Karina L. Walters, Ph.D.
Darrell P. Wheeler, Ph.D., M.P.H.
The responsibility of the profession to generate culturally competent practitioners
lies primarily with social work education and educators (Haynes & Singh,
1992). For nearly four decades, social work educators have emphasized the
necessity for culturally competent practice (Van Soest, 1995). This emphasis
on culturally competent practice is critical given that ethnic and racial
minorities are expected to constitute over one-third of the population
by the end of the 21st century (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990, cited
in Yutrzenka, 1995). Moreover, it is expected that in cities such as New
York and Los Angeles, the communities of color will outnumber European-Americans.
Furthermore, the call for culturally competent practice has been codified
in NASW's Code of Ethics (National Association of Social Workers, 1993)
and in the Council on Social Work Education's Curriculum Policy Statement
(Bisno, 1984). Finally, the call for culturally competent practice extends
to faculty cultural competence in the classroom, given that the graduate
social work student population has increased in diversity. Nearly one-third
of the students enrolled in graduate education are members of culturally
and ethnically diverse populations whereas most faculty members are of
majority populations (i.e., white, upper-middle class, and male) (Council
on Social Work Education, 1980 & 1990).
The development and training of culturally competent social workers are
goals consistent with the profession's mission of social justice and equity
for all. The ethical, social, political, and professional reasons for implementing
multicultural training in social work curricula are compelling. The integrity
of social work's commitment to social justice is on the line if culturally
competent practice is not instilled. Current social work professional training
programs must answer how they are implementing the cultural competence
imperative and the degree of proficiency social workers acquire in multicultural
competence. Toward this end, the Multicultural Training Project (MTP) offers
a new empirical approach to understanding the relationship between different
multicultural training models in social work and students’ acquisition
of culturally competent practice skills.
Aims: The MTP will contribute significantly to quenching social
work's thirst for empirical studies on the efficacy of multicultural training
models given the deficiency of the current empirical knowledge base (Van
Soest, 1995). The bulk of social work research on multicultural training
consists of retrospective case studies. Moreover, social work researchers
have not adequately examined multicultural training models, nor have they
empirically investigated social work students' knowledge, attitudes, skills,
and behaviors regarding their own levels of multicultural competence and
ultimately, how these levels of cultural competence affect practice interactions,
treatment efficacy, and treatment outcomes (McMahon & Allen-Meares,
1992; Van Soest, 1994).
There are four specific aims of the MTP. The first aim is to explore students'
levels of multicultural competence. The second aim is to investigate students'
acquisition and incorporation of multicultural competence in terms of their
skills, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors about race, ethnicity, class,
sexual orientation, power, and privilege. Specifically, the study will
describe how students incorporate professional standards of cultural inclusiveness
into their social work training and manifest this competence in their practice
with clients and their evaluations of peers and faculty. The third aim
is to explore the efficacy of various multicultural training models in
social work. The fourth aim is specific to CUSSW curriculum development.
The findings will provide information for the development of a multicultural
training model to meet CUSSW curriculum needs. Moreover, although this
is an exploratory pre-intervention investigation, it is expected that the
findings will support future interventive research for establishing the
validity and reliability of multicultural measurements for social work
students, for testing particular social work cultural diversity training
models, and eventually for testing the relationships between culturally
competent practice and service outcomes.
Design: The study employs a non-equivalent comparison group survey
design, and content analysis methodologies. Student participation in the
survey was voluntary across all sites. All incoming CUSSW students were
given a battery of measures to assess their knowledge, attitudes, behaviors
and skills related to culture, race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation
(and other attributes as appropriate). In addition to basic sociodemographics
and racial, ethnic, and sexual orientation identity measures (as potential
mediating or moderating variables), three scales used in counseling psychology
were adapted. The scales are an attempt to create valid cultural competency
measures for social work practice and curriculum development. The three
adapted outcome measures are: Sodowsky’s Multicultural Counseling Inventory
(MCI), a subscale of D'Andrea’s Multicultural Awareness and Knowledge Scale
(MAKSS), and Ponterotto’s Multicultural Competence, Awareness, and Skills
(MCAS-B) scale. The three measures have moderate to strong validity for
assessing levels of culturally competent practice-knowledge, awareness,
attitudes, and skills among counseling psychologists. These attributes
will be measured again at the conclusion of the 1996-1997 academic year.
The literature supports the need to assess the possible presence of these
relationships and to make accommodations for these in the social work students'
Second year CUSSW students will be used as a comparison group in the CUSSW
segment of the study. First year students at four other graduate schools
of social work will be mailed the same battery of measures at two time
points which coincide with the administrations to CUSSW students (combined
first and second year students, n=735). The four other participating institutions
(with their approximate first year enrollments) are: UCLA (n=96), University
of Pittsburgh (n=196), Howard University (n=140) and Florida State University
(n=65). Each of the participating schools will receive an analysis of their
student responses. The survey was administered to CUSSW 1996-97 first year
students with a 63% response rate (n=220). Response rate at non-CUSSW sites
has not yet been analyzed. To understand the current level of multicultural
course content in each school content, analysis of standard first year
course outlines will be conducted identifying multicultural course content.
Findings will facilitate understanding of practice skills that may be incorporated
The study was described in the 1997
Practice & Research.
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