.30 and it is low if it is 0.29 and 0.00 (Büyüköztürk, 2012). ...
... If negative, these feelings are often characterized by anxiety, fear of failing, lower levels of self-efficacy, lack of interest and low performance levels. As observed by researchers, many students harbor negative and anxious feelings about research (Green, Bretzin, Leininger, & Stauffer, 2001;Lazar, 1991;Maschi et al., 2007;Rabatin & Keltz, 2002;Rubin & Babbie, 2011;Secret, Rompf, & Ford, 2003;Wainstock, 1994). These negative attitudes are, to a great extent, influenced by students' beliefs about the role or relevance of research in their personal and professional lives (Bolin, Lee, GlenMaye, & Yoon, 2012). ...
Article
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This study examined graduate education students’ attitudes towards research, and explored the demographic factors associated with those attitudes. Using Papanastasiou’s (2014) Revised Attitude towards Research (R-ATR) scale, the study collected data from 100 graduate students of an Education Faculty at a university in northern China. The results showed that the students had moderately positive attitudes towards research. A comparison between Doctoral and Master’s degree students revealed that the former had significantly more positive research attitudes, higher self-efficacy, and lower research anxiety than the latter. An increase in the number of research courses taken was significantly associated with lesser research anxiety. Students’ generalized self-efficacy was positively associated with their overall attitudes towards research. There was no significant relationship found between age and attitudes towards research. The study concludes by making suggestions about the need to enhance students’ positive research attitudes as a means to eliminating research anxiety.
Article
Understanding and applying effective research methods in social work practice is a mandate from both the National Association of Social Workers and the Council of Social Work Education. While research courses are fundamental to ensure that students master the competency needed to meet these expectations, students frequently tend to dread them. The current study was an evaluation of an intervention that used flipped technology (FT). Following the pedagogical model present in the FT literature, students were required to watch videos on course content ahead of class sessions, which then were devoted to application of material via class exercises. Students in a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) research class that received the intervention were compared to those in two classes that did not receive the intervention. The goals of the intervention were to increase students’ 1) interest in research, 2) beliefs about the importance of research in social work, 3) plans to engage with research after graduation, and 4) research knowledge. The results demonstrated that students in the intervention group did better than the comparison group in all the areas above, except for interest in research (where no differences were found). Implications for social work education are discussed.
Article
Service learning, an often-cited pedagogical approach in social work education, may be one strategy to assuage student anxiety about research course work and create continuity in siloed course content. The present study sought to provide an understanding of the impact of a service-learning project embedded in a first-year, graduate-level research course. Nineteen students conducted structured interviews with individuals who were incarcerated for drug-related offenses in a rural jail. Students provided written reflections on their experiences, which were subsequently analyzed using an open-coding method. Ten codes emerged from the data that revealed three major themes: the experience, beyond the structured interview, and gratitude and growth. Student reflections demonstrated a consideration of research methodology with a vulnerable population. Moreover, they demonstrated critical thinking on the intersection of mental illness, substance use, and criminal justice in rural communities and an increased awareness of the intersection of research, practice, and policy. The study provides evidence of the multifaceted utility of service learning and its potential to affect student learning beyond the substantive content of a given course.
Article
A long-standing disconnect between social work practice and research exists that begins with our current education model. When taught separately, students often think they are distinctly different areas of social work that do not have to coexist. This conceptualization of research and practice as separate could contribute to the dearth of research by practicing social workers and the anxiety social work students feel about learning and conducting research. However, the practice skills of engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation are similarly used in many research methods. This paper postulates that teaching some research methods as practice skills could increase student receptivity to research.
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Improving the information literacy and writing skills of undergraduate social work students continues to be an issue for social work educators. In spite of the persistent concern, only a few studies examine the factors influencing these skills and interventions to strengthen them. This article details a faculty–librarian collaborative teaching model to develop students’ information literacy and writing skills through an iterative, peer-reviewed process that includes online and in-class library instruction. Pre- and posttest results from course evaluations, using the learning management system, indicate that students improve their information literacy skills, which in turn improves their writing skills. The article concludes with a discussion of implications for academic and professional development.
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This article reports on a study of research self-efficacy for a sample of BSW and MSW students at a large public university in the United States. This exploratory study examined gains in students' research confidence over the course of a semester according to when they had taken their required research course. BSW and MSW students taking a research class showed differential gains in research self-efficacy but ended up with similar levels at the end of the semester. Also, students who started their research course with lower levels of self-efficacy made substantially greater gains in their research confidence compared to students who started out with higher levels of self-efficacy. The findings are discussed in the context of the accrediting body of schools of social work in the United States, and have implications for how social work educators approach research instruction with social work students.
Article
Using a convenience sample of BSW students enrolled in a required research methods course, we explore two alternative perspectives on research-related anxiety. One perspective emphasizes the fear dimension of anxiety (math anxiety, library anxiety, and computer anxiety), and the other perspective emphasizes a dimension reflecting “eagerness to do well.” Our exploration of these alternative dimensions finds that both have empirical support. By looking at student anxieties about research from a strengths perspective, however, we may find additional innovative ways to engage students in learning and using research.
Article
Prior research on the information-seeking process, conducted by Kuhlthau (1983) in the school library setting, led to the identification of a six-stage model of the search process, describing cognitive and affective symptoms commonly experienced by library users. A study to determine whether that model is generalizable to other types of libraries was supported by a grant from the United States Department of Education, Library Research and Demonstration Project. Users in three different environments-academic, public, and school libraries-were studied as they searched for information over an extended period. The problem addressed in this research is the complex sense-making process of users in an information search, particularly changes in thoughts and feelings as a search progresses.
Chapter
nature of anxiety and anger as emotional states and the procedures employed in their measurement are reviewed briefly / the measures of state and trait anxiety are discussed, and the development of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) is described in some detail / examine conceptual ambiguities in the constructs of anger, hostility, and aggression, briefly evaluate a number of instruments developed to assess anger and hostility, and describe the construction and validation of the State-Trait Anger Scale (STAS) / expression and control of anger are considered, and the development of the Anger Expression (AX) Scale and the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI) are described / concludes with a discussion of the utilization of anxiety and anger measures in treatment planning and evaluation
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Building on research related to social cognitive theory and its construct of self-efficacy, this article describes the development of the Foundation Practice Self-Efficacy scale. This measure is designed to assess graduate social work programs' attempts to achieve the educational policy objectives for foundation-year graduate study set by the Council on Social Work Education. Preliminary evidence regarding the reliability, validity, and sensitivity to change of this measure are presented. The authors discuss changes in MSW students' self-efficacy over the course of the foundation year.
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The study reported in this paper is part of a programme of ongoing research based on the model of the Information Search Process (ISP) developed in a series of prior studies by Kuhlthau. This study sought to gain a better understanding of the variety of tasks that involve lawyers as a particular group of information workers, how they use information to accomplish their work, and the role mediators play in their process of information seeking and use. Findings revealed that these lawyers frequently were involved in complex tasks that required a constructive process of interpreting, learning and creating. To accomplish these complex tasks, they preferred printed texts over computer databases primarily because computer databases required well-specified requests and did not offer an option for examining a wide range of information at one time. These lawyers called for an active potential role for mediators in ‘just for me’ services. ‘Just for me’ services would encompass designing systems to provide a wider range of access more compatible with the process of construction, applying and developing principles of classification that would offer a more uniform system for organising and accessing files, and providing direction in filtering the overwhelming amount of information available on electronic resources.