Methods: MSW students (N = 60) in this study voluntarily participated in a simulation-based activity known as Practice Fridays. At each Practice Friday session students interviewed a simulated client and their practice was observed by peers, a field instructor, and a faculty member. They received focused feedback on their interview and completed a written reflection questionnaire which asked students to analyze how culture and diversity factors impacted the interview and helping relationship. Data collected in the reflection questionnaires were analyzed, using thematic analysis. Trustworthiness was established through researcher triangulation, peer debriefings and team meetings to arrive at consensus.
Results: The following themes emerged from the data: 1) Lack of cultural awareness and attunement in some students—Some students failed to identify any cultural aspects (in the client or in the self) that influenced their simulated interview; 2) Awareness of some cultural factors in the client, but challenges locating the self— While many students in this category identified cultural factors that were connected to the client, they did not engage the use of self, including their own values, assumptions and biases; and 3) “I felt that it was a sensitive topic and I was unsure how to approach it.”— Some students identified cultural factors in the client and in the self, but did not know how to address these when interacting with the simulated client.
Conclusions and Implications: Results suggest that attending to culture and diversity in practice remains an area in which students require more education and training. Simulation-based learning provides opportunities to observe students’ practice and give students specific and timely feedback. Instructors can intentionally assist students to reflect on their engagement with culture and diversity in practice, clearly demonstrating how these concepts can be applied in practice.