Saturday, January 30, 2010

What is Cultural Competence?

What is Cultural Competence?
King, M. A., Anthony S., & Osher, D.

Set of cohesive behaviors, policy, procedures that reflect cultural sensitivity, and understanding in a cross-cultural environment.

1. Value Diversity
• Accepting and respecting differences.
• Value differences within groups
• Vietnamese family
• “Different does not mean wrong”
2. (Capacity) - Cultural Self-Assessment
• The ability to recognize our personal cultural sensitivity level
3. Consciousness of the Dynamics of Cultural Interactions
• The ability to recognize the historical interactions of cultures on a societal level.
4. Institutionalization of Cultural Knowledge
• Gathering information and incorporating this knowledge into the operations of your environment.
• Positive representations of all cultures.
5. Adapt to Diversity
1. Flexibility
2. Focuses on changing activities to fit cultural norms in the given environment.

Practical approaches

• Students can bring food dishes that reflect their cultural background and share recipes.

• Schedule time to reflect using a journal.

• Be aware of classroom demographics and become familiar with them through additional research.

• Artwork and décor can reflect student-body cultures.

• Modify curriculum, body language, and communication patterns to meet the specific needs of each classroom.

Additional Resources:

Ashley Hordichok
Jan Yates
Kimberly Moua
Armando Montano
Zach Bowman


  1. As I continue to look at the meaning of Cultural Competence, I am excited to put it into play in my own life and in my future classroom. Therefore, I really appreciate the practical approach ideas presented here. However, I could not get the pdf file to open and see the additional resource.

  2. I found the site this pdf came from. It's linked off this page

  3. Thanks Anita. That is really a wonderful resource! I agree that all the principles and standards that apply in the social work field apply to teaching just as easily. For example, with language diversity, we as teachers will have to strive to make all information and resources available to each student, which may sometimes require creativity and extra forethought in our lesson planning.

  4. I'm loving this topic and all of the fresh ideas I have floating around in my head and heart. Culture is so exciting, yet seemingly a topic shrouded in mystery for many. Cultural competence is absolutely a necessity in the classroom and an area i've always looked forward to investigating with students. I'm excited to look towards methods of integrating lessons in competence and appreciation within every average classroom day.

  5. Ali,

    I wanted to add a thought to your last post. the connection that we see in the principles and standards of social work and their application within education. My thought is that these principles are essentially based in education, and as such have incredible application to most any field involving the service of people either through the production of goods or services. as the facilitator in any field, your goal is to educate your student, customer, client, patient, etc. so that they can then make better decisions based on the information or educational experience you provided. in social work you are trying to help people to achieve their utmost. teachers do this in schools. Good executives do this in business. And Dr.'s do this with their patients. At least this is what we all hope for.
    Your example of language diversity I think is a good one. This is one that I see tested in the class room on a regular basis, and I can tell you, I feel that this is not addressed adequately. I do not believe that this is a problem that should be addressed by teachers alone. there are many systematic issues which leave teachers floundering in this regard, as an example: within any given class, you can have numerous levels of language learners, and even if a teacher is making extra efforts to provide services it can be difficult to address the different levels of language competency, and then the different levels of subject matter competency. If time were not an issue, this may not be a problem, but to do this for even 4-5 students, and teach the same planned lesson to the majority, or main-stream students. the question is how to do this, in the time allowed? I kind of went off track a little from your thought, i apologize for that. when you see issues first hand the frustration becomes your own. But I totally agree that creativity and forethought are keys to effective lesson planning in these environments. How to make things interesting fun, and dually interpretable? (may have just invented that phrase)

    zach b.

  6. Zach,
    Thanks for your additional outlook on my comment. It's good to be forewarned that I was not just thinking it might be necessary, but that it definitely will! The fewer suprises, the better! I feel like this same theme was reflected in our first Bruner reading as well, so double confirmation that it's difficult to teach to each student at once and at the same time meet certain standards. I like the way it sounds like the charter school we've heard so much about is able to handle this by allowing each student to excell at their own pace. Wish we could do that at public schools somehow, but maybe someday! We are beacons of hope, right?!

  7. I really like the practical approaches that are talked about here. I know that I have a difficult job being culturally understanding to all of my students if I don't know them. We talked a little bit about the movie "Freedom Writers" in our class on the 30th and I like that the teacher asks her students to write in a journal. She just asked them to write whatever they wanted and that they had a story to tell. Also the students didn't have to let her read them unless they wanted her to. She ends up getting to read a lot of them! This would be a great way to try and understand where our students come from.