Feminist Teaching in Counselor Education: Promoting Multicultural Understanding

By Smith-Adcock, Sondra; Ropers-Huilman, Becky et al. | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Feminist Teaching in Counselor Education: Promoting Multicultural Understanding


Smith-Adcock, Sondra, Ropers-Huilman, Becky, Choate, Laura Hensley, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


Feminist teaching is suggested as a promising pedagogy for the development of counselors' multicultural understanding. The ways in which feminist teaching principles and practices are useful in multicultural counseling training, as well as challenges to the implementation of feminist teaching are examined.

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Sexton (1998) charges that the time has come for counselor education to examine its fundamental pedagogical assumptions. As he asserts, counselor education lacks theoretical models to guide selection and dissemination of its core knowledge base. Nelson and Neufeldt (1998) further suggest that counselor education has neglected theories of teaching in favor of skills training models that are based on assumptions that are logical and positivist, individually oriented, and otherwise reflective of values related to Euro-American culture. Counselor education still lacks a comprehensive pedagogy that incorporates race, gender, and class and effectively guides the selection of teaching practices (Sexton; Fong, 1998). Furthermore, the lack of a guiding pedagogy leaves counselor educators with little choice but to apply a hodgepodge of techniques and approaches (Enns, Sinacore, Ancis, & Phillips, in press). Unless counselor educators challenge the theoretical assumptions underlying their training approaches, they can unknowingly promote biased assumptions as appropriate ways to conceptualize clients and the counseling process (Nelson & Neufeldt; Sexton).

Teaching students to counsel clients from a multicultural perspective has posed one of counselor education's greatest challenges. In response to this challenge, multicultural counseling competencies and training models have been developed that emphasize students' personal awareness and culture-specific knowledge and skills (Arredondo et al., 1996; Locke, 1998; Sue & Sue, 1990). This evolution of counselor education toward an overarching multicultural focus has prompted counselor educators to challenge traditional teaching methods in favor of methods that promote students' reflection, critique, and challenge of their beliefs, attitudes, and values (Locke & Kiselica, 1999). Though these training models represent key developments in multicultural counseling training, Sexton's (1998) challenge to examine theoretical models that guide counselor education has, to date, only partially been addressed. Authors have proposed Developmental and Constructivist theories as promising pedagogies for counselor education (Granello & Hazler, 1998; Eriksen & McAuliffe, 2001; Nelson & Neufeldt, 1998) and the discourse on teaching multicultural counseling is ongoing. However, much literature on teaching theory has yet to be considered in relation to counselor education and multicultural development.

Feminist teaching, a pedagogy that addresses the above concerns, fosters personal connection and mutual construction of knowledge between teachers and students, emphasizes the affective and experiential, and encourages cooperative learning (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1986; Cummings, 1998). In this article, we consider the ways in which feminist teaching can be useful in furthering students' multicultural counseling competencies. At the same time, we examine the unique challenges associated with the use of feminist teaching in multicultural counseling education. Our analysis focuses both on the promise and complexities of feminist teaching.

lessons from feminist teaching

While some of the principles related to feminist teaching undoubtedly have been practiced for many years, feminist teaching in higher education has been given sustained scholarly attention only during the past three decades (Belenky, et al., 1986; Bunch & Pollack, 1983; Maher & Tetreault, 1994). Over the last three decades, feminist education has taken hold in Women's Studies programs, as well as across disciplines and departments in higher education, and feminist scholars in other disciplines also have contributed new knowledge and methodologies (Glazer-Raymo, 1999; Reinharz, 1992). …

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