Teaching about racial and ethnic diversity in social work education: A systematic review




Olcon, Katarzyna
Gilbert, Dorie J.
Pulliam, Rose M.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Taylor & Francis


Little of social work literature provides evidence of best teaching practices for preparing social work students to work with clients from historically excluded racial and ethnic groups. A systematic literature review was conducted to assess studies published in the United States during the 10-year period (2007–2016) that examined: (1) social work educators’ pedagogical interventions for teaching about racial and ethnic diversity, (2) components of those interventions, (3) methodological designs to evaluate the interventions, and (4) the students’ learning outcomes. Following the systematic review protocol, the authors identified and assessed twenty-five studies (qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods). The studies reflected a variety of teaching interventions, such as diversity courses and projects, instructional technology, and cultural immersion programs. While many reported positive student learning outcomes, as a whole, the studies lacked methodological rigor and sound theoretical grounding. Although social work education attempts to prepare students for multicultural practice, the field lacks an intentional and systematic approach to teaching about racial and ethnic diversity and evaluating learning outcomes in social work students. There is an urgency to expand the empirical evidence on social work diversity education, particularly concerning teaching about race, racism, and Whiteness.



social work students, multicultural education, diversity, race, ethnicity, racism, white privilege, whiteness, social work education, Social Work


Olcoń, K., Gilbert, D. J., & Pulliam, R. M. (2019). Teaching about racial and ethnic diversity in social work education: A systematic review. Journal of Social Work Education, 56(2), pp. 215–237.


Rights Holder

Rights License

Rights URI