Human Library: An opportunity to facilitate cultural competence development for occupational therapy student

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Background: The Australian Occupational Therapy Competence Standards (2018) state that an occupational therapist ‘practises in a culturally responsive and culturally safe manner, with particular respect to culturally diverse client groups’. According to Wells (2000) there are 6 stages to the development of cultural competence.
The original Human Library aimed to challenge stereotypes and prejudices and therefore, build positive relationships between people.
Aims/Objectives: Previous occupational therapy curriculum content addressed student knowledge and, to a certain extent, awareness of cultural competencies but the experiential Human Library aimed to take this further to the development of cultural sensitivity.
Discussions: Over 300 occupational therapy students on both the undergraduate and graduate entry Masters programs at Monash University participated in a Human Library to address Well’s (2000) stages 2, 3 & 4 of cultural competence development. Students completed pre-session activities and then attended the Human Library
where real people (books) are on ‘loan’ to readers who are encouraged to explore and challenge stereotypes and prejudices. The majority of the students and ‘books’ reported the Human Library to be a positive experience, with students noting it deepened their learning about prejudice, stigma or discrimination and
‘books’ enjoying the opportunity to share their story.
Issues/questions for exploration or ideas for discussion: The Human Library provided the opportunity for students to develop cultural awareness and sensitivity and therefore cultural competence but was it effective in changing students’ attitude? What are the benefits for both students and books? Is this teaching method sustainable?


ConferenceAustralian & New Zealand Association for Health Professional Educators Conference 2020
Abbreviated titleANZAHPE 2020
OtherTheme: Vision for Learning Cultures Conference
Internet address


  • Health education
  • Cultural competence
  • Experiential education

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