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A Homogeneous Field in a Diverse Nation: Fostering Cultural Awareness in SLP Graduate Students

Churchill, Stephanie E (2019) A Homogeneous Field in a Diverse Nation: Fostering Cultural Awareness in SLP Graduate Students. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The homogeneity of the field of speech-language pathology is at odds with that of the increasingly diverse United States population served. National efforts to promote the recruitment and retention of a more diverse profession have been relatively unsuccessful. Communication and swallowing disorders are viewed through a person’s cultural lens. Speech-language pathologists must develop the skill of cultural awareness to optimally serve their clients and families.

The aim of this study was to explore what clinical fellows and clinicians understand about cultural awareness, how prepared they feel as a result of graduate studies, influential contexts and experiences, and what was missing from their education.

Two surveys were developed and distributed via the Qualtrics Survey System to alumni from the University of Pittsburgh: clinical fellows (n=36) and clinicians (n=105).

Clinical fellows (n=15) and clinicians (n=21) responded to the surveys. Survey participants were mostly white and female (n=34/36, 94%). Most clinicians shared that at least half of their caseload differs from them, culturally and/or linguistically (n=17/20, 85%). More participants referred to the differences of others, rather than their own background, when describing what cultural awareness means. More clinical fellows (n=12/13, 92%) than clinicians (n=14/18, 78%) reported they would talk to their client/caregiver if they were unsure how to provide services to a client due to cultural/linguistic differences. Clinical experience was most influential in preparing participants to work with diverse populations. Outside the classroom experiences were more influential than class-based ones in preparation to work with diverse populations.

Fostering cultural awareness in speech-language pathology graduate students requires more than providing students with knowledge of cultural and linguistic differences. Doing so promotes an ethnocentric view of assessing and treating disorders under the guise of making sufficient cultural considerations. Speech-language pathology graduate programs ought to equip students to identify the cultural and linguistic characteristics of others, and equally importantly to examine their own cultural background and its potential influence on their practice. The present study shows that clinical experience and activities occurring outside the classroom are most beneficial for promoting cultural awareness in light of limited diversity in the classroom.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Churchill, Stephanie Esed72@pitt.edused72
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLeslie, Paulapaula.leslie@pitt.edupaula.leslie
Committee MemberLundblom, Erinlundblom@pitt.edulundblom
Committee MemberDickey, Michael Wmdickey@pitt.edumdickey
Committee MemberBrown, Christophercbrown1@pitt.educbrown1
Date: 4 June 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 1 March 2019
Approval Date: 4 June 2019
Submission Date: 24 April 2019
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 141
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences > Communication Science and Disorders
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cultural Awareness, Speech-Language Pathology, Cultural Competency, Implicit Bias, Graduate Program Curricula, Diversity
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2019 19:22
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2019 19:22


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