Review of Multidisciplinary Measures of Cultural Competence for Use in Social Work Education

By Krentzman, Amy R.; Townsend, Aloen L. | Journal of Social Work Education, Spring-Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Review of Multidisciplinary Measures of Cultural Competence for Use in Social Work Education


Krentzman, Amy R., Townsend, Aloen L., Journal of Social Work Education


THIS STUDY EXAMINES extant measures of cultural competence from a wide range of disciplines to find those that appear optimal for measuring the cultural competence of social work students. Shifts in the ethnic composition of American society in the coming 45 years (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004) and the realities of racism, discrimination, and oppression combine to make cultural competence essential to effective social work practice, and thus to social work education. These compelling forces have been identified by a wide range of professionals and have urged forward a larger movement to ensure that doctors, nurses, psychologists, educators, social workers, dentists, police officers, librarians, and even bus drivers perform their duties in a culturally competent manner.

In the last 2 decades, many questionnaires and scales designed to measure cultural competence have been developed. In this arena we again see valuable contributions coming from multidisciplinary perspectives. Scales and questionnaires have emerged from counseling psychology (LaFromboise, Coleman, & Hernandez, 1991; Ponterotto et al., 1996; Pope-Davis, Liu, Nevitt, & Toporek, 2000; Sodowsky, Taffe, Gutkin, & Wise, 1994), social work (Ho, 1992; Lum, 2003), nursing (Bernal & Froman, 1987; Campinha-Bacote, 1999; Rew, Becker, Cookston, Khosropour, & Martinez, 2003; Schim, Doorenbos, Miller, & Benkert, 2003), medicine (Robins, Alexander, Wolf, Fantone & Davis, 1998), dental education (Novak, Whitehead, Close, & Kaplan, 2004), pharmacy (Shah, King, & Patel, 2004), business and business education (Glaum & Rinker, 2002; Motwani, Harper, Subramanian, & Douglas 1993; Rossett & Bickham, 1994), communications (Koester & Olebe, 1987), and school psychology (Holcomb-McCoy, 2001; Rogers & Ponterotto, 1997). In addition to the professions for which they were designed, these scales have been used to measure others including school counselor trainees (Constantine, 2002), dental hygienists (Morey & Leung, 1993), vocational rehabilitation counselors (Bellini, 2002), physician assistant students (Jibaja, Sebastian, Kingery, & Holcomb, 2000), and teachers (Jibaja-Rusth, Kingerey, Holcomb, Buckner, & Pruitt, 1994).

Scales that measure cultural competence are of great use to social work educators to track the progress of students' evolving competency in working with clients different from themselves. Measures of cultural competence can be useful in many ways. They can be used as part of a comprehensive assessment of incoming students, as an aid in academic advisement and course planning, as a pre/post measure in a course on diversity, or as an assessment of students' cultural competence at graduation. In social work research and education, scales of cultural competence are often the instruments developed by counseling psychologists (as in studies by social work researchers Green et al., 2005; Kohl, 2005; and Kohli, 2003). The work of Sue and his colleagues (Sue et al., 1982; Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992) has led to the development of a number of scales designed to measure the cultural competence of counseling psychologists, and these have been adapted for social work research and education. However, given the multi-disciplinary nature of the concern for culturally competent practice, it is timely to conduct an extensive comparative survey of the extant measures of cultural competence instruments in the professional disciplines beyond social work and psychology to include nursing, education, medicine, and others, to explore which are optimal for use in social work education.

This study sought measures of cultural competence from as many sources as possible. Fourteen electronic databases were searched. These databases accessed scholarly work from medicine, psychology, nursing, education, sociology, political science, pharmacy, criminal justice, and social work.

Nineteen measures met the criteria for inclusion in the study. …

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