I most definitely concur with the view that research with minority groups should consider the cultural context of the population. In my view, there was until quite recently a false perception of multicultural education that existed within the much of the scholastic demographic. This erroneous perception was predominantly based on a false view that minority groups should assimilate within mainstream dominant Caucasian culture. Development psychologist Robert Feldman corroborates this view, “Multicultural education developed in part as a reaction to a cultural assimilation model in which the goal of education was to assimilate individual cultural identities into a unique American culture” (p. 298). In the early 1970s, however, educators and other interest groups suggested that the cultural assimilation model ought to be replaced by a pluralistic society model (Feldman, 2011). At the corpus of this argument is the view that contemporary American society has as its constituents “coequal groups that should preserve their individual cultural features” (p. 298).
If one carefully examines the pros and cons of research methodology from a more systematic and unbiased perspective, one is naturally led to adopt the situation cultural practice paradigm. This paradigm integrates and incorporates other key disciplines such as sociology, cultural psychology, anthropology, and others (Arzubiaga, Artiles, King, Harris-Murri, 2008). However, there are fundamental concerns with respect to research validity and methodology ramifications where researchers have “used definitions with problematic assumptions (p. 310), adopted practices where “disparate groups are differentially valued by mainstream society” (p. 312), and utilized questionable research practices with respect to minority groups such as “distinct sampling strategies” (p. 312). In sum, it is highly recommended that a new research paradigm be developed that not only protects the integrity of scholastic research, but also ensures that a consistent model of cultural diversity is employed.
The sociohistorical view of culture offers counselors a viable value proposition in working with diverse client groups. According to Arzubiaga et al., (2008) the sociocultural or sociohistorical model “assumes human development and behavior are cultural” (p. 312) and that “human activity is mediated by (material or psychological) cultural artifacts such as beliefs, values, customs, traditions, tests, literacy practices, and interview protocols that embody historical assumptions about their appropriate or expected uses” (p. 313). In other words, counselors, using the sociohistorical view as a frame of reference, can better employ counseling practice, based on the situational practice settings. In the context of our discussion, the sociocultural model has immense implications for the school counselor or educational psychologist. Specifically, Matusov, DePalma and Drye (2007) provide an example of a theoretical application, “Vygotsky’s famous concept of the zone of proximal development (ZDP), more capable peers, adults, or a sociocultural activity (such as play) engage a child in more advanced actions than he or she could have performed on his or her own and thus define the child’s potential development” (pp. 404-407). In sum, sociocultural theory provides a theoretical framework for understanding the social aspects of learning and the critical role of the tools in mediating learning (Hmelo-Silver, 2008). Hence, prudent cultural adaptations should equip counselors with a more focused approach to strategic client intervention.
In my view the role of ecological validity has significant value to the counselor, thus should be readily engaged when working with diverse clients. According to Arzubiaga et al., (2008) “Ecological validity is defined as the extent to which behavior sampled in one setting can be taken as characteristic of an individual’s cognitive processes in range of other settings” (p. 319). Contextually, the counselor’s primary interest is likely to be guided at the level of strategic interventions. In this respect, the type of intervention selected has great significance in relation to cultural diversity as well as the environmental setting with which the client is most familiar and/or comfortable. It is important to remember that many of the intervention strategies utilized by counselors bear correlation to the research outcome’s validity, veracity and relevance. From the research perspective, it is imperative to take note, where applicable, of the tension that exists between the research fidelity and intervention practice. For example, an intervention may be conducted with high fidelity, yet the intervention practice may not be ecologically valid (Arzubiaga et al., 2008). Finally, from a power perspective, the counselor needs to keep control of power in the counselor-client relationship, thereby maintaining clearly defined boundaries and ethical standards.
Arzubiaga, A. E., Artiles, A. J., King, K. A., Harris-Murri, N. (2008). Beyond research on the cultural minorities: Challenges and implications of research as situated cultural practice. Exceptional Children, 74(3), 309-327.
Feldman, R. S. (2011). Development across the life span. New Jersey: Pearson.
Hmelo-Silver, C., Chernobilsky, E., Jordan, R. (2008). Understanding collaborative learning processes in new learning environments. Instructional Science, 36(5/6), 409-430.
Matusov, E., DePalma, R., & Drye, S. (2007). Whose development? Salvaging the concept of development within a sociocultural approach to education. Educational Theory, 57(4), 403-421.