Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Keisha Love


Sexual minority students’ encounters with discrimination and harassment are increasing in school settings. Per the research, the discrimination and harassment they experience partly stems from teachers’ negative attitudes toward sexual minorities and a lack of understanding of the needs of these individuals, which can negatively impact students’ psychological well-being and create an unwelcoming environment (Dessel, 2010; Mudrey & Medina-Adams, 2006; Riggs, Rosenthal, & Smith-Bonahue, 2011). Teachers are responsible for ensuring a safe environment for students that promotes mental and physical health (Larrabee & Morehead, 20’10; Mudrey & Medina-Adams, 2006; Riggs et al., 2011). Therefore, it’s vital to determine ways to reduce teachers’ negative attitudes and increase their knowledge and empathy toward sexual minorities in order to enhance students’ well-being and create a supportive school atmosphere (Maddux, 1988). Although researchers have independently tested the effectiveness of intervention strategies (e.g., workshops, courses) designed to reduce negative attitudes, a comprehensive study to determine which one may be most successful in reducing negative attitudes, while enhancing knowledge and empathy, has yet to be conducted. The current study assessed the effects of three intervention strategies designed to reduce pre-service teachers’ negative attitudes, and increase their knowledge and empathy toward sexual minorities. Due to conservative religious beliefs being a main contributor to negative attitudes toward sexual minorities, this study also examined the impact of religious beliefs on participants’ responses to the interventions. Pre- and post-data were collected from 139 pre-service teachers enrolled in undergraduate educational psychology and teacher education courses at a Southeastern University. Students participated in one of three intervention strategies, a video documentary, a workshop, or regular classroom instruction. Results demonstrated that there were no significant differences between participants in the video, workshop, and control groups on attitudes, knowledge, or empathy from pre- to post-intervention. However, within group differences were found in the video and workshop interventions on certain aspects of attitudes, empathy, and knowledge. In addition, results illustrated that religious beliefs had an impact on participants’ knowledge and empathy towards sexual minorities. Contributions to the literature and implications of the findings are discussed as well as limitations and directions for future research.