Through cycles of systematic and purposeful iterative engagement with problems they face in specific practice settings, social workers engaging in action research build knowledge that is useful in advancing practice for the purposes of social betterment. This entry situates action research in the development of social-work knowledge and then examines variants of action research formed when degrees of participation and control vary among members of vulnerable populations, particularly within community situations involving coping with a degraded quality of life. The author identifies the importance of methodological pluralism and addresses how sound action research results in knowledge dissemination and utilization for the purposes of social betterment, often through alternative methods of inquiry. The entry concludes with caveats social workers engaged in action research should heed, and the author emphasizes the pivotal role social work can serve in local efforts to engage in knowledge development for social betterment.
David P. Moxley
This article defines cultural competence and culturally competent practice and focuses on cultural awareness, knowledge acquisition, and skill development as key components. It traces the historical development of cultural competence in the disciplines of psychology and social work, pointing out how cultural competence has become a professional standard. Cultural competence has also been recognized on the federal and state health and human services levels. Cultural competence is viewed on the practitioner, agency, and community levels as well as the micro, mezzo, and macro dimensions. Among the implications for practice are the issues of cultural competence and cultural competencies, the ethics of cultural competence, social context, and biculturation and multiculturalization. Cultural competence research is briefly surveyed, as is the relationship between cultural competence and critical race theory.