ERIC Identifier: ED391112
Publication Date: 1995-01-30
Author: Sedlacek, William E. - Kim, Sue H.
Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Multicultural Assessment. ERIC Digest.
Assessment includes the use of various techniques to make an evaluation;
multicultural assessment refers to the cultural context in which the assessment
is conducted, namely one in which people of differing cultures interact. One can
argue that all assessments are conducted and interpreted within some cultural
context, but only recently have the cultural assumptions underlying such
assessments been acknowledged (Sue & Sue, 1990). The fields of counseling
and therapy traditionally have relied heavily upon the use of assessment
techniques to gather information about clients in order to indicate appropriate
directions for treatment. Measures to assess personality, cognitive abilities,
interests, and other psychological constructs have been utilized in a variety of
different counseling and education settings. Although many of the measures most
widely used have established reliability and validity only within White racial
samples, these measures often are used inappropriately and unethically with
populations from different cultures.
This digest identifies four common misuses of assessments in multicultural
contexts, describes some of the ways in which multicultural assessments can be
improved, and suggests topics for future research in the area of multicultural
COMMON MISUSES OF ASSESSMENTS IN
1. "Assuming that labeling something solves the
Sedlacek (in press, a) has called this the "Quest for the Golden Label"
problem. Using new terms (e.g., multicultural, diversity) does not mean we are
doing anything operationally different with our measures. Westbrook and Sedlacek
(1991) found that although labels for nontraditional populations had changed
over forty years, the groups being discussed were still those without power who
were being discriminated against in the system.
"Using measures normed on White populations to assess non-White people."
Sedlacek (in press, a) discussed what he called the "Three Musketeers"
problem, namely that developing a single measure with equal validity for all is
often the goal of test developers. However, if different people have different
cultural and racial experiences and present their abilities differently, it is
unlikely that a single measure could be developed that would work equally well
"Ignoring the cultural assumptions that go into the creation of assessment
Helms (1992) argued that cognitive ability measures are commonly developed
from an unacknowledged Eurocentric perspective. Until there is more thought
given to the context in which tests are developed, work comparing different
racial and cultural groups using those measures will be spurious.
"Not considering the implications of the use of measures with clients from
various racial and cultural groups."
Professionals may not be adequately trained in determining which measures are
appropriate to use with particular clients or groups. Sedlacek (in press, a) has
called this the "I'm OK, you're not" problem in that very few professionals
receive adequate training in both instrument development and an appreciation of
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING MULTICULTURAL ASSESSMENTS
"Concentrate on empirical and operational definitions of groups, not just
Sedlacek (in press, b) has suggested that if members of a group receive
prejudice and present their abilities in nontraditional ways, they can be
considered "multicultural." He suggested the use of measures of racial attitudes
and noncognitive variables in making this determination.
"Identify measures specifically designed for multicultural groups."
Sabnani and Ponterotto (1992) provided a critique of "racial/ethnic
minority-specific" instruments and made recommendations for their use in
different assessment contexts. Prediger (1993), in a compilation of
multicultural assessment standards for counselors developed for the American
Counseling Association, recommended that a determination be made that the
assessment instrument was designed for use with a particular population before
it is used.
"Encourage the consideration of cultural factors in the earliest conceptual
stages of instrument development."
Helms (1992) called this a "culturalist perspective" in assessment. Sedlacek
(in press, a) noted a lack of developmental multicultural thinking as new
instruments are developed. Multicultural groups are usually "throw ins" after
the fact to see how their test results compare with those of the population on
which the test was normed. He called this the "Horizontal Research" problem in
developing assessment measures.
"Increase opportunities for an exchange of information between those with
quantitative training in instrument development and those with an interest and
expertise in multicultural issues."
Currently there is little overlap in these two groups. Helms (1992) felt it
was important not to assume that there are enough professionals of color to do
this work. Many individuals from majority racial and cultural groups will need
to develop such measures as well. Conventions, workshops, coauthored articles,
and curricular reform in graduate programs are but a few examples of what could
TOPICS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH ON MULTICULTURAL
Research on the validity and reliability of measures for specific
multicultural groups is needed (Helms, 1992; Sabnani & Ponterotto, 1992).
This includes studies of attributes that may be more important for multicultural
groups than for others. Noncognitive variables, such as handling racism or
having support of a cultural or racial group, have been shown to be particularly
useful for members of nontraditional groups and should be studied further.
Additional research on the utility of defining nontraditional groups broadly to
include diversity based on age, physical disability, sexual orientation, etc.
(Sedlacek, in press, a), or to concentrate on the major racial and cultural
groups, e.g., African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and
Hispanics; (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992) should be conducted.
More valid assessments for multicultural
populations would help counseling professionals better serve their clients and
improve the lives of many people whose backgrounds and experiences may differ
from those of White clients. Four common misuses of assessments in multicultural
contexts were presented here, as were ways to counteract those misuses.
Concentrating on empirical and operational definitions of multicultural groups
rather than relabeling was the first suggestion discussed. Using measures
specifically designed for multicultural groups was recommended as the best
solution to the problem of using instruments normed on White populations.
Developing new measures from a "culturalist perspective" was the recommended way
to counter a lack of multicultural thinking in instrument development. Creating
more opportunities to bring together those with training in instrument
development and those with multicultural interests was seen as a way to improve
the quality of multicultural assessments by professionals.
Helms, J.E. (1992). Why is there no study of
cultural equivalence in standardized cognitive ability testing? American
Psychologist, 47(9), 1083-1101.
Prediger, D.J. (1993). Multicultural assessment standards: A compilation for
counselors. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Sabnani, H.B., & Ponterotto, J.G. (1992). Racial/ethnic minority-specific
instrumentation in counseling research: A review, critique, and recommendations.
Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 24(4), 161-187.
Sedlacek, W.E. (in press, a). Advancing diversity through assessment. Journal
of Counseling and Development.
Sedlacek, W.E. (in press, b). An empirical method of determining
nontraditional group status. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and
Sue, D.W., Arredondo, P., & McDavis, R.J. (1992). Multicultural
counseling competencies and standards: A call to the profession. Journal of
Counseling and Development, 70(4), 477-486.
Sue, D.W., & Sue, D. (1990). Counseling the culturally different: Theory
and practice. New York: Wiley.
Westbrook, F.D., & Sedlacek, W.E. (1991). Forty years of using labels to
communicate about nontraditional students: Does it help or hurt? Journal of
Counseling and Development, 70(1), 20-28.