Attitudes and Perceptions about Diversity among Counselor Education Graduate Students

Article excerpt

Abstract

Counselor education graduate students' attitudes about racial diversity and gender equity were assessed using the Quick Discrimination Index (QDI, Ponterotto et al., 1995) and compared to data obtained from the QDI development and validation process. In addition, the extent to which students' perceptions of diversity included other identity components (e.g., sexual orientation, disability, religion, etc.) was examined. The pilot study described in this article was intended as a preliminary investigation of graduate students' attitudes about racial diversity and gender equity using a small sample. As such, the findings are not generalizable; however, replication of this study using a larger sample is invited and encouraged.

A focus on diversity, particularly in relation to the exploration of one's own attitudes, beliefs, and biases, is critical to the preparation of competent counselors, whether their intended work setting is on college campuses or in community agencies, private practice, career counseling centers, or schools. Although more limited definitions of diversity are restricted to discussions of race/ethnicity, counselors must be knowledgeable about and sensitive to issues surrounding a number of equally important factors that also come under the "diversity umbrella" (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, religion, age, class, etc.) (Hays, 1996; McWhirter, 1994; Robinson & Howard-Hamilton, 2000) and recognize patterns that are common to all areas of prejudice. Indeed, as Garcia (personal communication, January 26, 2001) argued, "[t]ensions over which `ism' is most important continues the 'divide-and-conquer' patriarchal colonization process which...[k]eeps us from recognizing each other as potential allies in the same straggle for dignity, respect, and liberation." Moreover, although racism, sexism, and classism "reinforce and feed on each other" (Henley, Meng, O'Brien, McCarthy, & Sockloskie, 1998, p. 321), cultural sensitivity/competence in one area does not necessarily translate to cultural sensitivity/competence in others.

Several measures have been developed to assess competence in multicultural counseling. Although the American Psychological Association [APA] does appear to be moving toward a more inclusive definition, multicultural counseling is still generally portrayed as counseling people of diverse races/ethnicities. Most instruments claiming to quantify multicultural counseling assess the awareness, knowledge, and skills needed to work effectively with ethnically diverse clients or students. Examples include the Cross-Cultural Counseling Inventory-Revised (CCCI-R; LaFromboise, Coleman, & Hernandez, 1991), the Multicultural Competency Checklist (Ponterotto, Alexander, & Grieger, 1995), and the Multicultural Awareness/Knowledge/Skills Survey (MAKSS; D'Andrea, Daniels, & Heck, 1991). Other instruments, such as the Quick Discrimination Index (QDI; Ponterotto et al., 1995) have been designed to assess prejudice in general populations rather than competence as a helping professional. The QDI is particularly interesting in that it deals specifically with attitudes and focuses on gender as well as racial/ethnic equity. As such, it serves as a useful tool in formatively evaluating counselor education students' early development as culturally competent counselors in relation to two important areas of diversity: race/ethnicity and gender.

The QDI is a 30-item five-point Likert-type self-report measure (1 = strongly agree; 5 = strongly disagree). It consists of three subscales: (a) cognitive attitudes toward racial diversity (e.g., "I think the school system, from elementary school through college, should promote values representative of diverse cultures," (b) affective attitudes toward greater personal contact with racial diversity (e.g., "If I were to adopt a child, I would be happy to adopt a child of any race," and (c) attitudes toward women's (gender) equity (e. …

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