Friday, September 24, 2010

Week 10 - Cultural competence

I will have to admit that my experience with cultural competence is very limited both in the real world and online. I have had more to do with mothers with disabilities (sight, hearing and learning) then I have had with different languages or cultures. I have particiated in my organisations cultural awareness program and learnt about cultural sensitivity in pregnancy and child birth but have really not had much opportunity to practice and improve my cultural competence. Even my experiences in teaching at university have seen the vast majority of my students fall into the white middle class anglo saxon group. I think the best I can do in relation to being a culturally competent facilitator is to learn as much as I can about the subject and then maybe go looking for opportunities to practice these skills because they are clearly not coming up in my current work environment.

I have a feeling of ' I won't know what I don't know' so I better start searching out information about this subject as I am unsure how I would ensure the resources, images and communication tools and activities were culturally appropriate if I don't know what is and isn't appropriate. Many issues to consider. The activities provided some good back ground reading and food for thought.
Just a thought - If you have say 3 or 4 different cultural backgrounds in your e-group and there are things within each culture that are not appropriate for the other culture to see, hear about or discuss, how do you cater for everyone or am I being too simplistic here? (eg: female circumcision????)


  1. I don't have an answer to that last question...I'm getting my head around these issues too. IN FO2010 we had several people join us whose first language was not English. I don't think I have done a good job of working with them, so am thinking about how I can improve that.

  2. Hi Jillian, I suspect that we will never know everything about the cultures that learners come from but we can offer an open environment where learners feel comfortable raising their concerns about any cultural issues they may have. Just thinking it may also be an idea to make learners aware at commencement of course and ask them to share any issues of cultural significance that arise through the course, even if they do not find them offensive. This would allow a growing awareness on our part. I'm going to add this to my blogpost [], thanks for the inspiration.

  3. That's a really good point Kim...thanks for giving me an idea...throwing open discussion to students about what they want in terms of cultural recognition.

  4. Yes Kim, I think that is a great idea. A good thing to include in a course set up and to continue to monitor throughout the course / session. Also an awareness that even though their skin may not be a different colour, or their first language something other than English they may still have differing cultural issues that we need to be sensitive to.

  5. Great ideas flowing around this cultural awareness issue. Once learners share their issues like Kim has suggested if you can put yourself in their shoes for even a few minutes you will get an idea of how they might feel. Of course getting each of us to share our issues may be the first biggest challenge...

  6. I'm inclined to be with sharon here- how you get people to say what they might want/need/like.
    I find that for the most part people are not confident to be clear about this and sometimes of course they aren't clear until faced with a situation.
    there seem to be two aspects:
    1) knowledge of your own culture and value sets, so as to recognise inbuilt subtle ways of working;
    2) an overarching acceptance of diversity, withouth your brains falling out in the process.
    I can see why Malcolm has some level, of despair here.

  7. I really like your suggestion Kim, reading Sharon's thought brought to mind de Bono's shoes and hats. I have used these in a multi-cultural setting where participants are briefed about the represented culture and invited to take the shoes and hats of one, then join the discussion, it is an illuminating experience for everyone.