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Transformation in Action: Approaches to Incorporating Race and Racism into Social Work Practice and Curriculum

Rani Varghese, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Key leaders within the social work field have repeatedly challenged social work educators to address issues of race and racism, in addition to other forms of identity and oppression, in social work education and practice. Little is known, however, about if and how these issues are being addressed by social work faculty teaching advanced clinical practice courses. This qualitative study examines the manner and extent to which 15 social work faculty, all of whom teach advanced clinical practice courses in one of four graduate social work programs on the East Coast of the United States, conceptualize and address issues of race and racism in their teaching of clinical social work. Analysis of the 15 interviews suggests that most participants view race primarily as an individual ethnic or cultural identity and racism as a largely micro level phenomenon that is the result of racial prejudice. Few participants appeared to understand race as a social identity situated within structures of power and privilege or how racism operates at a structural or institutional level. For example, in discussing a case vignette provided by the researcher, they focused on symptomatology, diagnosis, and assessment rather than the possible implications and effects of race and racism on a client of color. Overall, participants in this study appeared to lack conceptual, historical, and sociological knowledge about race and racism. While participants in this study view themselves as committed to addressing issues of diversity and social justice, they also acknowledge their struggle to enact this commitment in the classroom. The findings from this study suggest that additional faculty development opportunities and institutional support will be needed before clinical social work educators are likely to meet the challenge to effectively address issues of race and racism as well as other issues of identity and oppression in the classroom.^

Subject Area

Social work|Multicultural Education|Pedagogy

Recommended Citation

Varghese, Rani, "Transformation in Action: Approaches to Incorporating Race and Racism into Social Work Practice and Curriculum" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3589205.