Negotiating difference in social work practice: Role of cultural competence
Keywords:cultural competence, Cross-cultural practice, reflection, reflexivity
Cultural competence has been a popular approach to developing practitioners’ ability through acquiring three main components – awareness, knowledge, and skills for effective cross-cultural practice. This conceptual model is often used to measure students’ ability to work with difference in preparation for practice. However, despite significant attention on competency-based education, cultural competence is perceived as inadequate in teaching, learning, and practice. This qualitative study investigates cultural competence development via semi-structured interviews with 10 students and 18 practitioners. The study explored their learning of awareness, knowledge, and skills for cultural competence over three developmental stages: the Educational (classroom learning), the Transitional (after completion of the first practicum) and the Career (after entering the profession) in Aotearoa New Zealand. The research findings revealed that knowledge acquisition gained via the approach of learning “about” culture evolves into learning “from” clients about their cultures in professional practice. Also, three types of self-awareness: Cultural self-identity (T1), Cultural self-awareness (T2), and Critical self-awareness (T3), are defined in this research that is employed for building cross-cultural practice relationships. The research indicates that cultural competence means “enhancing the capability of a practitioner to negotiate differences in practice”, which departs from the original implication of knowledge-based skills underpinning cultural competence.
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