Measuring Undergraduate Social Work Students’ Knowledge and Understanding of Privilege and Oppression
Keywords:diversity, privilege, oppression, social work education
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) expects practitioner training to include strategies for effective practice with individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds (CSWE, 2015). Additionally, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) sets standards for cultural competence and professional conduct in an attempt to eradicate unfair treatment (NASW, 2001). To align with these accreditation and professional organization guidelines, schools of social work need to be more deliberate about teaching diversity, inclusion, social justice (Greeno, Fedina, Rushovich, Moore, Linsenmeyer, & Wirt, 2017). Social work educators aim to train students on diverse client needs and to promote equality. Yet, there is limited research on the effectiveness of educational efforts regarding students’ knowledge or awareness of equity issues. Educators must begin to proactively assess the extent to which students are prepared to work with diverse clients and advocate for social justice. To this end, this research study measures the impact of a course created to explore the concepts of privilege and oppression on undergraduate social work students. An online survey was designed to answer three (3) research questions about students’ knowledge, understanding, and values concerning diversity. Findings from this research project can inform social work course development, curriculum enhancements, and diversity education efforts. Examining the effectiveness of social work educational efforts in these areas is particularly urgent, given our current social climate in the United States, where respect for differences is undervalued.
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