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Social justice, social work, advocacy, critical consciousness, moral courage, pedagogy


Second Annual University of Arkansas Teaching and Learning Symposium: Sharing Teaching Ideas

Dr. Long is a Visiting Assistant Professor in Social Work here at the University of Arkansas, while Dr. Patton is at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, TX and Dr. Ward is at East Central University in Ada, OK.

There is no denying that the social work profession has a long history of social justice advocacy. However, advocacy and political action were not necessarily a focus in social work education, leaving social work graduates feeling inadequate to advocate on a broader, macro level (Haynes & Mikelson, 2000). Current pedagogical practices in advocacy highlighted in the literature focus on increasing critical consciousness (Pitner & Sakamoto, 2016), constructing critical conversations (Kang & O’Neill, 2018), and developing moral courage (Fenton, 2019). What is unclear is how effective these pedagogical practices have been in increasing students’ confidence in participating in advocacy activities. The purpose of this study was twofold: (1) explore BSW student perceptions of confidence in participating in advocacy activities and (2) observe if students chose social work advocacy responses in certain social justice situations. This exploratory study examined BSW students' confidence in participating in advocacy activities and observed their responses to social justice situations. The majority (77%) of students reported lack of confidence in participating in advocacy activities and fewer than half chose advocacy approaches. A conclusion from this study could be that social work students lack hands-on advocacy experiences in their educational programs that could bolster confidence. Having a lack of experience interacting and engaging with those outside their own background or identity, students may not be able to fully understand, empathize with, or have a sense of social justice for those from other identities, races/ethnicities, or cultures. A final conclusion could be perceived dangers in advocacy activities.