Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Social Work

First Advisor

N. Eugene Walls, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Leslie Hasche

Third Advisor

Amanda McBride


LGB, Pedagogy, Social work education, Transgender


As a profession, social work has codified within its ethical guidance and educational policies a commitment to social justice. While social justice is enumerated in several guiding documents, social work continues to lack consensus on both the meaning and merit of social justice (Abramovitz, 1993; Funge, 2011; Hong & Hodge, 2009; Specht & Courtney, 1995; Van Soest & Garcia, 2003). Due to the lack of agreement within the profession about the centrality and meaning of social justice, many educational practices, attitudes, and actions of those working within the profession may not align with socially just ideals that are codified in the Code of Ethics and the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) (Longres & Scanlon, 2001; Reisch, 2010; Spect & Courtney, 1995).

To address this disconnect, this study consists of two parts. First, the study examines how social justice has been operationalized in social work via a conceptual review of the literature. Findings show that social work leans heavily on Rawls’ definition of social justice (Rawls, 1971), the capabilities approach (Nussbaum, 2003), and the definition of social justice included in the Social Work Dictionary (Barker, 2003; Barker, 2013). Unfortunately, none of these adequately align with the Code of Ethics, which drive the profession. An updated definition which better aligns with the Code of Ethics is provided to conclude Part One. Next, this study examines current social work students’ understanding of social justice, and how that understanding relates to attitudes, ally behavior, and activism as it relates to LGB and transgender people and communities. LGBT identities are centered in this dissertation as CSWE, the accrediting body of social work education, currently allows for active discrimination against this community via its accreditation policy. Findings show that, along with demographics, social context variables, and religious context variables, there are several predictors of attitudes, ally behaviors, and activism that schools of social work can influence, including having courses that teach about power, privilege, and oppression as well as dialogue as a pedagogical approach. Findings also show that having a critical understanding of social justice is essential to having inclusive attitudes and participation in activism. Implications for social work education, including a discussion of pedagogical strategies, are included in this dissertation.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Brittanie Atteberry Ash


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

237 p.


LGBTQ studies, Social Work