ORCID Identifier(s)


Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Leaf Yi Zhang


There is a dearth of literature on how social work faculty manage controversial conversations in the classroom. This qualitative study addresses the deficit in the literature by using Deardorff’s (2008) Intercultural Competence model, the literature on the role faculty social identity plays during teaching, and the lived experiences of eight social work faculty at a four-year public research university. The four themes that emerged in this study’s findings are: 1) preparation, 2) interactions during discussions, 3) engagement, and 4) social identity. Guided by Deardorff’s Intercultural Competence model, the study revealed that faculty knowledge, attitudes, and skills substantially influence the ways they engage students and manage controversial discussions in the classroom. Furthermore, faculty perceived their social identity to have an impactful influence on their teaching. In addition, findings revealed that faculty desired more training on navigating discussions on controversial topics, addressing microaggressive behaviors from students in the classroom, and de-escalating students when emotions arise during discussions. Guided by the findings in this study, I proposed a new tool that can be further explored in future studies of faculty experiences, titled the Controversial Conversation Competence framework. This study adds to the knowledge of social work faculty experiences navigating controversial discussions in the classroom and includes relevant implications for practice, policy, and research.


Faculty preparedness, Faculty preparation, Controversial discussions, Difficult discussions, Social work, Social work faculty


Education | Educational Leadership


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington