We Are What We Read

Assessing Bias in the Implicit Curriculum of a Social Work Program


  • Emily Tillotson Walla Walla University
  • Susan Smith Walla Walla University
  • Cheris Brewer Current Walla Walla University




Implicit Curriculum, Diversity, Assessment, Race, Gender


A school of social work devised a process to assess the implicit curriculum by auditing the required readings to identify the race and gender of the authors. As a profession, we espouse a strong commitment to social justice and diversity. Yet we know that there are limitations to our objectivity and that auditing is a valuable tool that can reveal biases. The concrete data provided by an audit can help reveal and disrupt entrenched patterns. The audit was conducted by reviewing the syllabi for required BSW and MSW courses. For each text, we collected the names, gender, and race for each author. Across all programs, authors were disproportionately White as compared to the general U.S. population, professional authors, professional social workers, and students in the programs. Similarly, men were over-represented as compared to all of the benchmarks, except for the authors in the BSW program, which was more feminized as compared to the U.S. population. This assessment process adds to the existing toolset by measuring current levels of representation—including over and underrepresentation. It is hoped that auditing will prove an effective tool for doing antiracist and anti-oppressive assessment, however an audit can only reveal where work is needed.


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