What is cultural competency? What does cultural competency mean in education?


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Here’s one definition adapted from what others have said:

Culturally competent means possessing the knowledge, skills, and values required to achieve a better understanding of, and enhance relationships with learners of different cultures.

I wanted to share this for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s more topical than ever. Another is that it’s potentially confusing.

Mainly though, I wanted to compile my notes for myself and put them somewhere where I could remember where they were.

This is also to remind myself how I arrived at some definitions in the process of trying to get some clarity on the issue.

My context is education. So, for better or worse, I started with NZQA. I went looking to see what others had already said and done. This led me to Unit Standard 26953 which has a health focus.

In the explanatory notes, it says under note 7:

  • Culturally competent means possessing the knowledge, skills, and values required to achieve a better understanding of, and enhance relationships with, members of different cultures.

If you swap out “patients” or “health care clients” from the health context and substitute in “learners” you get something like my definition at the top of the page.

I like the fact that the definition references knowledge, skills and values.

These three components make up almost any kind of professional standards framework. This includes the new Foundation Learning Professional Standards Framework that I have been working on for the TEC. It’s laid out slightly differently, but it’s the same three things:

  • Ō tātou uara – What we value.
  • Ō tātou mohiotanga – What we understand.
  • Ā tātou mahi – What we do.

This means that cultural competency should permeate every part of who we are and what we know and do as educators. It’s not something you can separate out and put in a box.

There’s more. The same NZQA document also states that:

  • Māori cultural competencies refer to the practical steps for providing services and relating to Māori in a manner that recognises and respects Māori values and beliefs, as outlined in the Nationwide Health and Disability Advocacy Service publication referenced in explanatory note 4 above.

The notes reference an expert that many of us in education are already familiar with – Professor Mason Durie. He describes cultural competence as about:

…the acquisition of skills to achieve a better understanding of members of other cultures.

Some further digging – this time on the ACC website – led me to this explanation, also by Professor Durie. He reinforces what he says above and adds another element. This is that the goal of culturally competent care in Health with Māori clients is to do two things:

  • Improve understanding and relationships, and thereby;
  • Achieve better clinical results.

I think clinical results transposes to education as outcomes, broadly defined. And assuming that this is workable and makes sense, I think that you can do several things from here.

One is that you can link the definition to specific cultural or indigenous groups. Another is that you could assume that what works well for one underserved, priority group possibly serves the mainstream as well. And the other is that you could link it to a set of outcomes, whether broad or specific.

I’m gonna leave off specific outcomes for now, but here’s what it might look like if you specify two groups identified by the TEC as priorities using some of the wording discussed above.

  • Māori cultural competencies refer to the practical steps for providing education and relating to Māori and other learners in a manner that recognises and respects Māori values and beliefs in order to achieve better teaching and learning outcomes.
  • Pasifika cultural competencies refer to the practical steps for providing education and relating to Pasifika and other learners in a manner that recognises and respects Pasifika values and beliefs in order to achieve better teaching and learning outcomes.

Would some version of this approach work for ESOL learners? What about for a “united nations” group of mixed ethnicities? What about Deaf learners?

I say yes to all.

So… a couple of other questions… What if you wanted to bring a high-level, big government focus to this? Or what if you wanted to bring a more personalised regional, even iwi-specific focus to this?

Then you could add some wording like “… as defined by XYZ” or “as outlined in ABC” and reference where these outcomes have already been articulated. Fill in the blank yourself. No big literature review required.

I’m sure that government agencies, specific iwi-facing organisations working in education and others can tell you what the outcomes need to look like for the learners they are concerned about.

What’s the point of this exercise…?

Well, it could be just semantics. However, because of the mixture of serious interest plus confusion about what cultural competency means, I think the following truism applies:

A problem well stated is a problem half-solved. (Charles Kettering)

I’m not proposing any answers here. I think these will vary depending on context.

However, if I’m serious and want to move forward with this in an educational setting, I need specific answers to at least these questions:

  • Who are the learners that I’m concerned about?
  • What are their values and beliefs?
  • What are the teaching and learning outcomes that I want to achieve?
  • What are the knowledge, skills, and values I need in order to achieve a better understanding of and enhance relationships with, these specific learners?
  • How does my improved understanding of my learners, values, beliefs and outcomes translate into practical steps for teaching and learning?
  • How do these factors influence or possibly transform the manner in which I teach or otherwise support their learning?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Adult Literacy and Numeracy Standards Released for the New Qualifications


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Well, it’s taken a while… but it’s finally official. Here’s what you need to know:

  • We have a new suite of unit standards for adult literacy and numeracy education.
  • These new standards are for the new qualifications including the New Zealand Certificate in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education (Vocational/Workplace).
  • The old standards are now expiring, but are still fit for purpose for assessment until 31 December 2018. So there is roughly a two-year transition period.
  • The content for Unit Standard 21204 has been broken up.
  • The new NZCALNE (Voc) will eventually replace the current NCALNE (Voc), just like the current NCALNE (Voc) replaced the original NCALE (Voc).

In terms of the new NZCALNE (Voc), there are four new standards. These are:

  • Unit 29622. Describe adult literacy and numeracy education in Aotearoa New Zealand. 5 credits
  • Unit 2962. Design strategies to embed adult literacy and numeracy in the delivery of a training or education programme. 10 credits
  • Unit 29624. Plan and facilitate embedded adult literacy and numeracy skills development in a training or education programme. 15 credits
  • Unit 2962. Use assessment to strengthen adult literacy and numeracy teaching and learning. 10 credits

A caution:

  • These standards are not the roadmap to delivering the new qualification. But they do provide a clear guide to what content the new NZCALNE (Voc) should assess as part of programme delivery. It will be up to providers to determine what that delivery roadmap should look like.

The good news:

  • As ALEC already has consent to assess the ALNE standards to level 6, we’ll automatically get this consent extended to the new standards.
  • We submitted our course approval documentation to the NZQA months ago for delivery of the new qualification but it’s been in limbo land pending the release of these new standards. This is now underway again on the NZQA side and we’re waiting to hear on its status.
  • I’ve worked on both the new qualification and the new standards as part of the subject expert group. This means any new content will incorporate the best of what ALEC has had to offer to date, as well as our most current thinking and knowledge about embedding literacy and numeracy into training.

The plan:

  • Our plan is to begin delivering the new version of the qualification with the new standards as soon as we can. Hopefully, this will be by the start of the academic year in 2017. This will depend on how much longer the course approval process takes and then how quickly we can move to develop the new content required.
  • We’ll keep you updated here on any progress.

Any questions? Please let me know.

 

 

NCALNE (Voc) for TESOL with Pathways Awarua


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Do you teach ESOL? Are You Supposed To Have The NCALNE (Voc)?

If you teach ESOL in a course funded by the TEC, you may need to complete the NCALNE (Voc) qualification.

The reason for this is the TEC conditions attached to the funding. These aren’t negotiable, but we now have a solution for TESOL teachers.

  • Are you an experienced and qualified TESOL teacher?
  • Do you need to complete the NCALNE (Voc)?

In partnership with Pathways Awarua, ALEC is now trialling an NCALNE (Voc) TESOL option.

This option combines professional development work and assessment on Pathways Awarua with a portfolio of ESOL-specific evidence.

Want to know more?

7 Things You Need To Do To Totally Dominate Literacy and Numeracy


2B08153900000578-3182764-image-a-2_1438496978386The other day I listed a bunch of reasons why you need to punch literacy and numeracy in the face.

Today I want to tell you how to be the Ronda Rousey of adult literacy and numeracy education.

Some of this you can do on your own. Mostly, though you need to do this as an team inside an organisation.

That makes it hard. This is mainly because people are idiots.

I’m kidding (don’t quote me out of context please). People aren’t idiots, but this is a niche inside a niche so you have to have a deep understanding of how things work across a bunch of different dimensions. And you’ll have to work hard to pull it off.

But if you (and your team) can master these 7 areas, I think you could totally dominate this field. You could rip the arms off literacy and numeracy and throw them in the corner.

This is from my reflection and experience so I’m happy to be wrong. If you think differently and have some better ideas please let me know in the comments.

Here’s my take on the critical success factors that need to be in place if you want to totally dominate this market:

  1. You need the right team. This is not rocket science. But you do need the right team including subject area experts with deep domain knowledge. This team needs to include the key thought leaders in the sector at the present time. I think this means a (mostly) younger team of people aligned to a strong vision for literacy and numeracy in the 21st century.
  2. You need access to TEC funding. Access to dedicated literacy and numeracy funding streams. This includes a spread of funding across all aspects of literacy and numeracy provision including ALEG, ILN, and WPL as well as probably SAC funding for courses where literacy and numeracy are supposed to be embedded as part of “business as usual”. It goes without saying that you also need a good relationship with the TEC. There is no point going to war with your funding agency. This is called “cutting off your nose to spite your face”.
  3. You need to be able to deliver the right outcomes. This means meeting and exceeding TEC requirements for showing progress in Assessment Tool results, embedding LN into business as usual operations, and minimum professional development of staff, i.e the NCALNE (Voc).
  4. You need a strong professional development focus. If the sector was in its infancy prior to the $167 million investment of the TEC, then we must now be nearing the end of our adolescence. However, there is still a huge amount of work to be done to upskill tutors and trainers at every level, but especially those teaching at Levels 1 and 2 or in Foundation Learning programmes. Vocational training programmes around the country see massive amounts of churn when it comes to tutors. This area needs immediate attention, especially due to the requirements of the TEC in regards to Section 159 of the Education Act 1989 where these tutors are required to hold the NCALNE (Voc) as a minimum qualification. This is where you need to really to punch literacy and numeracy in the face.
  5. You need to create new knowledge. We need to build on the existing infrastructure and knowledge to create new knowledge, new content, new qualifications, new courses, new research, new processes and new systems for increasing our learners’ literacy and numeracy levels. This is not just in order to meet compliance requirements and avoid financial penalties, but to contribute to the wider education goals of our country.
  6. You need to set up scalable systems. Most of the way we currently do education is not set up to scale. This is true of the teaching as well as the systems that exist behind the scenes. For example, the success that ALEC has enjoyed with the NCALNE (Voc) training is due in part to the project management approach we use behind the scenes. Rather than a regular student management system we have adapted and refined a cloud-based project management system for our own specific purposes. Each candidate is a project within the larger system and we can track and assign every step along the learning journey from enrolment through training through to digital archiving at the end. Our course now sits inside Pathways Awarua in an online learning environment. Both of these systems are massively scalable.
  7. You need an entrepreneurial approach. There are multiple untapped opportunities for the right team to exploit and develop in order to reduce the impact of reliance on TEC funding. While these funding streams are the bread and butter of our work, they always represent a risk to some degree. Potential opportunities:
    1. Resources: The development of commercial education related resources and materials for sale nationally and internationally is one way to develop an alternative income stream. This needs an online business model, probably with some kind of freemium/premium approach and contextualised to the vocational areas that need the support.
    2. Training: The development and packaging of literacy and numeracy related intellectual property including training and qualifications for sale internationally is another opportunity. Our literacy and numeracy professional development qualifications are unique in the world and could provide the vehicle to export the wider infrastructure. This is untapped potential although I’m aware that people have been talking about it.
    3. Consulting: Investigating opportunities for international consulting around the unique approach we have which incorporates indigenous pedagogies with adult literacy and numeracy education and professional development is another potential opportunity. The NCALNE (Voc) is a case study how to bring together these various elements in an effective way. Again, this is untapped international potential.
    4. Approach: Approaching education through an entrepreneurial lens in general. This means looking for practical solutions to all aspects of the work through effective use of technology and creative thinking. We’re still largely stuck in a 20th century model of doing education and we don’t really know what is going to work moving forward. However, we need space to try (and fail) at a whole range of different things if we want to start seeing different results.

Using the Speak to Communicate Progression to Assess Confidence


speak to commThis is a bit rough and ready, but I wanted to get down some thoughts on using the Speak to Communicate Strand that have been rattling around in my head for a while now.

Here’s the problem

  • Lots of tutors and trainers notice an increase in the levels of learner confidence that they see over time with regards to speaking and communicating, but they don’t know how to measure this or talk about it in a robust way.

For example, from a classroom training point of view, if you’re working with a group, particularly if the group includes older adult students who don’t speak English as a first language, and you notice that many are withdrawn, shy, won’t make eye contact, struggle to participate and so on, you’re likely to make at least a mental note that they are lacking in confidence.

From an employer’s perspective, you might observe that some workers dislike making small talk on the factory floor, or actually hide behind pieces of machinery so that they don’t have to engage in any kind of interaction.

Another scenario, might be that a trainee cannot deliver a clear set of instructions or tell another person a procedure for how to do something.

Here’s a possible solution

The Learning Progressions that we work with in New Zealand for determining the literacy and numeracy demands and assessing learner proficiency provides a way to describe and work with learners’s abilities for speaking (just as it does for reading and numeracy).

Speaking is not part of the focus of the TEC’s Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool, so it tends to get sidelined. However, most trainers, tutors, and employers would agree that listening and speaking are critical in the classroom and workplace.

This is probably doubly important for employers as it’s something that is visible to them in terms of the sometimes limited interactions that they might have with workers and employees.

I think that we can look at the Speak to Communicate strand and incorporate our ideas of “confidence” in a way that makes sense for both trainers, learners, and employers (and the TEC).

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Start with the actual speaking and listening scenarios or tasks that people really have to do. Here’s a couple for starters below. Brainstorm some that are generic and some that are site or context specific:
    1. Introduce yourself to others
    2. Discuss a workplace issue or concern that relates to an area that you are familiar with.
    3. Discuss a workplace issue or concern that relates to an area that you are not familiar with.
    4. Deliver a short presentation to a manager outlining possible changes or improvements to workflow.
  2. Map the speaking demands using the Speak to Communicate strand and progressions. If you’re doing this work, you should have done the NCALNE (Voc) training and have a good idea on how to do this already. The image above is not meant to replace the actual strand, but I scribbled out some of the key words in each step as a way of getting a very rough and ready analysis of certain kinds of scenarios. Don’t take my word for it – go and look at the whole strand, but for example:
    1. introduce yourself to others: Step 1 – 2
    2. Discuss a workplace issue or concern that relates to an area that you are familiar with: Step 2 – 3
    3. Discuss a workplace issue or concern that relates to an area that you are not familiar with: Step 3 – 4
    4. Deliver a short presentation outlining possible changes or improvements to workflow: Step 5 – 6
  3. Come up with real samples and examples of the actual language you’d expect to hear for each scenario (like you would when creating a judgement statement for an assessment schedule for NZQA purposes). Create your own master guide for each scenario showing the kinds of language that you’re expecting and how much of it you need to hear before you can make a judgement that the learner is confident in relation to that particular aspect of the interaction.
  4. Use a “Confidence” traffic light system for each relevant step for each scenario that you’re assessing. Probably, I need to expand on this somewhere, but here’s what I mean in a nutshell: For each relevant step that relates to a particular scenario you can assess your learner as follows:
    1. Red: Not confident
    2. Amber: Developing confidence in this area
    3. Green: Can do this with confidence
  5. Summarise the results if you need to report to an employer or manager. You don’t need to give everyone all of the detail, but it is important to work from a system that is part of what we’re already using, i.e. the Learning Progressions. This avoids coming up with a new system based on flakier measures of confidence that aren’t tied to actual learner performance of specific tasks.And then when it comes to reporting to employers or managers you can say things like this:

“We measure speaking proficiency and confidence on a scale of 1 to 6 steps with 1 relating to simple, formulaic interactions like greetings and 6 relating to more extended, complex work-related interactions like a short presentation.

When Jones started our training he was only able to handle low level speaking tasks at steps 1 and 2 with any kind of confidence.

In the last 6 months we’ve seen him develop his knowledge of work related vocabulary, express his own point of view about different issues, and speak about less familiar topics including health and safety concerns.

This means he’s now between steps 3 and 4 and can handle some more complicated work-related speaking activities with confidence.

By the end of the training he should be able to deliver a short formal presentation as well as give verbal instructions relating to some of our key standard operating procedures (SOPs).

At this point he will have shifted to step 5 and 6.”

Hat tip: Dave Curtis

4 Things I Can Do to Become Antifragile in Education


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Nassem Taleb is an expert on risk and probability and he recommends in his latest book that we become less fragile, more robust, and actually antifragile.

This is more than just Sissy Resilience… and this means that when the stuff hits the fan you actually bounce back stronger than before, and actually made stronger by the disorder around you.

Education is fragile. And working in education opens you, your career, your mortgage up to all kinds of fragility by implication. This is bad.

Education, of course, is good. But if we want to survive as educators in this increasingly fragile landscape we need to embrace the fact that it’s fraught with risks and randomness of all kinds.

And we need to do things to mitigate the risks to ourselves and our businesses where we can.

One of the lessons from Taleb’s Antifragile for me seems to be that rather than avoiding things like risk, uncertainty and variability we should be embracing them. And in fact, seeking them out.

With that in mind, here’s my take on 4 things I can do in education and in my work that hopefully increase my ability to be really resilient by intentionally playing around with risk, randomness, uncertainty, and variability.

I’m not saying that they’ll work for you… but if they work for me I’ll let you know.

1. Disrupt my education business model

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The idea here is that either I can wait for someone to disrupt my work or I can disrupt it myself and maintain some slight control (even if it’s illusory) over the disruptive factors.

Our education business models are pretty much a last century paradigm. Mostly the old-school business model goes something like this:

  • Someone pays a fee + I deliver training. I might possibly award some kind of credential if the stakes are a bit higher.

Leaving aside the problems with our current models of education, let’s focus on messing with the business model.

My real business model is the unique package of things that allows me to sell education and training and generate revenue. This would still hold true even if I worked for a non-profit or charitable organisation.

But consider the new business models though… They’re online. They require people to transact online. That either means a shopping cart or a subscription-based approach.

Bothered by that…? Me too. But disturbing thoughts like these have been nagging at me for awhile. It’s time to do something about it.

If you’re curious about business models Alex Osterwalder’s book really helped clear things up for me in term of what a business model is and gives some great examples. There’s also an iPad app you can play around with.

2. Open source my expertise and knowledge

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Am I the only one who has noticed that the world I live in is radically different to the one I grew up in, even the world I started working in…?

Everything is being disrupted and education isn’t any exception. Aside from firing middle management and cutting dead wood, I think we’re going to see changes everywhere in education resulting in education products for learners that are cheaper, faster, smarter, and more convenient.

What’s more, as we move forward, education will most likely become open sourced, and possibly crowd sourced. This will come at a cost, of course. Some of us won’t survive.

But one of the things that has changed for certain in my mind is that there is no longer a competitive advantage in sitting on any kind of “secret sauce”. The new secret sauce is open source.

And that has implications for my job. And my expertise. What I know and can do is not just information, but a big chunk of it probably is. And that information really wants to make itself freely available to others. This is just the nature of the web.

And the thing is, if I don’t open source what I know, then someone else will do it for me. Either they know they same stuff and they’ll open source that, or they’ll just upload what they’ve learned off me.

So I need to do it first. That’s why I’ve open sourced what I know about our approach to embedding literacy and numeracy via Pathways Awarua and through making our course content freely available to everyone.

Doing nothing is not an option. In fact, doing nothing while everyone and everything around you moves forward is pretty much the same as going backwards.

3. Design the way I want to work

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I think that another part of the solution is to design the way that I want to work. For me this means:

  • treating everything as a project
  • working on these projects with a small agile team
  • being mobile and “always on” (except when I switch everything off)
  • working from home (or anywhere)
  • having a team that is geographically dispersed,
  • and mostly ignoring conventional establishment wisdom relating to what I do.

To expand on these, everything in education can be a project. This includes training, resource development, writing and publishing, and running conferences. If I make everything a project then I can project manage. I use Basecamp for this.

“Always on” means that I can work on my projects anywhere. Most of my work is written on laptops and devices in various cities and towns in New Zealand. I now use cloud-based applications almost exclusively for this including Google Docs, WordPress and Evernote. I also use Dropbox and Google Drive to manage it all.

4. Look for new ways to do the same stuff

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Another part of the solution for me is to do education and training in new ways that meet the needs and demands of 21st century work and life. This is where expertise needs to collide with new opportunities and disruptive technologies.

And this is hard because it means I have to learn new stuff. And sometimes things don’t work out.

I’m not quite sure where to go with this in all honesty, but something that I’ve done intentionally is to mess around with different online platforms used for authoring education and training materials. I’ve tried a bunch of them, but the one that stuck was the Bracken platform that we used to write up our course and assessment modules.

Authoring software is kind of tricky… and it’s time consuming to learn how to use… but something that is a whole lot simpler and still incredibly disruptive is video and audio. The incredible success of Kahn Academy continues to testify to the disruptive power of video.

I’m hoping to make this year the year I really get serious about capturing much more of our training, resources, knowledge, and expertise via niche audio and video content.

What have I missed? What do you have planned for 2015 that is going to make you stronger, more resilient, resistant to risk, and ultimately more antifragile?