Student Motivation and Cultural Context, Self Awareness and Intercultural Communication

I have been gratified about the positive reaction I have received to my posts on cultural issues.  I have received several lovely emails and requests about my article coming out in the Wash. U. Journal of Law and Social Policy.  It should be out this fall.  Meanwhile, here is an excerpt about the power of clinical legal education in enhancing student learning about these issues.  As always, I welcome comments and suggestions!

Ideally, students welcome training about cultural context, self awareness and intercultural communication, because it will enhance the quality of their client representation.  However, until the issues are presented in specific cases, some students do not see the relevance of having sessions on cultural issues and “difference”.  Some see the exploration of these issues as “political correctness” or something pushed by the faculty of color to further a political agenda. Of course, some students welcome the training and suggest that we spend more class time on these issues. Some students are mildly indifferent until an issue they realize is related to a cultural issue comes up in their cases. Then they are motivated to learn to be effective in their client representation and realize that cultural issues are important to understand and address.  This is an opportune “teaching moment”. The faculty member is in a position to help the student develop cognitively, affectively and behaviorally as part of the case supervision.  And, case supervision may be one of the most effective methods to help students learn about these issues.  In my clinical teaching I have learned to try to refrain from “preaching” about these issues and let the power of experiential learning reveal to the students the need for this type of learning.

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