Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership


Suzanne Estler

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth Allan

Third Committee Member

Teresa Steele

Additional Committee Members

Dianne Hoff

Theodore Coladarci


Compelling evidence indicates that differences in gender, race, ethnicity, language, age, social class, disability, and sexuality correlate with health disparities. Eliminating health disparities requires that our nation's healthcare delivery becomes culturally competent. Multicultural education aims to achieve this goal by offering the physical therapy profession ways to think about the impact of difference on healthcare, and by promoting equal participation of all groups in healthcare. Few guidelines exist for how to effectively educate for multiculturalism.

This qualitative study examined faculty perceptions and practices related to multicultural education in entry-level physical therapist programs in New England. Nine educators, experienced in teaching multicultural education at eight differing physical therapist programs, answered questions about their understandings, goals, and assumptions concerning multiculturalism and multicultural education. Data obtained from primary data sources - a demographic survey, an interview, and teaching documents - underwent two analytic processes.

Interpretive analysis revealed five instructor characteristics that described participants as multicultural educators who

1. Use life experience to build commitment to multiculturalism.

2. Promote social change in support of difference and multiculturalism.

3. Accept challenges in teaching for multiculturalism.

4. Seek excellence in teaching for multiculturalism.

5. Embrace a multicultural framework for educating students.

Typological analysis revealed that the multicultural framework used in physical therapist curricula was consistent with the theoretical model called multicultural and social reconstructionist education. This model directs teaching predominantly towards two student outcomes: cultural competency and social justice activism. Pedagogy supporting cultural competency goals focused on human relations, specific cultural group differences, cross-cultural skills that enhance therapeutic relationships, and cultural pluralism. Pedagogy that supported social justice activism focused on the sociological analysis of privilege, power, and oppression, and on social activism.

These findings suggest that physical therapist educators acknowledge that multicultural education is a moral and a political enterprise. With the inclusion of social justice issues and activism for social change, physical therapist educators are adopting a broader sense of professional responsibility that now addresses the social issues of difference and democratic justice. By assuming a professional responsibility for equal and equitable healthcare, the physical therapist has become a moral agent working for social change.