Crossing the borders: a critical approach to cross cultural social work education

Costello, S 2008, Crossing the borders: a critical approach to cross cultural social work education, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Education, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Crossing the borders: a critical approach to cross cultural social work education
Author(s) Costello, S
Year 2008
Abstract This PhD by project outlines research conducted in 2007 on the Thai Burma border, introducing social work education to Burmese health and community workers. In addition to experiencing physical and social upheaval, workers have little access to general education or training in relation to their work with refugees and displaced people. A request from the director of a Refugee Health Clinic to provide social work education for local workers led to my research question: How do I develop and teach a culturally relevant, cross cultural, sustainable social work curriculum for Burmese health and community workers on the Thai Burma border? The project consists of a product: three manuals of curriculum developed on the border and written for use by future visitors or locally trained workers, and an exegesis: an exploration of the research, methodology and a detailed analysis of my product in the context of the literature. The exegesis is organised around three main themes. First is the intersection of social work education and international social work, with a critique of colonialist impositions of Western social work in developing Asian countries. This section considers what constitutes relevant social work and social work education in this context. The second theme examines the researcher's attempts to suspend her assumptions and create a learning exchange through culturally sensitive social relationships that acknowledge and scrutinize power relations within the Burma border context. The final theme raises questions of critical pedagogy. Key differences in beliefs about educational purpose and approaches can be identified between Asia and the Western world. The project employed adult learning principles and explored the challenges of teaching critical thinking. Based on a participatory action research model, the curriculum design process attempted to be collaborative, inclusive and recursive. As a corollary, the project created a community of practice that continues to meet and work together towards social justice for migrants on the border, concepts that were not known to the participants prior to the training program. The project aimed to connect international social work education to social work's core missions of emancipation, human rights and activism on the Thai Burma border. The themes are transferable to other sites of social work in the Asia-Pacific region where social development precedes the practice and teaching of social work.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Education
Keyword(s) Burma -- Social conditions
Social work -- Education
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