Cultural competence, development, distance education, diversity, online teaching, technology


Social work education has placed central importance on the development of intercultural competency and more recently, cultural humility. Strategies for effectively leveraging technology, logistics, place and pedagogy are essential within increasingly diverse education and practice settings. This study explores how two Western Michigan University (WMU) social work faculty members teaching at off-campus sites developed an on-line learning course in Chicago in collaboration with sociologists from the Chicago Center for Culture and Urban Life. Following four weeks of online and Skype-based learning, master’s level social work students interacted directly with diverse communities over an intensive four-day travel experience. Utilizing Freirean pedagogy, they engaged with communities through participation in dialogue and critical reflection of current social and economic conditions in the City of Chicago. Students also visited Hull House, a site of the Settlement House Movement that preceded the rise of the profession of social work. Following completion of the course, students reported its impact on their learning experiences which included: increased awareness of their own beliefs, biases, and values; increased knowledge of stigmatized communities; and critical reflection on their own experiences of power, privilege, and oppression. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of student reflection papers showed development of cultural humility and intercultural competencies. This model may be useful for faculty and students in traditional university settings and distance education programs, as well as for practitioners in need of continuing education and professional development.

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