Methods: We conducted five focus groups (3 student and 2 instructor FGs) from Canadian schools of social work after the ethics approval. Using a critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 2013; Gee, 1999), we conducted both language analysis (e.g., examining what lexicons were used and how verbs, adjectives, and or adverbs are deployed and discursively connected to construct the understanding of cultural competence) and social analysis (e.g., which discourses are dominant or marginalized in understanding cultural competence).
Results: The final sample includes 16 SW students and 10 instructors (N=26). Our findings show similar dominant discursive patterns emerged among participants in both student and faculty groups: (1) critiquing the conceptual use of cultural competence, (2) preferring using terms such as cultural humility, cultural safety, or other constructs, and (3) describing the embodied practice of these constructs mainly as ‘general’ practice and eliding ‘cross cultural’ work. Participants differed in their expressed opposition to cultural competence, and the exact terms they each preferred as an alternative. Overall, participants transformed a critical debate on semantic and conceptual differences between these constructs into negating them as altogether meaningless, effacing the very notion of ‘cross-cultural’ social work and its embodied practice. In the end, along with other various discourses, cultural competence is featured as both oppressive and anti-oppressive as reflected in the contested scholarship on cultural competence.
Conclusion and Implications: Social work educators are positioned to shape knowledge in SW practice and influence the next generation of social workers. It would be important to be mindful of the implications of taking a position for certain constructs in practice and resisting oversimplifying CCSWP which cannot be fully captured within one construct, theory, or framework.