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Best practices in service learning to enhance multicultural competency

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Author: Jamie Scaccia
A widely respected model of multicultural competence proposes that certain knowledge base, attitudes, and skills are required in order for a psychologist to work successfully with individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds (Arredondo et al., 1996). Influenced by findings of Hansen and colleagues (2006) that psychologists report possessing knowledge of multicultural skills yet still fail to use those skills in therapy, this paper proposes that an action approach to multicultural competency training would be an important complement to classroom based learning of theories and skills. Specifically, this paper proposes that service learning has the potential to meet several goals important to multiculturally competent practice: learning and practicing skills; learning models of intervention other than Eurocentric, individual-focused therapies; and promoting social justice. Included are 14 Best Practices that outline the direction and ideals of a service learning program designed to offer a hands-on and applied approach to learning in general and increase multicultural competency and competency in issues of social justice specifically.

Table of Contents Copyright ii Signature Page iii Acknowledgements iv Abstract v CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 8 What is Service Learning? 8 Why Service Learning? 11 Promotion of Multicultural Education through Service Learning 14 Principles of Social Justice Education 25 Learning through Service Learning 30 Institutionalization of Service Learning 35 CHAPTER 3: BEST PRACTICES 42 Theoretical Background 42 Design 49 Philosophy 53 Instructional Components 56 CHAPTER 4: PROGRAM REVIEW 60 Participants 63 General Topics for Evaluation 65 Areas of Evaluation for Student Participants 67 vi

Areas of Evaluation for the Educational Institution 71 Areas of Evaluation for Community Participants 74 CHAPTER 5: DISCUSSION 78 REFERENCES 81 APPENDIX A: SERVICE LEARNING EVALUATION -CLINICAL PSYD DIVERSITY II 88 vii

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION A widely respected model of multicultural competence proposes that certain knowledge base, attitudes, and skills are required in order for a psychologist to work successfully with individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds (Arredondo et al., 1996). Influenced by findings of Hansen and colleagues (2006) that psychologists report possessing knowledge of multicultural skills yet still fail to use those skills in therapy, this paper proposes that an action approach to multicultural competency training would be an important complement to classroom based learning of theories and skills. Specifically, this paper proposes that service learning has the potential to meet several goals important to multiculturally competent practice: learning and practicing skills; learning models of intervention other than Eurocentric, individual-focused therapies; and promoting social justice. White, male, middle-class models of therapy saturate theory, education, and the practice of psychology. However, the populations of clients that psychologists help are often diverse, multicultural, and varied. In an attempt to expand the knowledge and awareness of diversity, psychology training programs are required by the American Psychological Association (2003) to create opportunities for a multicultural education and integration of multicultural theories of psychology. Although this is a step in better education, it does not ensure that students are more multiculturally appropriate or accurate in their practices, no matter the context. Wallace (2000) suggested that there needs to be a "new multicultural paradigm in the mind of graduate students" (p. 1099) that includes a shift toward a freedom of 1

possible worldviews. In other words, Wallace encouraged higher education institutions, professors, and students alike to become both multiculturally competent and multiculturally sensitive towards others in order to be better practitioners and educators, and in the end, reduce the prejudices that arise from multicultural unawareness. Eventually, the rise of multicultural education can lead to advances in social justice as practitioners become more aware of issues of diversity and multiculturalism. Wallace (2000) continued by defining multicultural sensitivity as involving "awareness of multiple cultural influences and the ability to be able to adopt an attitude and stance of inquiry regarding what is appropriate in interacting and communicating with diverse others" (p. 1101). Similarly, she defined multicultural competence as involving: an individual going beyond the mere possession of multicultural sensitivity to also attain an acceptable level of knowledge, a sufficient shift in attitude, and the production of a repertoire of behaviors consistent with successfully interacting with diverse populations in multicultural settings. The ability to convey genuine respect and acceptance is part of multicultural competence, (p. 1101) Among her definitions, it is important to recognize the stress on appropriate behaviors, a knowledge base of other cultures, and the genuine respect and acceptance of others. Implied in this definition is an open-mindedness that allows for other ways of being that is necessary when being multiculturally competent. Also inherent in the definition, Wallace explained, is an increase in communication and interpersonal skills appropriate for multicultural work. Accordingly, for a psychologist to be multiculturally competent, he or she would need knowledge of appropriate interpersonal skills, including clinical skills that 2

are applicable for a variety of clients. While the above might seem obvious, it is often lacking in psychological education and practice. Hansen et al. (2006) researched how often current psychologists practice in a multiculturally competent manner. The psychologists essentially stated that though they know multiculturalism to be important when working with clients, it was not always part of their practice. It is therefore appropriate to question these psychologists' actual level of multicultural competence in the first place. Hansen et al. (2006) challenge educators to increase their efforts to teach their students the skills to use with diverse clientele. Educators may need a variety of teaching formats in order to meet this challenge. It is evident from Hansen et al.'s findings that the knowledge of multicultural theory does not necessarily transfer into multicultural practice. Consequently, the following essay provides a wide-ranging, though not necessarily all-inclusive, response to educators in the area of psychology and multicultural practice. The essay is intended to offer a conceptualization of the best practices of service learning in multicultural education in a direction that is both socially just and applicable to educators in a variety of settings. Hansen et al's (2006) research was largely based on psychologists' understanding and application of the American Psychological Association's Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice, and Organizational Change for Psychologist (2003). Here, APA defines multicultural as "interactions between individuals from minority ethnic and racial groups in the 3

United States and the dominant European-American culture" (p. 378). The Guidelines state that if a psychologist is not multiculturally competent, this lack of knowledge can in turn negatively affect the psychological relationship, and has the potential to harm his or her client. Therefore, to practice in a multiculturally incompetent way would be unethical. Multicultural education therefore is an essential part in meeting the guidelines of APA. Just as the practitioner needs to be sensitive in practice, the educators need to be sensitive in teaching. As Sue, Arredondo, and McDavis have argued, the "monocultural nature of training" (p. 67) reinforces models of practice that were created by and are directed towards a small selection of the actual U.S. population (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992). Therefore, APA (2003) suggests that these theories might not always be effective and can do harm. Consequently, educators need to be intentional in what theories of diversity they teach, how they teach theory, and how the theories are integrated into appropriate and sensitive practice. In other words, it is not always enough to teach students theories of diversity. Professors and higher education institutions should take into consideration methods of teaching that are sensitive to students and that are structured to enhance future psychological practice and skills. Considering Hansen et al's research, it is appropriate to challenge modern educational models of multiculturally sensitive education. Current education styles are often limited to the classroom, in turn limiting the methods of teaching and application of 4

concepts. Instead, I propose that multicultural education move from classroom to context, encouraging action on top of academic learning in order to have a broader understanding of multicultural competence in terms of social justice awareness. Service learning would provide the medium to move students from the closed and unrepresentative classroom to the diverse, real-world situations of future practice. However, for this idea to work, the definition of classroom will have to change. Service learning is one way of achieving an aspect of action in diversity courses. Sheffield (2005) has defined service learning as an: opportunity to apply classroom-developed knowledge and skills to a community problem thereby increasing the depth and understanding of that knowledge and skill while solving a community problem through interaction with diverse community stakeholders, (p. 46) Service learning includes students working with a community for both the benefit of the students' education and helping the community in some way. As an educational opportunity for both the community and the students, service learning is a means of increasing exposure to different cultures, including the culture of academia. In addition, service learning offers students the chance to observe the theories that they are being taught in the classroom in the environments in which they themselves might one day be practicing. Service learning therefore connects the classroom to the community in a way that ideally educates students about psychology, community, social justice, multiculturalism, and theory while concurrently providing the community with a valuable resource and collaboration. McCarthy and Tucker (1999) argue that, "service learning activities present an opportunity to reinforce classroom content while providing a valued 5

service to the community" (p. 554). In this case, service learning is providing another avenue for professors to teach in order to reach all students as comprehensively as possible, drawing connections between class material and application of theory. Just as there are multiple ways to serve a community as a psychologist, there various to teach students of psychology. Vera and Speight (2003) have suggested that service learning is a way to broaden multicultural practice to include the many facets of psychology. Included in those many facets is a space to examine the different roles that a psychologist can perform, such as advocacy or outreach. Vera and Speight further suggested that examining the different services that psychologists can provide is necessary in being multiculturally competent and offers opportunities for working toward social justice. Sheffield (2005) appropriately stated that one cannot help clients if he or she is not familiar with the clients. That idea can be extended to the importance of understanding the clients' culture, environments, and living situations that help to define their lives. Vera and Speight (2003) argued that social justice is an essential aspect of multiculturalism as the experiences of those of minority cultures are inevitably affected by the issues of discrimination, judgment, and quality of life issues, directly associated with social injustice. Prilleltensky (2001) stated that the objectives of social justice are to "promote fair and equitable allocation of bargaining powers, resources, and obligations in society in consideration of people's differential power, needs, and abilities to express their wishes" (p. 754). Social justice, therefore, is arguably an inherent possibility in service learning because of its natural community involvement and the implications of social inequalities

in community contexts. Consequently, the following dissertation focuses on incorporating service learning into multicultural education within a larger context of social justice. In 1996, Altman challenged the field of psychology by encouraging professionals to create and educate socially just citizens within a multiculturally rich society. Service learning, he suggested, is a method to follow through on that challenge while also building skills, drawing connections, and creating experiences for real world problem solving in a field that is based on real world issues. Coming through on that challenge, and providing the service learning opportunities that will show the world that both academia and the field of psychology are active in promoting theory and concepts, but also the application of theory and the underlying desire of helping others, will enhance the education and practice of psychologists. Therefore, the following essay offers a multitude of best practices in order to allow psychologists to move from theory to practice in a multiculturally competent and socially aware way through the medium of service learning. 7

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW What is Service Learning? Service learning is often conceptualized as a way of learning that includes both theory and practice while joining the community and academia (Butin, 2006). Theoretically, as students go into the community, they are able to achieve multiple goals. Sheffield (2005) delineated the process of service learning as allowing the students to make an important connection between theory and practice while giving the community and students a chance to work together to achieve something for the community, such as solving a community problem. Ideally, the service learning process, therefore, offers something invaluable to both the community and institutions of higher education. In order for service learning to be successful, both the community and the academic institution need to be committed to the project, creating space for communication, change, and a horizontal process of teaching and learning. More specifically, service learning includes mastery of academic theory, involves students, community members, and institutions, and contributes to the overall wellbeing of both the student and the community (Koliba, Campbell, & Shapiro, 2006; Novak, Markey, & Allen, 2007). This method of education then works to bring together what was once separated and create a holistic, integrated system of research, teaching, service, classroom theory and the community to which it applies (Novak et al., 2007; Speck, 2001). Goldberg, Richburg, and Wood (2006) defined the process of service learning similarly, but in different language. They suggested that it is an "experiential (real-life) and reflective problem-based learning in which students enrolled in an academic course 8

provide a needed service to a community partner" (p. 131). They continued to state that experiential education, academic achievement connected to community service, reflection, and citizenship are all main factors that comprise service learning (see also Goldberg et al., 2006). Koliba et al. (2006) mirrored this definition by including a list of factors that are necessary to make up service learning, such as a community partner, a service, learning objectives, reflection, duration of the program, and an appropriate educational experience based on the level of the participating students. Experiential education is the part of the process in which the student enters into real situations where the theory or lectures from the classroom can be applied or experienced in a practical and real situation. The experience augments academic achievement as the student is able to understand the realistic applications of theoretical explanations of human behavior within the community. Along with giving students the opportunity to change from within their own experiences, service learning has been shown to improve the mastery of academic concepts, engage students, increase student motivation, help students build leadership and problem solving skills, improve students' application of theory, and offer the students a context to be able to reframe theory appropriately and applicably (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Eyler, 2000; Novak et al., 2007; Strage, 2000). Eyler (2000) stated that service learning has the capability of increasing understanding of the educational material and a greater ease in the transference of this information to practical situations. It is another way to teach students aside from classroom exams or essays as a more relevant learning objective (McCarthy 9

& Tucker, 1999). After composing a meta-analysis of cognitive outcomes of service learning in higher education, Novak et al. (2007) suggested that there should be a "reconsideration of the design of courses" and educators should "focus attention on the need to examine the role of the university or college in the community" (p. 155). However, many researchers, educators, and philosophers would disagree with the above ideas of service learning, suggesting that it is too similar to the idea of community service. Mitchell (2007) distinguished between service learning and critical service learning by critical service learning's "attention to social change, its questioning of the distribution of power in society, and its focus on developing authentic relationships between higher education institutions and the communities served" (p. 101). Bringle, Phillips, and Hudson (2004) suggested the need for reciprocal relationships between the community and academia. The students will then go into the communities with an understanding of larger social structure and will collaborate with the community in multiple ways. Although these concepts will continue to develop, for the sake of simplicity, critical service learning will hence to forth be referred to as service learning, with the implications of social justice discussed above. Defined in this way, (critical) service learning clearly connects to ideals of multicultural education and psychology. The practice proposed in the following essay does not promote students entering the community exclusively for the sake of learning and serving others. Instead, in parallel with Mitchell's conception of critical service learning, it will create learning opportunities that are reflective, experiential, action-based 10

(Goldberg et al., 2006), allowing students to enter the community aware of social hierarchies, injustices, and power relationships (Mitchell, 2007). Why Service Learning? Service learning can be added to the curriculum of an educational institution and/or a classroom course to create more opportunities for students to build a variety of skills, such as the integration of course material into practical experiences (Novak et al., 2007; Reeb, Sammon, & Isackson, 1999; Tucker & McCarthy, 2001). Frazer, Raasch, Pertzborn, and Bradley (2007) found that service learning in courses helps students to increase their learning and professional development while also increasing the skills necessary in the students' field. In fact, Strage (2000) found students who participated in a service learning project made deeper connections between class content and service learning experiences through the semester than those students without a service learning experience. Personal, interpersonal, and emotional development has been shown to improve from experiences of service learning as well (Koliba et al., 2006; Manley, Buffa, Dube, & Reed, 2006; Simons & Cleary, 2006). Personal and emotional development is important for how individuals work with others and develop their professions in a number of ways, as will be examined soon. Nevertheless, interpersonal development is an essential factor in working with others in the field of psychology. Burnett, Hamel, and Long (2004) stated that service learning can help students "move beyond individualized and personalized thinking and place themselves within a broader social and cultural context" 11

(p. 181), which is essential to being a multiculturally competent therapist. Throughout the education of counselors and psychologists, interpersonal development is an area that is continually built upon. It would make sense, therefore, to add yet another component of strength building to psychological education. Vera and Speight (2003) stated that alternative roles of psychologists necessary for multicultural practice can be realized by broadening the courses that are offered to include classes that expand students' conceptualization of what a psychologist does, and can do, in the community. Adding a service learning component to diversity courses would broaden the experiences and the applicability of theory for the students that take the course. If service learning is organized within Mitchell's (2007) parameters, mental health professionals can increase their multicultural relational skills through service learning. In fact, it can help students to increase their self-efficacy in terms of their practice while also lowering their state anxiety in working with others (Barbee, Scherer, & Combs, 2003; Simons & Cleary, 2006; Tucker & McCarthy, 2001). Barbee and colleagues' research suggested that with the increase of counselor self-efficacy, students were able to enhance their professional development. The experiential learning experience offered them the confidence in their future education and practice that allowed them to improve their work professionally. Further, their research included students who have a practicum following their service learning experience, implying students benefited from the experience more so than with practicum experience alone. Psychology is frequently criticized for missing the larger context of an individual's problems. Several authors, for example, have argued that systemic factors 12

play an important role in clients' well-being that traditional theories under-emphasize (e.g. Vera & Speight, 2003). For example, racism and low socio-economic status have been linked with higher incidence of physical and mental health problems, among other problems (Oliver & Shapiro, 2000). Prilleltensky and Nelson (2002) suggested that because of many clinician's excessive focus on the individual, important factors in the client's context that can either contribute to, perpetuate, or ameliorate the problem can be overlooked. By focusing exclusively on intrapsychic etiology of mental health issues, psychologists can inadvertently blame the victim for his or her oppression. Furthermore, if a psychologist does not take the effort to examine the client's environment, and is mainly focused on the individual changing or adapting to his or her situation, then the psychologist is asking the client to accept the oppression that the client is experiencing and adapt to it. The psychologist is essentially reinforcing the status quo through maintaining the context and asking the individual to change (Prilleltensky & Nelson, 2002). Service learning that includes an examination of unequal distribution of power and the possibilities for change (Mitchell, 2007) can contribute to a more sophisticated clinical reasoning skill-set that includes multiculturally competent intrapsychic, interpersonal, and socio-cultural views of mental health and illness. Some authors have argued that psychology as a field encourages clients to create personal, rather than social, change, regardless of where the "problem" exists. Diversity courses in clinical and counseling psychology curricula suggest that the therapist must think contextually and understand his/her own limitations in understanding the clients' context (Cooper, 2006; Gates, 2000). However, talking about theory in the classroom 13

cannot compare to creating personal understanding of the word context by interacting with those different from the self. "Exercises that are designed to focus on one's self in relation to cultural diversity may have the best possibility for having an impact on students' learning," (p. 7) suggested Arthur and Achenbach (2002). The student must find the relevance in the comparison between self and other, personal and contextual, for him/herself for meaning to be created. North (2006) stated that it is people, environments, and communities that have the ability to shape student experiences and response to future experiences. Personalization of these experiences, especially in terms of psychological education and profession, encourages students to become more self aware in their interactions with others (Arthur & Achenbach, 2002). As students become more self aware, then, they are able to acknowledge the ways in which their behaviors affect others, and in turn, become more effective communicators and psychologists. Promotion of Multicultural Education through Service Learning The long-term goal of service learning in psychology is for future psychologists to increase their awareness and multicultural competence. Adding the service learning component to the diversity courses would contribute another means of increasing the knowledge, awareness, competency, and understanding of both the self and others that would help psychologists to practice in a multiculturally sound manner. Allowing space for multiple, or different, structural attributes may help a therapist to be more aware of his or her clients' situations, possibilities, and realities. 14

To avoid blaming the victim for his or her own oppression, therapists should be aware of the cultural backgrounds of others along with a realization of the impact of oppression and institutionalization in order to understand their clients' contexts. Wallace (2000) stated that graduate programs need to embrace the goal of multicultural competence in order to be able to properly serve those in the field. While Wallace was speaking to the field of education, multicultural competence is important in any field, especially psychology. Weinstein (2006) pointed out that psychology is in danger of losing a contextualized approach to working with people as more and more professionals are focusing on the individual and forgetting the environment. Part of becoming more "contextualized," is recognizing others' disparities, which are "interwoven across as well as intensified within all the institutions of our society," he suggests (p. 14). Therefore, becoming multiculturally aware and knowledgeable is a responsibility that psychologists need to take seriously in order to "assure a high level of professional practice" (APA, 2003, p. 378; see also Arredondo & Arciniega, 2001). Daniel, Roysicar, Abeles, and Boyd (2004) stated that graduate programs are just the place for this kind of education and experience to occur, as it is a safe environment in which students can learn and evolve. Glockshuber (2005) referenced cultural competence as "a result of a combination of three thematic areas (cultural skills, cultural knowledge, and cultural beliefs)" (p. 294), and these factors are related and interact with one another. Sue et al. (1992) explained the integration of those three dimensions by suggesting three characteristics, "(a) counselor awareness of own assumptions, values, and biases; (b) understanding the 15

worldview of the culturally different client; and (c) developing appropriate intervention strategies and techniques" (p. 10). Each of those characteristics interact with one's knowledge, skills, and beliefs independently and together to create an encompassing competence with diversity. Arredondo et al. (1996) defined multicultural counseling as the "preparation and practices that integrate multicultural and culture-specific awareness, knowledge, and skills into counseling interactions" (p. 1). A psychology student's awareness, understanding, and ability in each of these areas needs to be comprehensively addressed and strengthened in order to create a competent practitioner. Service learning could help students to become in touch with these aspects of competence as they are able to experience the situations in which this knowledge is called upon. Vera and Speight (2003) reported that it is psychologists' "ethical and moral obligation" (p. 270) to be aware of the roles and techniques that are most appropriate for the individual client or community, even if that means some philosophies have to change. Kaslow et al. (2004) stated that a commitment to the understanding of the self and others needs to happen during training and not be expected to become a part of practice after graduation. They also stated that cultural diversity is an issue that needs to be addressed throughout contexts and taught within context. Service learning would be the ideal vehicle for a broader internalization of cultural diversity to be experienced. Others (e.g. Constantine, 2001; Sheffield, 2005; Toporek & Pope-Davis 2005) found that multicultural courses alone helped students to improve their conceptualizations of clients different from themselves and improve the quality and applicability of treatment issues. 16

Many authors have suggested additions to current courses of diversity to enhance multicultural competence, such as creating a collection of skills and knowledge appropriate for diverse populations and environments (Wallace, 2000) and specific sections based on both empathy and general work with multicultural clients (Constantine, 2001). In order to achieve Wallace's conceptualization of the understanding of multiculturalism, students need to move beyond the realization of theory in the classroom towards action within context. In fact, Wade (2000b) stated that using service learning in educating teachers about multiculturalism increases their awareness of those different from the self, acceptance of others and their lifestyles, personal satisfaction, the ability to work through difficult feelings, awareness of personal biases, and develops an understanding of how issues of society can affect individuals. Again, while Wade's research focuses on teachers, the effect of service learning to enhance multicultural competence is the same, regardless of the specific profession. Furthermore, the positive impact that Wade describes in a number of areas of teachers' professional functioning are essential for appropriate multicultural psychology practice. Toporek and Pope-Davis (2005) discussed multicultural counseling training as a way for students to recognize systemic ways in which individuals are affected by oppression, especially in terms of socioeconomic status and race. They found that this training offered students a chance to learn about other ways of influence in a client's life along with personal factors that might arise in treatment. The increased sensitivity of psychologists might even encourage more diverse clients to become involved in psychological services as the professionals 17

themselves increase the quality of their services. Explaining the negative consequences of oppression through clients' individual factors is a reason why clients may feel as though they are not understood by their counselor (Toporek & Pope-Davis, 2005). Service learning experiences in educational institutions allow students to understand the systemic nature of oppression and expand their attributions of oppressive situations (e.g. Burnett et al., 2004; Mitchell, 2007). Service learning can help increase students' therapy competencies and therefore improve their services. Training in multicultural competence, Fraga, Atkinson, and Wampold (2004) suggested, can help mental health professionals reduce dropout rate and increase services to minorities. Similar to adjusting attributions of oppression, service learning can also help students to reframe and adjust, as necessary, previously held stereotypes and gain insight into others' perspectives (APA, 2003; Goldberg et al., 2006; Manley et al., 2006; Mitchell, 2007). Butin (2007) argued that service learning provides the space in the classroom to discuss and/or debate different points of view and experiences. Students' experiences outside of the classroom, connected with communication within the classroom and class theory, bring together different views. In other words, students are given the chance to see multiple "truths" and ideally realize that what may be true to one person might not be true to another, allowing for an expansion of possibilities. Perspective-taking can challenge stereotypes, especially as they are seen both in the classroom and in the field, "prompting, rather than closing, discussion and debate" (Butin, 2007, p. 182). Arthur and Achenbach (2002) argued that it is the time within the 18

Full document contains 100 pages
Abstract: A widely respected model of multicultural competence proposes that certain knowledge base, attitudes, and skills are required in order for a psychologist to work successfully with individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds (Arredondo et al., 1996). Influenced by findings of Hansen and colleagues (2006) that psychologists report possessing knowledge of multicultural skills yet still fail to use those skills in therapy, this paper proposes that an action approach to multicultural competency training would be an important complement to classroom based learning of theories and skills. Specifically, this paper proposes that service learning has the potential to meet several goals important to multiculturally competent practice: learning and practicing skills; learning models of intervention other than Eurocentric, individual-focused therapies; and promoting social justice. Included are 14 Best Practices that outline the direction and ideals of a service learning program designed to offer a hands-on and applied approach to learning in general and increase multicultural competency and competency in issues of social justice specifically.