Presentation Details

The Fourth International Conference on Knowledge, Culture and Change in Organisations

Educating Professionals for Multi-Cultural Competence: A Social Work Perspective

Dr. Gloria Rosenbaum.

Higher education must prepare students to live productive and contributive lives in a dynamic, rapidly changing, diverse, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic world. Professionals (whatever the organizational context of their employment; business, education, social work etc.) must be prepared to interact, work with, serve and /or accommodate others whose culture, religion, values and world views differ from their own.

The literature points out that a major obstacle to understanding other cultures is personal bias, including the absence of awareness that one holds such bias. Members of cultural groups ourselves, we tend to filter information through our own cultural perspectives, making judgements based on our own cultural values and preferences.

A number of authors suggest that educating only the mind (“the seat of our cultural biases”) is not sufficient to overcome the distortions of our own perspectives. They advocate an approach that includes education through the senses (our perceptual faculties). Feminist scholars, educators who have conceptualized collaborative and experiential teaching/learning methodologies and others who emphasize the idea of growth and development through dialogue, also posit the value of learning that takes place through other than intellectual and/or cognitive processes.

This paper offers an innovative paradigm or approach to educating for multi-cultural competence. It integrates the theoretical and conceptual (what information do we need to understand a particular culture?), and the experiential (what kinds of experiences will help us “walk in the shoes” and/or feel what it is like to be in the skin of those of another culture?). The importance of material culture (what can we learn about other cultures through their artifacts including music, art, and literature) is emphasized.

The author developed this model as a Fellow of the Schingoethe Center for Native American Cultures and piloted the approach in a Social Work diversity course during the winter of 2004. Several class sessions were taught in the Center’s museum. The Schingoethe Center provides education for cultural competence for the Aurora University Community, professional development groups particularly in education, and local schools and community groups. The Center has provided diversity training for business organizations in the area including Lucent Technologies (a major telecommunications equipment provider).

The paper will present examples of the teaching/learning methodology used to operationalize the approach. This included readings (novels, short stories etc,), field trips, films, extensive museum exploration, guest speakers, and guided dialogue in addition to more traditional teaching approaches.

A preliminary report of the outcomes of the pilot will be discussed. The relevance and transferability of this paradigm for multi-cultural diversity training in organizations will be explicated.


Dr. Gloria Rosenbaum  (United States)
Associate Professor
School of Social Work George Williams College
Aurora University

  • Diversity
  • Multi-Cultural Competence
  • Museum Resources
  • Professional Education

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)