February 23, 2017
Achieving cultural competency includes both value-based skills, like respect and tolerance, and behavioral skills, like listening and problem solving.

Cultural Competency – How do we achieve and maintain it?

Cultural competence is one of those phrases which is thrown around a lot, but which isn’t always clearly defined. If you google it, over three million responses are returned. I use Cultural Proficiency, a Manual for School Leaders to create a basis for working towards cultural competence in schools that work with KnowledgeWorks.

The definition of cultural competency I like states that proficiency has to be present both at the individual (teacher) level as well as the organizational level (school or district). The skills that are needed include both value-based ones (respect, tolerance and acceptance of difference) as well as behavioral ones (listening, problem solving, appropriate communication). It’s also a proactive and dynamic proposition:

You never fully achieve cultural competence as you are constantly adapting to changes in your environment as well as changes in your own perspectives.

At the 2017 KnowledgeWorks Experience Conference: Making Dreams Come True, I’ll be leading a session that focuses on several aspects of achieving cultural competence, including:

  • Barriers – privilege and entitlement, the role of systemic and environmental oppression, the impact of trauma on students and a general unawareness of the need to adapt to others
  • Guiding Principles – these are essentially the core values that are necessary for true acceptance and adaptation to the variety of ways that culture is expressed by others
  • Continuum – the typical path that people take from a lack of understanding of cultural values to a proficiency with them
  • Essential elements – a model for moving along the continuum

Achieving cultural competency is not a one-step, one-stop activity and it certainly won’t happen in a one-hour break out session. But my hope is that a general exposure to the concepts in this publication – along with some examples of the essential elements which in my mind form the road map to proficiency – will help participants begin that journey.

Can’t attend the 2017 Experience Conference? Here are some other resources you can use to deepen your understanding of cultural competency:

Whayne Herriford

Written by: Whayne Herriford

Whayne Herriford is the Director Talent Management for KnowledgeWorks.

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