Monday, May 5, 2014

An Introduction of Cross-Cultural Competencies: Part 1

In this first of a two-part series, Holly Niemi shares how she increased student and staff cross-cultural competencies in her school.
Photo provided by Holly Niemi
With the growing diversity in public schools, it is imperative that teachers and students develop and increase their cross-cultural awareness.  Increasing and managing cross-cultural interactions can be a challenge for any school, but by building on the components of cross-cultural competencies, this process can be readily developed.  Increasing the students’ and staffs’ cross-cultural competencies will enable them to more effectively interact with people of different cultures, most importantly and directly English language learner (ELL) populations. 

One professional goal I set for myself this year was to increase the students’ and staffs' cross-cultural competencies in our high school. To begin with, I explored and expanded my understanding of the concept of cross-cultural competencies.  After some research and reading, I came to the conclusion that the components of cross-cultural competencies are four –fold: awareness, knowledge, skills, action and advocacy.  Each component builds on the next and becomes progressively more complex.  The first level is awareness, which is gaining an understanding of one’s self, one’s socialization, stereotypes, beliefs and cultural norms.  The second level is knowledge, which is learning about others whose experiences and values are different from one’s own.  The third level is skills, which is gaining experience in cross-cultural interactions.  Lastly, action and advocacy is being able to make changes beyond individual relationships that create a lasting impact on society.  Combined, these four components result in a deeper understanding of different cultures and world views.

In my past experience, I have seen a variety of activities, programs, and initiatives geared toward awareness and knowledge, but not building and continuing to skills, action and advocacy.  Therefore, my professional goal was to implement change at the skills, action and advocacy levels to increase our school's cross-cultural competencies.  Look for Part 2:  Components of Cross-Cultural Competencies in Action to see how this theoretical concept can be put into practice for increasing schools’ cross-cultural competencies.

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