Preservice Teachers’ Self-Efficacy for Teaching LGBTQ Youth

October 2021

Source: The Teacher Educator, 56:4, 427-444

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Although more work has begun examining preservice teachers’ comfort for working with LGBTQ students, few studies explore which factors might be associated with self-efficacy for teaching LGBTQ students.
The current study partially addresses the gap in the literature by exploring the research question of whether preservice teachers’ self-efficacy and personal characteristics might relate with teacher self-efficacy for LGBTQ students.
The authors hypothesize that heterosexist beliefs and general teacher self-efficacy should predict teacher self-efficacy for LGBTQ students.
These findings could be particularly important as educational researchers and teacher education programs become more familiar with understanding how to enhance preservice teachers’ self-efficacy for instructing future LGBTQ students.


Participants - Study participants included 383 individuals taking an educational psychology course at a large public university in the southwestern part of the United States of America.
The educational psychology course is part of the university’s teacher education program.


General teacher self-efficacy - The Teacher Efficacy Scale (short form) measures the preservice teachers’ self-perceptions of their ability to educate students (Hoy & Woolfolk, 1993).

Teacher self-efficacy for LGBTQ students - To the authors’ knowledge, no scale directly measures whether preservice teachers believe they have the capacity for successfully instructing future LGBTQ students.
As such, they followed the example set by school counselor education in adapting instrumentation for LGBTQ students from a more general multicultural scale (Bidell, 2012, 2014; Rutter et al., 2008).

Heterosexism - Participants’ perceptions of their own heterosexist feelings came from the heterosexism scale (Park, 2001).

Sexual orientation - Three separate items measured students’ sexual orientation, as advised by LGBTQ scholars (e.g., Kirk et al., 2000):
attraction, behavior, and classification.
In the present study, participants’ sexual orientation could be considered either heterosexual or as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, or questioning (LGBQ).

Participants answered all survey items online.
Survey response time was less than 45 minutes for all participants.
Students earned partial class credit for their study participation. All participants were informed that they could leave the study at any time without any repercussion to their course grade.

Results and discussion
The purpose of the present study was investigating what factors might predict preservice teachers’ self-efficacy for instructing LGBTQ students.
The study explored heterosexism and general teacher self-efficacy as potential antecedents of preservice teachers’ teacher self-efficacy for LGBTQ students.
Further, the authors tested these predictors across LGBTQ status, genders, and education majors.
Although some variability existed across groups, results in general suggested that one’s degree of heterosexism was the strongest and most consistent predictor of preservice teachers’ teacher self-efficacy for instructing LGBTQ students.
In contrast, the lowest predictor of teacher self-efficacy for LGBTQ students throughout the analyses was general teacher self-efficacy.
Explained variance ranged from 20% to 53% across the regression models, suggesting that a fair amount of preservice teachers’ beliefs toward instructing LGBTQ youth comes from their general teacher self-efficacy and level of heterosexism.
In all regression models, heterosexism was the most consistent predictor, with general teacher self-efficacy having less of a relationship with teacher self-efficacy for LGBTQ students.
Results suggest that preservice teachers perceive their future pedagogical abilities with LGBTQ youth to relate more to their heterosexist beliefs than to their efficacy for teaching, with heterosexism explaining on average 36% of the variance in its relationship LGBTQ teacher self-efficacy.
Thus, having less heterosexist beliefs corresponded with a stronger perceived capability of working with LGBTQ students.
Education major and teacher self-efficacy for LGBTQ students
Education major also appeared related to how participants responded to the information within the survey.
Heterosexism was the strongest predictor for three of five education majors (early childhood/elementary education, special education, and “other” education majors).
These results support previous research finding differences across education majors in how accepting preservice teachers are of LGBTQ youth (Kitchen & Bellini, 2012; Mudrey & Medina-Adams, 2006).
It appears that education programs wishing to better prepare their graduates to work with LGBTQ youth may need to think differently about how they present material to various educational specialties.
For early childhood, elementary, special education, and “other” education majors, it may be useful to discuss heterosexism, the needs and risks faced by LGBTQ students, and its influence in the classroom.
For health/physical education teacher educators, it may be more beneficial to discuss both heterosexism and teacher efficacy in how to better prepare their classrooms for LGBTQ students and the unique challenges faced in these types of class settings.
This could include integration of the specific risks that LGBTQ students face in nontraditional settings, such as locker rooms and in sports, and ways to mitigate this.
Intervention could also be through use of a strength-based perspective, such as highlighting the achievements of LGBTQ persons in both sports and academics, like work with other culturally marginalized communities.
The suggestion that educator preparation coursework can influence teacher self-efficacy for LGBTQ youth builds from past research suggesting that teacher education programs can raise awareness of in-service teachers about the needs of LGBTQ students (Payne & Smith, 2011).
Training regarding LGBTQ youth is often successful when there is specific attention paid to the issue of instructing students with diverse sexual orientations, rather than merely a part of working with diverse students (Gorski et al., 2013).
Instructing future teachers on LGBTQ students’ needs should not belittle preservice teachers’ current beliefs, but rather build toward a greater understanding of the educational experiences and struggles of LGBTQ students (Kintner-Duffy et al., 2012).
Training on working with LGBTQ students can be done in separate teacher methods courses, but can also be integrated across the entire teacher preparation coursework.

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Park, J. (2001). Development of the heterosexism scale (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.
Payne, E. C., & Smith, M. (2011). The reduction of stigma in schools: A new professional development model for empowering educators to support LGBTQ students. Journal of LGBT Youth, 8(2), 174–200.
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Updated: Jan. 25, 2022