Assessing Cross-Cultural Sensitivity Awareness: A Basis for Curriculum Change

By Wasson, Diane H.; Jackson, Mary H. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Assessing Cross-Cultural Sensitivity Awareness: A Basis for Curriculum Change


Wasson, Diane H., Jackson, Mary H., Journal of Instructional Psychology


This study examined the social attitudes related to race, gender, age, and ability among senior level health education students at a mid-sized university in the southeast by means of a personally experienced critical incident involving a cross-cultural incident. A qualitative editing analysis protocol developed by Crabtree and Miller (1992) was used to analyze data and develop conceptual themes. Levels of awareness and empowerment emerged from the data indicating these students were moderately aware of diverse attitudes and perspective and were only minimally to moderately empowered to take responsibility or action. These data mirror the awareness element of Pedersen's (1988) multicultural training model and suggest the need to help students further examine their own and others attitudes, beliefs, and worldviews as well as develop a broad contextual knowledge base from various cultures. Specific approaches for expanding awareness are discussed.

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National initiatives aimed at educational reform challenge schools, colleges, and universities to be centers of excellence in learning for all students. The increasing complexity and diversity of U.S. society has enhanced and complicated this challenge. As such, there has been an increase of one million English-language learners during the past 10 years and they now comprise 5.5 percent of the total school-aged population. (Clair & Adger, 1999). It is estimated that one in five children enrolled nationally in the Head Start program speak a language other than English. The number of English language learners will continue to grow along with the increasing diversification of the U.S. population resulting from immigration rates, aging trends, and higher birth rates for Asian and Latino cultural groups (Phillips & Cabrera, 1996; Kagan & Garcia, 1991). These individuals do not represent a homogeneous group. Instead, they enter U.S. culture at different ages and stages of development and represent a diversity of languages, cultural experiences, and economic and social power.

The critical role of colleges and universities in adapting their instructional models and course content to better prepare health educators to handle increasing diversity in classroom settings must be recognized. Institutions must continually reassess their educational role in the context of a pluralist society. The purpose for this study was to examine the social attitudes related to race, gender, age, and ability among health education students at a mid-sized southeastern university. This research imperative is supported by Graft (1992) who states that rather than fostering political correctness, intellectual conflict should be part of the university's objective whereby students are actively engaged in exploring a diversity of ideas and worldviews. He asserts that fields of study thus far have handled cultural conflicts with a "separatist approach" which tends to downplay the role of students as active pursuers of ideas and instead teaches course subjects in an isolated fashion--without showing their connection to each other and the whole.

Gallos, Ramsey, and Associates (1997) recommend that before teaching multicultural issues, educators should consider themselves as learners first and start with their own self-awareness. This idea of self-examination is also reinforced in the counselor education literature which indicates that the first step in successfully relating to culturally diverse populations is increasing self-awareness (Pedersen, 1988). Additionally, Ivey, Ivey, and Sinek-Morgan (1993) and Sue (1992) stated that for effective communication to occur, one must understand the worldview from which one's own responses emerge as well as understand the worldview of others. Not considering the diversity of worldviews displayed in the typical classroom retards a more comprehensive understanding of factors that lead to greater achievement and positive attitudes (Coburn, 1989). …

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