A study of the acculturation of cultural minority social workers to Canadian values through social work education

Bernice H. Bell
Social Work, A study of the acculturation of cultural minority social workers to Canadian values through social work education
January, 1992
Doctorate Thesis


This is an exploratory study which examined from a selection of cultural minority social workers the personal meaningfulness of Canadian values and their impact on practice. It noted whether the social workers experienced changes in their cultural values and what influence social work education had had on their value changes. The sample was composed of twelve female social workers, six Portuguese and six Chinese immigrants who had varied length of social work practice in Canada following their graduation from social work education in a Canadian university. Data were collected through the administration of structured interviews with open-ended questions that served as a guide for audio-taped, in-depth interviews with each social worker. Included in the interviews were their professional responses to distributed scenarios depicting common individual and family problems as experienced in their work. The Canadian values of individualism had the greatest impact upon both groups of social workers. The meaning of this value reflected upon their traditional restrictive backgrounds from which they respectively achieved freedom from control resulting in self-affirmation, and freedom for self-discovery and ability to express oneself confidently. The study indicated that the Portuguese assumed the value of individualism in social work practice, and retained their strong allegiance to the value of the family. This created hidden conflicts in exercising authority in their professional practice. The Chinese social workers’ respect for their traditional family limited their full use of the value of individualism in professional practice. Their respect for traditional authority permeated their educational/learning experiences. Social work education had little direct influence upon the workers’ acquisition of Canadian values which they had initially picked up but were confirmed by their educational experience. Social work education had helped them to affirm themselves as individuals but led them to inconsistencies in their practice of Canadian values. The study indicated the need for the Canadian value of multiculturalism to be incorporated in all aspects of social work education.