Bachelor of Social Work Students in Multicultural Agencies: Developing Cultural Sensitivity through Group Supervision
Research indicates that newcomers to a country can experience a multiplicity of difficulties stemming from rapid adaptation to a new environment. Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) students working in multicultural agencies are responsible for developing working relationships with clients from different cultures, who speak different languages. It is important therefore that social work education provides support to help students develop culturally sensitive knowledge and skills.
The purpose of this paper is to present qualitative research on a unique supervisory model developed to educate students placed in multicultural agencies during their initial BSW field placements. Students were encouraged to identify their own culturally-based belief systems and to develop sensitivity to the client’s understanding of culture in order to begin to recognize the complexities of multicultural service provision. Supervision was provided by a faculty member from the School of Social Work to a total of 13 students once a week for two hours over 24 weeks. Students submitted journals outlining their experiences of supervision. The data collected from the journals was analyzed using constant comparative analysis to develop categories and themes.
Themes identified from the journals included issues of culture and language; country of origin experiences; client-student relationships; conflict; reflection on self, culture, professional and work issues; confidentiality; and use of supervision.
This project was designed to explore the complexities of educating BSW students using an innovative methodology that applies the supervisory skills of a seasoned practitioner with students’ experiences in their field placements. The complexities of this practitioner/researcher model were explored to better understand the process of developing cultural competency in order to enhance the integration of accumulated knowledge into course curricula and field work practice.
Keywords: Cross-cultural sensitivity, Social Work Education, Supervision
Dr. Kim Harper
Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, University of Windsor