Year of Publication

2019

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Social Work

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. David Royse

Abstract

Bullying continues to be a serious problem in schools. School social workers and teachers face challenges daily to deal with bullying. This author examined school social workers’ and teachers’ perceptions about their feelings of efficacy to deal with bullying and what may account for those feelings in a population of 71 teachers and 26 social workers employed in Kentucky schools. Research was gathered using a self-report, electronic survey consisting of subscales of the Teachers’ Attitudes about Bullying Questionnaire (Beran, 2005), the School Bullying Questionnaire (Nicolaides, Toda & Smith, 2002), the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (Spreng, McKinnon, Mar & Levine, 2009) and questions designed by the researcher. This study examined the influence of demographic variables as well as the amount and type of professional education and/or training, the professionals’ perceptions of the level of bullying present and how much of a problem it is in their schools, perceived levels of administrative support, the professionals’ personal experiences with bullying and the professionals’ level of empathy. Finally, this study explored the role of school social workers as bullying educators within the school environment by self-report and by teacher reports.

The results of the study revealed that social workers reported significantly greater efficacy than did teachers. Additionally, when compared with teachers social workers reported higher levels on all measures of comfort. Other differences between the two professional groups included that social workers reported higher levels of working in urban schools, a higher level of empathy, a greater desire for additional training and a higher incidence of personal experience. Teachers reported higher levels of working in their own school districts, and working in suburban and rural schools and a higher level of believing bullying is a big problem in their school. With regard to the dependent variable of efficacy the independent variables of empathy, the extent of bullying, bystander and additional training trended toward significance.

Results regarding social workers as bullying educators revealed that the majority of social workers identified bullying prevention and intervention programming as part of their responsibilities and reported feeling comfortable in this role. Teachers’ responses closely aligned with school social workers’ self-assessments with the majority of teachers reporting social workers in their schools as supportive and helpful in addressing bullying. However, these variables did not have a significant effect on the dependent variable of efficacy. Professional teacher education programs, school social work programs and professional development trainings should incorporate trainings that focus on the role of empathy in managing bullying into their curriculums. Additionally, graduate educational offerings and professional development opportunities for school social workers should incorporate additional trainings to prepare social workers as bullying educators for other school professionals. Finally, additional research efforts that explore school professionals’ efficacy for dealing with bullying may be an important factor in addressing this problem.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2019.124

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