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February 2021 Educator|Resource of the Month

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The Center for Diversity and Social & Economic Justice Educator|Resource is a monthly feature that highlights curricular resources and social work educators who address diversity and justice.

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Preparing Students to Practice in an Interconnected World

Addressing social justice and human rights issues—immigration, poverty, climate change, mass incarceration, and pandemics, among others—requires that social workers understand the global interconnections of these issues. It is impossible to fully understand the roots and ramifications of the social problems that we as social workers seek to solve without looking beyond our national borders. To this end, the Diversity Center, with support from the Katherine A. Kendall Institute for International Social Work, is developing an evidence-based teaching resource that uses literature from around the world to bring international content to the social work curriculum designed to be integrated into existing courses. The resource maps to the CSWE Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards, which require an understanding of the global interconnections of oppression for competency in advancing human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice (Competency 3).

Teaching Resources 

The Diversity Center has teamed up with Words Without Borders Campus, known as WWB Campus (wwb-campus.org), an organization that makes contemporary international literature in translation and related multimedia learning resources accessible to students and educators. The resources include author and translator bios and representations of the socio-geographic-political and cultural context of the stories. WWB Campus curates short-form literature, including memoirs and other narrative nonfiction and fiction. The readings vary in length and take 10–40 minutes to read. We are compiling a list of readings with particular relevance to social work and adding resources with direct applications to practice. Together, the WWB and the Diversity Center resources inform treatment, service delivery, program planning, community partnerships, advocacy, policy, and other areas of social work practice across a broad range of fields. The theme of our initial set of readings is immigration. Click on the titles below to access the readings and linked resources. The list of readings, which in addition to short-form literature will include full-length book titles, will be broadened to address a range of themes such as poverty, family, coming of age, and living in periods of social transformations. See Using This Resource for teaching suggestions.

Nonfiction from Iran A Year Among the Boat People, by Amir Ahmadi Arian
“No refugee is allowed an unconditional dream.”
Fiction from Mexico The Gringo Champion, by Aura Xilonen
Crossing the Rio Grande to reach "the promised land."
Nonfiction from Iran How To Be a Woman in Tehran, by Habibe Jafarian
"If women like me don't stay, nothing will ever change."
Nonfiction from Iran Hunger, by Salar Abdoh
An immigrant in the streets of LA, "where you are invisible."
Nonfiction from Russia Slaves of Moscow, by Victoria Lomasko
"Nearly all of those released were women from...Kazakhstan."
Nonfiction from Syria After the Last Border, by Jessica Goudeau
Two families and the stories of refuge in a reluctant America.

Pedagogy: Reading and Students' Global Intercultural Competence

Relative to expository accounts (facts, theories, analyses) alone, literature offers a uniquely effective pedagogical tool to meaningfully connect social work students to the lives of others. The Programme for International Student Assessment, a worldwide study of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, measures students' ability to use reading to meet real-life challenges. Are Students Ready to Thrive in an Interconnected World? reports on the findings from their 2018 study of 27 countries. See the textbox below for a synopsis from the report of the findings. In addition to research findings, the report outlines the concept of global competence in terms of four components: knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values. The full report is available for download free of charge.

Reading and Students' Global and Intercultural Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes
Existing research shows that reading is a powerful strategy to improve out-group attitutdes including tolerance, perspective taking and empathy towards marginalised groups such as immigrants and refugees (Bal and Veltkamp, 2013). Those findings are supposed by both experimental and non experimental evidence (Vezzali et al.,2014). Results from the PISA 2018 survey also support these findings. Students who enjoy reading and who perform well on the reading test report more positive attitudes and dispositions and a heightened awareness about global and intercultural issues. The examined indices are: awareness of global issues; self efficacy regarding global issues; interest in learning about other cultures; respect towards people from other cultures; attitudes towards immigrants; perspective taking; cognitive adaptability; awareness of intercultural communication; and agency regardung global issues. (Box VI.7.1., p. 184) 

Support: We Are Here to Support Your Use of This Resource 

WWB Campus and the Diversity Center will provide a joint training on the use of the readings and learning resources, including an evaluation component of this teaching approach. In the meantime, we are happy to answer any questions and welcome your feedback. Share your thoughts through the buttons below, or just e-mail us.





This Educator|Resource was developed by the Diversity Center with the collaboration of Nadia Kalman, editor and curriculum designer at Words Without Borders Campus. Quynh Nhu Bui (Natasha) La Frinere-Sandoval, MSW, doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work, assisted with the development of the social work resources. 

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.

 Contact Dr. Yolanda Padilla, CSWE Diversity Center Director, at [email protected].