Selcuk Sirin's Research Lab



Many teacher education programs have incorporated multicultural training into their curricula in order to educate school-based professionals and to increase tolerance, embrace diversity, and overcome stereotypes. but the outcome of these efforts are mixed. Most efforts to increase cultural competence lack a theoretical rationale and are not tied to professional ethics. Without a clear theoretical rationale, it is difficult to determine whether specific educational goals are being met. In addition, there have been few empirical investigations into whether these programs have improved teachers cultural competence. This is in part due to the challenges of measuring cultural competence.

The Racial and Ethical Sensitivity Training Kit (REST-Kit)is designed to increase aspiring teachers' cultural competence as an ethical requirement. The training model is based on the professional standards approach that emphasizes the notion that school professionals have an ethical responsibility to develop awareness of their biases and acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to identify and respond to acts of racial and cultural intolerance (Brabeck et al., 2000; Sirin et al., 2003). Our approach highlights the notion that aspiring teachers in should possess not only the willingness to make a difference in the lives of young people, but also the ability to do so in a culturally competent and sensitive way. We believe that being a culturally competent educator is requisite for both professional, ethical conduct as well as for modeling tolerant and sensitive behavior for children and adolescents. These skills, in turn, promote more positive learning environments and model culturally competent behavior for children and adolescents.

Our work is also theoretically based on James Rest's theory of moral behavior that defines ethical sensitivity as the ability to identify the ethically salient aspects of a situation (Rest, 1983). It involves recognizing ethical dilemmas, different possible courses of action, and the ways in which particular choices will affect concerned parties. Although the completion of professional training does not ensure the development of ethical sensitivity to racial and cultural intolerance, studies in other professions such as dentistry (Rest & Narvaez, 1994) and psychology (Sirin et al., 2003) show that ethical sensitivity can be improved significantly by training.

Specifically, the REST-Kit training program is made up of five videotaped scenarios (Brabeck & Rogers, 2001), a series of "mini-lectures," and group discussions and activities. The REST videos have ethical violations related to racism and other forms of discrimination embedded in them. The scenarios depicted in the videos are based on real-life situations gathered from reliable media sources and focus groups of students of color. A professional playwright developed scripts based on these scenarios. The scenarios portray school personnel violating the ethical principles of school based professional codes. These scenarios were turned into five videos, which are used in the workshop as a means of practicing recognizing and planning action around instances of racial intolerance.

The workshop is divided into three segments: 1) introduction, 2) how to identify ethical violations, and 3) taking action. The first section will include simple ice-breaker activities, followed by a discussion of why members feel ethical principles are important to their roles in schools. The second part of the workshop will teach participants about commonly-accepted ethical principles that are shared by school-related professional organizations. The final part of the workshop will explain Rest's (1983) ethical behavior model, focusing specifically on ethical sensitivity, the ability to identify ethical violations, recognize the ramifications of a violation for the people involved, and plan an ethical course of action. At each step along the way, group facilitators will use prepared questions and an appropriate REST video to focus the discussion. By tying cultural competence to professional ethical codes, this training workshop will introduce cultural competence as a professional requirement, not merely a matter of personal choice.

Structure: Each workshop session is designed for up to 10 aspiring teachers. It takes 8 hours to complete each training sesison, including time for breaks and lunch.

Workshop Facilitators: The workshops are run by Drs. Lauren Rogers and Selcuk R. Sirin. Dr. Lauren Rogers is a counseling psychologist at Drew University. She co-produced the REST materials and organized diversity workshops for current and future school professionals, including running workshops for education majors. Dr. Rogers will run the workshops. Dr. Selcuk Sirin is an educational psychologist who has been working on the REST since 1998. Dr. Sirin co-produced the REST training program and conducted several evaluation projects using the REST with both undergraduate teaching majors and school professionals.


Brabeck, M., Rogers, L., Sirin, S., Handerson, J., Ting, K., & Benvenuto, M. (2000). Increasing ethical sensitivity to racial and gender intolerance in schools: Development of the racial ethical sensitivity test (REST). Ethics and Behavior,10(2), 119-137.

Brabeck, M. M., & Sirin, S. R. (2001). The racial ethical sensitivity test: Computer disk version (REST-CD). Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.

Sirin, S. R., Brabeck, M. M., Satiani, A., & Rogers-Sirin, L. (2003). Validation of a measure of ethical sensitivity and examination of the effects of previous multicultural and ethics courses on ethical sensitivity. Ethics & Behavior, 13(3), 221-226.

Sirin, S. R., & Rogers-Sirin, L. (2007). The Quick-Racial and Ethical Sensitivity Test (Quick-REST). New York, NY: New York University