Supporting Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners in Doctor of Physical Therapy Education
Purpose: Multiculturalism is described as the number one unresolved issue in higher education, highlighting that diverse campuses do not automatically foster multicultural attitudes and values. While there are cross-cultural education conceptual models for physical therapy faculty who plan to teach abroad, there is a paucity of literature on the cross-cultural education that takes place in physical therapist programs in the U.S. The purpose of this platform is to highlight the complex nature of culture and identity in two culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) learners enrolled in a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. Recommendations are made to move away from a deficit model in DPT education and instead focus on the benefits of cultural knowledge and skills that CLD learners bring to the classroom. Methods/Description: The theoretical framework which guides this study is community cultural wealth (CCW) which critiques the assumption that CLD learners have cultural deficiencies and instead highlights the assets and skills that CLD students bring from their homes and communities into the classroom. This presentation will focus on two CLD learners in one DPT program: a 49-year-old Asian male and a 28-year-old Hispanic male, both first-generation college students. Admissions data-informed circles of diversity profiles but academic performance failed to provide a complete picture of each learner’s unique attributes. Core faculty completed multiple intelligence inventories and participated in semi-structured interviews to complete the learner profiles. Interview data was transcribed and subjected to emergent intuitive analysis. Results/Outcomes: Circles of diversity profiles highlighted the complex nature of culture and identity and emphasized that the learners did not belong to an isolated cultural identity. Multiple intelligence inventories highlighted unique learner strengths and challenges, cautioning against essentializing all CLD learners. Four themes emerged from preliminary thematic analysis of interview data. The first theme that emerged was dedication. Both learners were described as committed and responsive to feedback, with a strong work ethic. This theme aligned with aspirational capital, a form of CCW capital which highlights minority students’ ability to maintain hopes and dreams for the future despite barriers to success. The next theme that emerged was interpersonal skills. Both learners worked to cultivate relationships with faculty and peers by making connections and at times through the use of humor. This theme aligns with navigational capital which describes students’ ability to maneuver through the academic institution, and with social capital which emphasizes the formation of networks and the use of community resources. The next theme of language and dialects was both a strength and a challenge for students. Faculty overcame student linguistic barriers by encouraging think out loud protocols and encouraging adequate preparation before patient interactions. The final theme that emerged was one of valuing authentic experience. Students flourished in the authentic environment of a pro bono clinic or when engaged in low fidelity simulation in the didactic program. Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Physical therapist students from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds and who speak multiple languages will be an asset to the profession. However, minority status is associated with increased academic difficulty in a DPT program. This study encourages educators to move away from a deficit model and conceptualize CLD learners as belonging to multiple microcultural groups. The profile of two CLD learners highlights that thinking beyond traditional definitions of intelligence and capital could help DPT educators appreciate and leverage the unique forms of cultural wealth that CLD Learners bring to the classroom.