Are You Culturally Competent as an Educator?

Cheryl Irish and Monica Scrubb of Indiana Wesleyan University teamed up to write a small essay on what they call “culturally competent teaching and learning.” Take a few minutes to reflect on your own work with UK students to see if you feel you are “culturally competent” when you work with students.

Being culturally competent means that you…

1. facilitate critical reflection:  “engage students in self-awareness activities that lead to reflection on cultural assumptions”
2. demand respect for others: “When there is little diversity, the overwhelming presence of ‘whiteness’ may be intimidating to students of color and English Language Learners and may serve to silence their voices. Culturally responsive methods such as inter-cultural communication stimulate respect for the needs of all learners and allow every voice to be heard.”
3. accommodate individual learners: “relate well to their students and possess dispositions such as compassion, fairness, integrity and respect for diversity. Teaching that is respectful and learner focused will naturally involve individual accommodations. Learning about the cultures and languages of individual students provides a foundation for implementing effective accommodations that facilitate learning. Learning about students involves listening to them, interacting with them, and modeling for them.”
4. require the use of intercultural communication skills: “recognize the potential of intercultural communication as a means for enhancing the learning of the entire learning community. Effective communication with others who are linguistically and culturally different includes the use of techniques like active listening, elaboration, paraphrasing, and restatement.”
5. use focused activities and intentionally structured environments: “Perspective-taking behavior requires an understanding of norms, values, and traditions that have informed the other’s worldview and learning behaviors. Ranking the value of ideas such as tradition, religion, independence, education, work, health, respect, honesty, food, etc. and a review of personal rankings with other class members may lead to meaningful conversations. Such activities may encourage students to engage in critical reflection on deeply held assumptions related to values and beliefs. Intentional groupings of students with others from different racial groups have been shown to have a positive impact on students—especially white students.”

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About UK Student and Academic Life

Undergraduate Education is now recreated within the Division of Student and Academic Life in the Provost's Office at the University of Kentucky.
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