Intercultural Experiences Prior to the Educational Program: Occupational Therapy and Social Work Students
Sylvie Tétreault
HES-SO | Haute école de travail social et de la santé | EESP | Lausanne
Carine Bétrisey
HES-SO | Haute école de travail social et de la santé | EESP | Lausanne
Camille Brisset
Université de Bordeaux, Laboratoire de Psychologie EA 4139
Alida Gulfi
HES-SO | Haute école de travail social Fribourg | HETS-FR | Fribourg
Martine Schaer
HES-SO | Haute école de travail social et de la santé | EESP | Lausanne
Yvan Leanza
Université Laval, École de psychologie, Quebec City
Nicolas Kühne
HES-SO | Haute école de travail social et de la santé | EESP | Lausanne
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Keywords

Diversity
Intercultural competence
Intercultural experience
Occupational therapy
social work

How to Cite

Tétreault, S., Bétrisey, C., Brisset, C., Gulfi, A., Schaer, M., Leanza, Y., & Kühne, N. (2020). Intercultural Experiences Prior to the Educational Program: Occupational Therapy and Social Work Students. Journal of Culture and Values in Education, 4(1), 15-33. https://doi.org/10.46303/jcve.2020.6

Abstract

In the health and social professions, including occupational therapy and social work, interactions and exchanges with people are essential. Populations encountered by professionals in these fields are becoming increasingly diverse in terms of age, origin, language, health status, and socio-economic background. Sometimes, professionals can have potential misinterpretations regarding intentions and actions, health beliefs and practices, or verbal and non-verbal communication. To overcome obstacles related to practice in a context of diversity, universities must develop students’ intercultural competence. Scientific literature stresses the importance of encountering diversity to improve awareness and sensitivity and to bring attention to biases and prejudices. Considering students’ intercultural experiences before their formation could be a basis to achieve this educational goal. The present study aims to document this topic. Semi-structured interviews with 51 first-year students from two educational institutions in French-speaking Switzerland were conducted to capture the participants’ descriptions of these experiences in private or professional contexts. The interviews were transcribed and submitted to a thematic analysis approach. A thematic map was generated and three main themes emerged: (1) perception of diversity; (2) communication challenges; and (3) transformation of attitudes toward the “Other.” They are described and discussed in terms of developing intercultural competence. Recommendations regarding intercultural education emerge from these findings.

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This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).  

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