Reflections on Cultural Competence

I see culturally competent facilitation as facilitating in a way that recognises that individuals have diverse ways of doing things and seeing the world, which will often not align with that of your own, and including and meeting those diverse needs as much as possible.  This will include ensuring that you do things in a way that will not ‘offend’ those with various viewpoints.  Wikipedia mentions the Diversity Training University International who see various components to social competence.  One of those is being aware, and conscious of ones’ own actions and reactions.  I think this is very true, and that developing such an awareness is a vital step in developing cultural competence.  A further point that is mentioned is that of effective communication.  I believe that a key aspect of cultural competence is communicating in a way, both verbally and non-verbally, that includes and does not offend individuals.

I think that in a classroom it may be easier to be ‘culturally competent’ than online.  Online facilitation is particularly challenging in relation to online facilitation for, I believe, two reasons.  First, online groups can be extremely diverse, for example they will often be made up of people from multiple countries.  Second, as pointed out by Steven Thorpe in the document ‘Enhancing Online Collaboration”, cultural differences online will be less obvious due to less emotional cues and feedback.  Certainly we ‘see’ far less online, such as non-verbal communication which can often tell us so much. 

I believe an important step to take in meeting diverse cultural needs, is getting to know our students. This should happen both whether we are teaching F2F, or only in an online environment – although this will be more challenging in an online environment.     The more we learn about individuals the more we will be able to account for and meet their needs. 

More thinking to do on some of the specifics here, which I intend to address in another post!

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2 Responses to Reflections on Cultural Competence

  1. Hi Karen, was thinking about what you’ve been saying and wondering how many assumptions we make about people based on their face-to-face appearance which in itself is culturally unsafe. So is it a good thing we have to work harder to know people in the online environment, where we cannot see them to make assumptions about them?

    • Hi Sarah, I think that’s a very good point. I firmly believe that we should not make ‘assumptions’ based on a person’s appearance, factors such as their ethnicity etc. So needing to work harder to get to know people in an online environment probably does reduce this risk.

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