Defining, teaching, and practising diversity: Another hegemonic discourse?

Susan Beaumont, Stephanie Kelly, Lee Smith

Abstract


INTRODUCTION: Respect for diversity is a primary principle of the social work profession; however, the term diversity has been critiqued as meaningless and is often linked with cultural competence. Gaps in terminology, education, and knowledge about how to practise diversity have been identified in health and social practice literature, while attempts to teach diversity have uncertain results. The research question guiding this master’s study was “What are the factors that inform Aotearoa social workers’ practice when engaging with diversity?”

METHODOLOGY: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of four practising social workers to explore what informed their diversity practice. An inductive thematic analysis of the interview data was undertaken. Numerous themes and sub-themes were identified and grouped into seven thematic categories.

FINDINGS: For research participants, the term diversity exists only in the discursive; and it “gets in the way” of practice. While acknowledging the importance of education and practice with Te Tiriti, participants could not seem to connect this knowledge with diversity and associated practices. The authors suggest that the definition of diversity for the purposes of social work education and competency frameworks requires a more critical approach: its associations with power, and its tendency to describe and classify otherwise complex, fluid, contextual identities. Aotearoa New Zealand social work education must also engage in critical analysis of monocultural, hegemonic discourse and power relationships through te Tiriti frameworks to prepare all students for practice with diversity in a bicultural context.


Keywords


Diversity; social work profession; professional practice; competencies

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol33iss3id893

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