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Betty Garcia and Dorothy Van Soest

A firm grasp of the nature of oppression, with its dynamics of power and its systemic character, is required so that social workers can avoid unintended collusion with pervasive oppressive systems if they are to be successful in promoting social and economic justice. Recognizing the relationship between macro-level and micro-level dynamics and their implications for practice is an substantive part of social work practice. This perspective includes attention to the ubiquitousness of privilege and oppression and the potential consequences of ignoring this reality as complicity in and normalizing exclusionary and marginalizing behaviors. This article discusses the concept of oppression, its dynamics and common elements, and anti-oppressive practices that can expose and dismantle oppressive relationships and systemic power arrangements.

Article

For social workers, developing cultural competence is a necessary hallmark for interacting with our increasingly diverse and complex world. Developing cultural competence, however, requires continuously raising one’s level of critical consciousness. Critical consciousness and related concepts such as reflexivity, critical self-reflection, and critical self-awareness are widely recognized as a fundamental building block of human service practice, including social work practice. However, the dynamics involved in raising our own levels of critical consciousness are lengthy and messy because we often encounter cognitive and affective roadblocks. Thus, there is no single pedagogical strategy that could help all social work students effectively engage with this process. In this article the concept of critical consciousness postulated by Pitner and Sakamoto is applied specifically to the social work classroom setting. Their Critical Consciousness Conceptual Model (CCCM), which describes the process of developing critical consciousness by engaging one’s cognitive, affective, and behavioral domains, is presented. How this model can be incorporated as a pedagogical tool to help social work students develop and further strengthen their own levels of critical consciousness in the classroom setting is discussed, as are various pedagogical methods, including classroom debate, identity paper assignment, “creating a world map” exercise, and mindfulness-based pedagogy. Finally, implications for social work education are explored.