Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Social Work

Degree Program

Social Work, PhD

Committee Chair

Archuleta, Adrian

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Sterrett-Hong, Emma

Committee Member

Sterrett-Hong, Emma

Committee Member

Gattis, Maurice

Committee Member

Frey, Laura

Committee Member

Benner, Kalea

Author's Keywords

perceived safety; college student engagement; college classroom climate; instrument development; instrument validation; educational assessment


In recent years, safety has become a focus of discussion in the field of higher education as research indicates that college students’ perceptions of safety are related to several indicators of student engagement. Despite increased recognition of the importance of safety, there remains a lack of consensus with regard to its definition and conceptualization in the higher education context. This lack of a conceptualization of safety that reflects the complexity of the construct within the postsecondary context has acted as a barrier to the development of quality measurement instruments that can be utilized by researchers and practitioners to understand and describe students’ experiences. To fill that gap, a mixed methods phenomenological research study was conducted with the aim of creating a conceptualization of perceived safety in the college classroom and developing a valid and reliable instrument to measure that construct. Results of the qualitative phase suggested a four-dimensional conceptualization of perceived safety, and these dimensions and five subdomains were used to create 80 initial items for the Measure of Perceived Safety in the College Classroom (MOPSICC). Factor analysis of data from administration of the MOPSICC to a random sample of 516 undergraduate students supported a seven-factor solution for a 47-item instrument. Results indicated that perceived safety differs by course format and sexual orientation, anxiety is a significant predictor of perceived safety, and perceived safety is a significant predictor of engagement. Future confirmatory factor analysis with undergraduate students at other universities is necessary for further validation of the MOPSICC-47; however, this study provides promising initial evidence for the use of the MOPSICC-47 as a reliable and valid measure of perceived safety in the college classroom.