The Educator|Resource of the Month brings together curated pedagogical approaches to antiracism education and the promotion of diversity, equity, and social justice education. The resources featured are drawn from the state of the art in the field and map to the CSWE 2022 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards competencies in diversity and social justice. Educators can use the materials for developing assignments or a variety of teaching activities. The Educator|Resource is published on the second Tuesday of each month.
What You Need to Know About Teaching Diversity and Justice Under the 2022 EPAS
CSWE’s newly released 2022 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) affirms and strengthens the enduring commitment of social work education to principles of anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. In this Educator|Resource, we outline how the 2022 EPAS incorporates these principles within a competency-based education framework. We draw additional content from two related documents, the 2022 EPAS Glossary and the 2022 EPAS Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Information.
Teaching using a competency-based education framework means that we prepare students to be able to demonstrate the integration and application of principles of anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of professional practice. In the coming months we will follow up with examples of instructional ideas on anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion that reflect the 2022 EPAS, including practice models based on anti-oppressive practice, effective teaching and learning methods, and course design to achieve student equity.
Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in EPAS
Using a Q & A format, below we pull together excerpts and summaries of material in the 2022 EPAS that spell out how to integrate anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion across social competencies and elements of program design. We provide links to the full descriptions found in the 2022 EPAS and related documents available online. We close with a snapshot of Black, Latina/o/x, and other social work scholarship from the past 30 years substantiating the need for the inclusion of anti-racism in the social work educational standards. View the questions below to learn more about how to align your teaching with the new anti-racism standards.
- How do anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion fit into the mission of the 2022 EPAS?
- What factors of intersectionality—the interlocking or collision of identities and experiences that shape one’s status in society—form the dimensions of diversity, equity, and inclusion?
- What differences in people’s characteristics constitute diversity?
- How are principles of anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion tailored to the unique practice aspects of each social work competency?
- How do we teach anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion using a competency-based education framework?
- What are the expectations for program design as they relate to anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion?
- What is CSWE’s approach regarding policies that may conflict with social work’s commitment to teaching about racism and social justice?
- How have conceptualizations of racial justice evolved in social work as reflected in the CSWE education standards?
1. How do anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion fit into the mission of the 2022 EPAS?
Anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion figure prominently in the mission of the 2022 EPAS. The 2022 EPAS adds anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion as a new element in the integrated program design, in addition to four other elements brought forward from the 2015 EPAS, program mission, explicit curriculum, implicit curriculum, and assessment. Specifically, the EPAS program mission (Educational Policy and Accreditation Standard 1.0) is grounded in the purpose and core values of the social work profession and informed by the program’s context. Social, racial, economic, and environmental justice; human rights; and elimination of poverty are key to achieving social work’s purpose to promote human and community well-being. Framed by an anti-racist and anti-oppressive perspective, social justice and human rights are among the core key values of social work. Program context, which encompasses the needs and opportunities of practice communities, are informed by their historical, political, economic, environmental, social, cultural, demographic, institutional, local, regional, and global contexts. See full statement at 2022 EPAS, pp. 7, 14–15).
2. What factors of intersectionality—the interlocking or collision of identities and experiences that shape one’s status in society—form the dimensions of diversity, equity, and inclusion?
The 2022 EPAS defines intersectionality as the intersecting identities and experiences of oppression or privilege. Thus, a person’s life experiences may include oppression, poverty, marginalization, and alienation as well as privilege and power. The dimensions of diversity, equity, and inclusion are understood as the intersectionality of multiple factors, including but not limited to age, caste, class, color, culture, disability and ability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, generational status, immigration status, legal status, marital status, political ideology, race, nationality, religion/spirituality, sex, sexual orientation, and tribal sovereign status. See full statement at 2022 EPAS, pp. 9, 16.
3. What differences in people’s characteristics constitute diversity?
According to the 2022 EPAS Glossary, which was created as an aid to understanding the EPAS, diversity is the presence of differences that may include age, caste, class, color, culture, disability and ability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, generational status, immigration status, legal status, marital status, political ideology, race, nationality, religion and spirituality, sex, sexual orientation, and tribal sovereign status.
Additional terms/concepts directly relevant to teaching diversity and justice, such as diversity, anti-racism, anti-oppression, environmental justice, equity, inclusion, and intersectionality, can also be found in the 2022 EPAS Glossary.
4. How are principles of anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion tailored to the unique practice aspects of each social work competency?
Below we show how the principles of anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion are incorporated into each social work competency in the 2022 EPAS. There are nine competencies, and each describes the knowledge, values, skills, and cognitive and affective processes that make up the competency at the generalist level of practice, followed by a set of observable behaviors that integrate these components.
Competency 1: Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior
Social workers understand that ethics are informed by principles of human rights and apply them toward realizing social, racial, economic, and environmental justice in their practice. Read the full competency description in 2022 EPAS, pp. 8–9.
Competency 2: Advance Human Rights and Social, Racial, Economic, and Environmental Justice
Social workers are knowledgeable about the global intersecting and ongoing injustices throughout history that result in oppression and racism, including social work’s role and response. Social workers critically evaluate the distribution of power and privilege in society in order to promote social, racial, economic, and environmental justice by reducing inequities and ensuring dignity and respect for all. Social workers advocate for and engage in strategies to eliminate oppressive structural barriers to ensure that social resources, rights, and responsibilities are distributed equitably and that civil, political, economic, social, and cultural human rights are protected. Read the full competency description in 2022 EPAS, p. 9.
Competency 3: Engage Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Practice
Social workers understand how racism and oppression shape human experiences and how these two constructs influence practice. Social workers understand the pervasive impact of White supremacy. The dimensions of diversity, equity, and inclusion are understood as the intersectionality of multiple factors (see Question 2 in the Q & A, above). Social workers understand the societal and historical roots of social and racial injustices and the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination. Social workers demonstrate cultural humility and manage the influence of bias, power, privilege, and values in working with clients and constituencies, acknowledging them as experts of their own lived experiences. Read the full competency description in 2022 EPAS, pp. 9–10.
Competency 4: Engage in Practice-Informed Research and Research-Informed Practice
Social workers use ethical, culturally informed, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive approaches in conducting research and building knowledge. Social workers understand the inherent bias in research and evaluate design, analysis, and interpretation using an anti-racist and anti-oppressive perspective. Read the full competency description in 2022 EPAS, p. 10.
Competency 5: Engage in Policy Practice
Social workers identify social policy at the local, state, federal, and global levels that affects well-being, human rights and justice, service delivery, and access to social services. Social workers recognize the historical, social, racial, cultural, economic, organizational, environmental, and global influences that affect social policy. Social workers actively engage in and advocate for anti-racist and anti-oppressive policy practices to effect change in those settings. Read the full competency description in 2022 EPAS, pp. 10–11.
Competency 6: Engage With Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
Social workers are self-reflective and understand how bias, power, and privilege as well as their personal values and personal experiences may affect their ability to engage effectively with diverse clients and constituencies. Read the full competency description in 2022 EPAS, p. 11.
Competency 7: Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
Social workers are self-reflective and understand how bias, power, privilege, and their personal values and experiences may affect their assessment and decision making. Read the full competency description in 2022 EPAS, pp. 11–12.
Competency 8: Intervene With Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
Social workers incorporate culturally responsive methods to negotiate, mediate, and advocate with and on behalf of clients and constituencies. Read the full competency description in 2022 EPAS, p. 12.
Competency 9: Evaluate Practice With Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
Social workers apply anti-racist and anti-oppressive perspectives in evaluating outcomes. Read the full competency description in 2022 EPAS, pp. 12–13.
5. How do we teach anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion using a competency-based education framework?
According to the 2022 EPAS (p. 7), based on a holistic view of competence, we need to prepare students to demonstrate competence informed by knowledge, values, skills, and cognitive and affective processes that include their critical thinking, affective reactions, and exercise of judgment in regard to unique practice situations. Using a curriculum design that begins with the outcomes, expressed as the expected competencies, we can produce the substantive content, pedagogical approaches, and educational activities that provide learning opportunities for our students to demonstrate competencies. Finally, our learning outcomes need to be specific, measurable, and meaningful to allow for assessment. (For things to think about to successfully implement an education framework see Teaching and Learning Frameworks, by the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning at Yale University.)
6. What are the expectations for program design as they relate to anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Below are the expectations in the 2022 EPAS concerning diversity and justice education broadly (or anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion specifically) for each of the elements of program design. There are five program elements, and each is described by education policies, which in turn, inform accreditation standards.
Program Mission (EPAS 1.0): The program has a program-level mission statement that is consistent with the profession’s purpose and values, which are deeply grounded in diversity and justice. Read the full description in 2022 EPAS, pp. 14–15.
Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (EPAS 2.0): The program incorporates anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion approaches on three levels: (a) through integration across the curriculum, (b) through a learning environment through which faculty and administrators model anti-racist and anti-oppressive practice, and (c) through inclusive practices and pedagogies that respond to student learning needs. Read the full description in 2022 EPAS, p. 16.
Explicit Curriculum (EPAS 3.0): The program integrates anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion principles across the explicit curriculum (a) through the use of interdisciplinary perspectives and comparative analysis regarding policy, practice, and research, and (b) through the provision of field education as well as through other experientially based learning opportunities. Read the full description in 2022 EPAS, pp. 17–23.
Implicit Curriculum (EPAS 4.0): The program demonstrates commitment to anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion through policies that are equitable and transparent in substance and implementation as they relate to (a) students, (b) faculty, (c) administrative and governance structure, and (d) resources. Read the full description in 2022 EPAS, pp. 24–35.
Assessment (EPAS 5.0): The program systematically gathers data that serve as evidence of its efforts to foster anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion in both the implicit and explicit curriculum. Assessment reflects the intentional and continuous improvement that is anchored in competency-based research, student learning outcomes, student learning experience feedback, professional practice community, and higher education practices. Read the full description in 2022 EPAS, pp. 36–39.
7. What is CSWE’s approach regarding policies that may conflict with social work’s commitment to teaching about racism and social justice?
According to the 2022 Educational Policies and Accreditation Standards Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Information supplement, the 2022 EPAS supports social work programs in developing a workforce of social workers who are knowledgeable about the ways positionality, power, privilege, and difference affect practice areas, and how social workers challenge systems of oppression that affect diverse populations. Furthermore, the EPAS requires that social work programs prepare students to advocate across levels of policy and practice in accordance with the NASW Code of Ethics, which recognizes the necessity of such activism.
In particular, the supplement provides strategies for faculty and program leadership to oppose divisive concept legislation enacted by some states prohibiting the teaching of so-called divisive concepts and to underscore the importance of 2022 EPAS anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion information in social work education. Suggested strategies for social work educators involve engaging university leadership, students, and ourselves as private citizens.
8. How have conceptualizations of racial justice evolved in social work as reflected in the CSWE education standards?
In their recent article, “Shamed Into Action? The Historical Avoidance of Pursuing Anti-Racist Educational Policies and Content in Social Work Education,” Dr. Andre P. Stevenson and coauthors take social work education to task for turning a blind eye to the unrelenting problems of racial oppression in the United States. As the sole accreditor of social work programs, CSWE issued its first curriculum policy standards in the early 1950s, a period coinciding with the beginning of the civil rights, farmworker, and Native American movements, among others, which were fighting decades and centuries of injustice. Dating back to at least 1846, prominent Black scholars and leaders have been writing insistently about racism: Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, Martin Luther King Jr., and Michelle Alexander, among many others. Parallel analyses of the persistent racial oppression of Latina/o/xs and challenges to social work education had been taking place since before the 1960s, as discussed in a video interview with Dr. Ismael Dieppa. More recently, Indigenous social work scholars brought to the forefront social work’s role in perpetrating the settler colonialism that has touched every aspect of indigenous life through a range of institutions and has been part of American history since its inception in the Statement of Accountability and Reconciliation for Harms Done to Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.
Explicit acknowledgment of these racial injustices—and of ongoing social work complicity—took a very long time to reach social work education. According to Jani et al. (2011), it wasn’t until the late 1960s and early 1970s that articles on race and racism began to appear in the social work literature. The Stevenson et al. (2022) article and the four others reviewed below do two things: (a) they provide a snapshot from the last 30-plus years of Black, Latina/o/x, and other social work scholarship substantiating the need for the inclusion of anti-racism in social work education, and (b) they piece together how approaches to racial justice, leading up to the current incorporation of anti-racism, evolved across previous iterations of the CSWE education standards.
Padilla, Y. C. (1990). Social science theory on the Mexican-American experience. Social Service Review, 64(2), 261–275.
To link to a full-text copy of this article: https://www.jstor.org/stable/30012088
In 1990, Padilla joined other social work scholars who critiqued the social work literature for discounting the effects of societal and institutional factors on Mexican Americans, “the type of knowledge social workers need for effective intervention” with this community (Salcido, 1982, as cited in Padilla, 1990, p. 263). As Padilla showed in this article, the stark and pervasive racial oppression of Mexican Americans, in the form of segregation, labor repression, and violence, was well established in the social science literature, in works such as Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836–1986 by historical sociologist David Montejano (p. 268). Her analysis of articles published between 1979 and 1989 in 10 social work journals revealed that the social work literature overwhelmingly continued to use person-centered, cultural explanations of the conditions faced by Mexican Americans, neglecting the extensive theoretical and empirical body of work in the social sciences. She closes with the question, “Why the evident lag in developments in social work behind those in social science that explain the Mexican-American experience?” (p. 270).
McMahon, A., & Allen-Meares, P. (1992). Is social work racist? A content analysis of recent literature. Social Work, 37(6), 533–539.
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/37.6.533
This 1992 classic article reported on an analysis of 117 articles on Asian Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans published in the 1980s in four major social work journals. Noting the 1973 CSWE guidelines for inclusion of diversity in the curriculum, the authors observe, “More than a decade has passed since the CSWE requirement—enough time to establish the trend of the literature’s recommendations for social work practice with minorities” (p. 533). Nevertheless, the authors identified a focus in the social work literature on an “individualistic approach” that “ignores societal conditions” and concluded with a call for “a more advocative, proactive, organized, and antiracist stance from the profession [emphasis added]” (pp. 537–538).
Jani, J. S., Pierce, D., Ortiz, L. O., & Sowbel, L. (2011). Access to intersectionality, content to competence: Deconstructing social work education diversity standards. Journal of Social Work Education, 47(2), 283–301.
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.5175/JSWE.2011.200900118
About a decade later, in this critical analysis of the historical evolution of diversity in CSWE’s educational standards, the authors noted that in the 1970s—as in subsequent iterations—changes in the social work standards came as a response to large-scale political shifts, in this case legislation influenced by the civil rights movement. The 1973 CSWE guidelines, for the first time, called for the integration of knowledge of racial and ethnic minority groups in the curriculum; however, it fell short, making “no specific reference to institutional racism, nor the related concept of social justice [emphasis added]” (p. 286). In the 1980s, members of “special populations” (the term used by the CSWE Curriculum Policy Statement and Accreditation Standards) advocated “for inclusion in traditional social work curricula from which they had long been excluded” (p. 289). In 1994, the standards included content on mechanisms of oppression and discrimination as well as strategies and skills to advance social and economic justice. The 2008 iteration recognized the role of multiple identities and social context. The authors concluded that social work standards had begun to reflect “a growing awareness that the problems of inequality and marginalization were rooted in the structures of society itself” (p. 293).
Corley, N. A., & Young, S. M. (2018). Is social work still racist? A content analysis of recent literature. Social Work, 63(4), 317–326.
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/swy042
As a follow-up to the 1992 article above, “Is Social Work Racist?” the authors conducted a content analysis of articles on Asian Pacific Islander (API) Americans, African Americans, Latinx or Hispanic Americans, and Native or Indigenous Americans in four major social work journals published between 2005 and 2015. The conclusions of the authors of this 2018 article were in the same vein as those of the first article concerning existing social work literature: It still demonstrated a lack of attention to racism. Citing Sakamoto (2007), the authors maintain that “to effectively address and combat the bias expressed in social work research, education, and practice, the profession should firmly adopt critical antiracist, anti-oppressive practice models [emphasis added] that focus on the analysis of structural oppression” (p. 323). The authors further alluded to social work education and educational standards, calling for an examination of social work education journals in order to “gain insight into how our curriculum and standards for education prepare social workers to conduct macro-level interventions” (p. 324).
Stevenson, A. P., Alexander, K. P., Thomas, K., Richardson, S., Turnage, B., Clarke, A., & Wood, Z. (2022). Shamed into action? The historical avoidance of pursuing anti-racist educational policies and content in social work education. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 42(2–3), 247–264.
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2022.2058675
This article brings us to the 2022 EPAS. By 2022, according to the authors of this article, scholars across disciplines, in particular Black scholars, had been analyzing the causes and consequences of anti-Black racism for decades, and Black social workers had been challenging the social work narrative (pp. 248–249). It was the murder of George Floyd in 2020 that mobilized CSWE, and social work education more broadly, to center anti-Black racism. Based on their analyses, the authors of the article note that content in EPAS 2008 and 2015 included concepts such as privilege and power, oppression, justice, and human rights, but language explicitly related to racism did not appear in the EPAS until the 2022 draft (later formalized in the final document). As in the Padilla (1990) article above, the authors ask, why? “Why has this shift not occurred sooner?” The article leaves us with a critical question. Now that after a long period of avoidance it has entered into a national discourse on antiracism, “can we trust in the profession to speak truth to power”? Is it “prepared to follow through . . . with meaningful action” (p. 261)?
The views expressed in the Educator|Resource are those of the educator(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council on Social Work Education.
The work of the CSWE Center for Diversity is made possible through the support of the University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work.
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The Routledge International Handbook of Social Work Education, the most complete compilation of analyses of social work education to date: its key issues, its response to current needs, and its future.
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