Research That Matters (January 17 - 20, 2008)

Regency Ballroom Wings (Omni Shoreham)

Factors Predicting MSW Students' Multicultural Awareness, Knowledge, and Skills

J. Camille Hall, PhD, LCSW, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Matthew T. Theriot, PhD, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Monica Terrell Leach, EdD, North Carolina State University.

Background & Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate which factors predicted graduate social work students' multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills. Such an evaluation is helpful for identifying those factors that improve students' preparation for multicultural courses while also identifying characteristics of students who may be at risk for struggling in these classes. This type of study also is consistent with the Council on Social Work Education's emphasis on effective course instruction, competency-based outcome measurement, and program and curriculum evaluation.

Methods: To test which factors (e.g. previous diversity training, undergraduate degree, gender) predict students' multicultural abilities, 150 MSW students from three campuses at two universities completed the Multicultural Knowledge Awareness and Skills Survey (MAKSS; D'Andrea, Daniels, & Heck, 1991) at the beginning and end of a required diversity/cultural competence course. This pre-test/post-test design allows for assessment of those factors predicting students' abilities as they enter the class as well as at its completion. The MAKSS is a 60-item instrument comprised of three separate sub-scales that measure students' multicultural awareness, multicultural knowledge, and multicultural skills respectively. The sub-scales can then be summed to generate a total scale score. A series of multivariate linear regression models predicting students' pre-test and post-test sub-scale and total scale scores were then analyzed.

Results: Specific to students' pre-test scores, attendance at more high school, college and work-related diversity trainings significantly predicted higher scores on the awareness and skills sub-scales as well as the total scale. Students with a BSW degree had lower scores on the awareness sub-scale while no variables significantly predicted scores on the knowledge sub-scale. On the post-test assessments, greater annual income predicted higher scores on the awareness and knowledge sub-scales. Students' pre-test skills subscale score was the only significant predictor of post-test skills score. Likewise, the pre-test total scale score was the sole predictor of post-test total scale score. Analysis of students' change scores (post-test minus pre-test) showed no significant predictors of the amount of students' change from the beginning to the end of the class.

Conclusions: The consistent finding that more previous diversity trainings predict higher pre-test scores has important implications for social work education. This finding suggests a cumulative effect wherein more multicultural educational experiences help students be better prepared for graduate courses on this topic. This supports the need for diversity content starting early in one's formal education and integrated consistently across multiple classes and settings. Future research should seek to describe how these previous trainings fit together to improve students' multicultural awareness and skills sub-scale scores as well as their overall scale scores. Furthermore, the role of students' undergraduate degree should be explored further since t-test comparisons show that students with a BSW degree have a higher mean number of previous diversity trainings.