Today’s social workers serve diverse populations, and their training routinely requires the successful completion of course work to develop the necessary cultural competence. But how successful is the training social workers receive? Currently, no instrument exists that measures how social work students’ knowledge and/or attitudes change after taking courses on diversity and social justice. Liliane Cambraia Windsor (Rutgers University) will use this award from Russell Sage to develop a standardized instrument capable of measuring change in cultural competence in order to evaluate social work students’ training to serve diverse populations. The proposed instrument is based on the Education Policies and Accreditation Standards’ (EPAS) list of core competencies, which aims to specify the social worker’s ability to understand the psychological effects of powerlessness, as well as the impact these effects have on the lives of the disadvantaged.
Unlike current psychological measures, which are accurate but expensive, Windsor’s instrument will be particularly significant for social work practice, research, and education. Students and practitioners will be able to use it to assess, cheaply and effectively, their cultural competence according to up-to-date standards. Windsor started this project during the summer of 2007 by drawing statements from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) standards of cultural competence, the Oppression Questionnaire, the Social Justice Advocacy Readiness Questionnaire, cultural competency planning instruments, and syllabi from the Rutgers University Oppression and Diversity course as well as the University of Texas at Austin Social Justice class. Once the basic assessment tool was developed, the research team asked five experts to provide feedback regarding language and relevance to evaluation of the course. The final scale included a total of sixty-two items and the survey was administered 700 times. When the data is fully entered into SPSS (a computer program for statistical analysis), Windsor will examine patterns of missing data and potential data entry errors. When the data is ready, Windsor will conduct the analysis in consultation with statisticians to calculate scores and determine the scale’s validity and stability over time.
The project website, which includes the survey questionnaire, can be accessed here.