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


JDP-385

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the hood: Fonofale Pasifika


Fonofale Pasifika.png

The Fonofale is a holistic, Pasifika model of health and wellbeing. As with Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā it comes from the healthcare sector.

Where does it come from?

The Fonofale Pasifika model was created by Fuimaono Karl Pulotu-Endemann (2009). Pulotu-Endemann is a Samoan-born, New Zealand-based academic and nursing professional.

What’s it for?

As with Te Whare Tapa Whā it’s designed to help you think about health, education or other aspects of life in a more holistic way.

What is it?

It’s a visual representation of Pasifika values and beliefs. We use the Samoan fale or house to describe the important factors of healthy development.

Here are the parts:

  • The foundation. This is the extended family – the foundation for all Pacific Island cultures.
  • The roof. The stands for the cultural values and beliefs that are the family’s shelter for life. This can include traditional as well as western ways of doing things.
  • The Pou (posts). These connect the family to the culture. They also depend on each other. They are
    • Spiritual. This relates to the sense of wellbeing that comes from Christianity or traditional spirituality or a combination of both.
    • Physical. This relates to the wellbeing and physical health of the body.
    • Mental. This relates to the mind including thinking and emotional wellbeing as well as behaviours.
    • Other. This includes other things like gender, sexual orientation, age, social class, employment, and educational status.

The fale is surrounded by a protective layer. This includes:

  • Environment. This relates to the relationships that Pasifika people have to their physical environment. This can be rural or urban.
  • Context. This dimension relates to the “big picture’ for Pasifika including socio-economic or political situations.
  • Time. This relates to the actual or specific time in history that impacts on Pasifika people.

How is it relevant?

It’s relevant because you can use your knowledge of the Fonofale to enhance your teaching. As with Te Whare Tapa Whā, this knowledge is not limited to just working with the people groups it represents.

This approach is also relevant because it will help create a learning environment that is culturally safe for Pasifika learners.

What does it mean for me?

If you identify as Pasifika, the Fonofale is a framework that allows you to talk about how you probably already work with your learners. If you are not Pasifika, the framework allows you to see your learners, particularly your Pacific Island learners in a different way, perhaps closer to how they see themselves.

Here are some questions from the learner’s point of view to help you focus on each part of the Fonofale model:

  • Do I have support from my family to do this course? (Family).
  • Does this course connect with my Pacific cultural values and beliefs? (Culture).
  • Do I have the resources to do this course? (Physical).
  • Do I believe that I can do this course? (Spiritual).
  • Can I cope with the workload? (Mental).
  • Is there anything that’s going to get in the way of my goals here? (Others).
  • Are my surroundings, including home and work, going to help me achieve? (Environment).
  • Can I afford to do this at the moment? (Context and time).

It may not always be possible to always attend to all dimensions of the Fonofale for all of your Pasifika learners. But one big implication is that if you have learners who are struggling, or who are not engaged, then the Fonofale may help you work out where the problem is and how to deal with it.

But one big implication is that if you have learners who are struggling, or who are not engaged, then the Fonofale may help you work out where the problem is and how to deal with it.

What’s under the hood? Frameworks for teaching better


car-hood-james-garner

As well as knowing what we mean when we use words like embedding and literacy or numeracy, we also need to know what kind of thinking sits behind these concepts.

Getting to this is like popping the bonnet or hood of your car and having a look at what’s underneath. You can drive a car without knowing much about the engine. But it helps if you know a little bit.

In fact, there are at least a couple of times when you do want to know a bit more about how things work. Every car needs a service from time to time. The more you know about how your car works, the more likely you’ll be able to keep things running smoothly. And that brings us to the second thing.

Sometimes, you need to change things. This might be to make things run better or to stop things from breaking down. Either way, teaching better means looking at how things run beneath the surface.

This means your personal approach at the end of the day. More on that in the next module. But first, we need to dig into the different kinds of thinking that underpin our ideas about literacy and numeracy.

These different ways of thinking about teaching and about literacy or numeracy are called frameworks. And we’re going to look at five of them.

  • The Learning Progressions for Adult Literacy
  • The Learning Progressions for Adult Numeracy
  • Te Whare Tapawha
  • Fonofale Pan Pasifika
  • ESOL Starting Points

Teach better – What is literacy for Pasifika?


contextisking-5

What’s the definition?

Being “literate as Pasifika” means:

Success in participation and access, in culture, in service and advocacy, and in economic terms (p.84).

Where does this definition come from?

Adult and Community Education (ACE) Aotearoa (2014). Pasifika Success As Pasifika: Pasifika Conceptualisations of Literacy for Success in Aotearoa New Zealand. Wellington: Adult and Community Education (ACE) Aotearoa   

What are some key features?

Importance of:

  • Skills in reading and writing in English, and in speaking, reading and writing one’s own Pacific heritage language to a high level.
  • Skills in oral and non-verbal communication.
  • Strength in identity and the knowledge of one’s Pacific cultural heritage. This includes knowledge of and respect for other cultures within Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • Possessing and living out a shared Pasifika values base.
  • Producing and reading cultural designs, patterns, and art forms with understanding.
  • Understanding and using digital technology.

How is this definition relevant to my teaching context?

Many of our learners are Pasifika as well. This is especially true if you live in a big centre like Auckland. Some of our learners might identify as both Māori and Pasifka.

As with our Māori learners, many have experienced repeated failure in the school system. Or at least a failure to progress at school and work in a way that compares with the rest of the population.

You can learn a lot from your Pasifika students if you take the time to get to know them and earn their respect. They really want to succeed and achieve, but as with our Māori learners, the system often seems to be against them when it comes to how they like to learn.

As we’ll see later, there are ways that you can tinker with your teaching to make things better for your Pasifika learners. Not only will it make you a better teacher, they’ll appreciate it.

 

Which Pasifika framework should we use for adult literacy and numeracy in the new NZCALNE (Voc)?


Please Vote

This is new to the qualification. Unlike the Maori frameworks, Pasifika frameworks are less well known.

Another issue is that there are frameworks that are specific to particular cultures and language groups. For example, I haven’t listed the individual frameworks in the poll, but they exist for Tokelauan, Cook Island Maori Tongan, Samoan, and Tongan.