Service Learning in Graduate Counselor Education: Developing Multicultural Counseling Competency

Article excerpt

Service learning integrates classroom instruction with community service to enhance learning. This article describes the service-learning model used in a multicultural counseling course. The feedback received indicated service learning enhanced multicultural counseling knowledge, increased examination of cultural bias, increased community feelings of support, and resulted in a powerful learning experience for participants.

Servicios de aprendizaje integra las intruciones en la aula con el servicio de la comunidad para mejorar el aprendizaje. Este articulo describe el uso del modelo de servicios de aprendizaje en un curso de terapia multicultural. La respuesta acogida indica que el servicio de aprendizaje mejoro el conocimiento de terapia multicultural, aumento de examinacion de la parcialidad de cultura, y el aumento de apoyo de comunidad, y resulto en una potente experiencia de aprendizaje para los participantes.


Cultural awareness, sensitivity, knowledge, and skills are necessary ingredients for multicultural counseling competence. Integrating these concepts into multicultural course curricula is often a challenge for graduate counselor education faculty. One method of introducing these concepts to graduate counseling students is to enable them to have direct exposure to diverse cultural groups through the provision of community service. This method of training, called service learning, combines classroom instruction with community service. Service learning is an integral part of all counselor education programs through the practicum and internship experiences. However, there are limited data available on prepractica service learning in counselor education (e.g., Mattox & Hurt, 1992; Woodard & Lin, 1999). In addition, literature on multicultural training in counselor education emphasizes didactic and experiential methods (D'Andrea, Daniels, & Heck, 1991; Evans & Larrabee, 2002; Heppner & O'Brien, 1994) and does not incorporate community service as an educational tool. This article describes how a culturally focused community service-learning program was implemented in a graduate course on multicultural counseling and psychosocial theory.

multicultural service learning in counselor education

The integration of classroom instruction with community service learning is intended to enhance the understanding of course content while promoting commitment to civic and social responsibility. It is understood that graduate counselor education students have had didactic and experiential classroom-based learning experiences prior to providing counseling services during practicum and internship training. These learning experiences, albeit valuable, are limited in scope when it comes to addressing many of the unique needs of diverse communities. Experiential exercises that incorporate personal involvement or immersion in diverse communities help students move beyond the acquisition of knowledge (Pope-Davis, Breaux, & Liu, 1997; Ridley, Mendoza, & Kanitz, 1994). Service learning involves students in a way that allows them to gain greater breadth and depth of experience by involving them in social, political, cultural, environmental, and other important aspects of our collective community. This method of learning moves away from a "missionary ideology" of working "for" the community and instead is based on working "with" the community and is a method that embodies the tenets of mutuality, collaboration, and equality that are critical for improving multicultural awareness and sensitivity (Weah, Simmons, & Hall, 2000). As a result of service learning, students are better able to move beyond individualized and personalized thinking and place themselves within a broader social and cultural context while learning about cultural and community similarities and differences. Understanding sociocultural aspects of diverse communities is an important component of community-centered service learning and a step on the road to multicultural counseling competence. …