Cultural competence | Wikipedia audio article

Cultural competence | Wikipedia audio article


Intercultural competence is a range of cognitive,
affective, and behavioural skills that lead to effective and appropriate
communication with people of other cultures. Effective intercultural communication relates
to behaviors that culminate with the accomplishment of the desired goals of the interaction and
all parties involved in the situation. Appropriate intercultural communication includes behaviors
that suit the expectations of a specific culture, the characteristics of the situation, and
the level of the relationship between the parties involved in the situation.==Basics==
It’s very important for someone to be culturally competent at work and at school. Individuals
that are effective and appropriate in intercultural situations display high levels of cultural
self-awareness and understand the influence of culture on behavior, values, and beliefs.
Intercultural competence is achieved through a set of skills that includes cognitive, affective,
and behavioral processes.First, cognitive processes imply the understanding of situational
and environmental aspects of intercultural interactions and the application of intercultural
awareness, which is affected by the understanding of the self and own culture. Self-awareness
in intercultural situations refers to the ability of self-monitoring in such interactions
to censor anything not acceptable to another culture. On the other hand, cultural awareness
leads the individual to an understanding of how his/her own culture determines feelings,
thoughts, and personality.Secondly, affective processes define the emotions that span during
intercultural interactions. These emotions are strongly related to self-concept, open-mindedness,
non-judgementalism, and social relaxation. In general, positive emotions generate respect
for other cultures and their differences.Finally, behavioral processes refer to how effectively
and appropriately the individual directs actions to achieve goals. Actions during intercultural
interactions are influenced by the ability to clearly convey a message, proficiency with
the foreign language, flexibility and management of behavior, and social skills.==Creating intercultural competence==
Intercultural competence is determined by the presence of cognitive, affective, and
behavioral abilities that directly shape communication across cultures. These essential abilities
can be separated into five specific skills that are obtained through education and experience:
Mindfulness: the ability of being cognitively aware of how the communication and interaction
with others is developed. It is important to focus more in the process of the interaction
than its outcome while maintaining in perspective the desired communication goals. For example,
it would be better to formulate questions such as “What can I say or do to help this
process?” rather than “What do they mean?” Cognitive flexibility: the ability of creating
new categories of information rather than keeping old categories. This skill includes
opening to new information, taking more than one perspective, and understanding personal
ways of interpreting messages and situations. Tolerance for ambiguity: the ability to maintain
focus in situations that are not clear rather than becoming anxious and to methodically
determine the best approach as the situation evolves. Generally, low-tolerance individuals
look for information that supports their believes while high-tolerance individuals look for
information that gives an understanding of the situation and others.
Behavioral flexibility: the ability to adapt and accommodate behaviors to a different culture.
Although knowing a second language could be important for this skill, it does not necessarily
translate into cultural adaptability. The individual must be willing to assimilate the
new culture. Cross-cultural empathy: the ability to visualize
with the imagination the situation of another person from an intellectual and emotional
point of view. Demonstrating empathy includes the abilities of connecting emotionally with
people, showing compassion, thinking in more than one perspective, and listening actively.==History in American ethnic studies==
The United States in its earliest history had a culture influenced heavily by its Northern
European population, primarily from the British Isles, who originally settled in the original
British Colonies. While the indigenous peoples, known as Indians, were the largest population
of North America, they were slowly pushed away from the Eastern Seaboard into the interior
of North America during the 17th century, 18th century, and 19th century (see Indian
Removal Act describing specific actions during early 19th century). During this period, people
from the British Isles (England and Scotland primarily) brought the culture and religion
of the British Isles with them to the United States and became the dominant political and
cultural group along the Eastern Seaboard of North America.
Both voluntary immigration from other regions as well as the results of the Atlantic slave
trade, brought a mix of people to the Americas, including Europeans, Africans, and, to a lesser
extent until the 20th century, Asians. Thus began the process of diversifying the population
of the Western Hemisphere. While the majority of the U.S. population were white immigrants
from northern and western Europe and their descendants, they maintained most of the power,
social and economic, of the nation. In the U.S. context, immigration from the
1840s onward diversified the ethnic composition of the nation. During the early part of the
20th century, southern and eastern European immigrants and their descendants became a
larger percentage of the population, but as recent immigrants concentrated in urban areas
were also very often poor and lacking in basic healthy living and working conditions. Descendants
of African slaves and immigrants faced a much more difficult challenge due to their skin
color and discrimination enforced by legal systems, such as the Jim Crow laws in the
United States. Since the 1960s, African Americans as well as other minority groups such as Mexican
Americans have gained greater social and economic status and power.
Nonetheless, the dominant models of education and social services retained models developed
by northern and western European intellectuals, even such well-meaning and important reformers
as Jane Addams and Jacob Riis. After the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, though,
social workers, activists, and even healthcare providers began to examine their practices
to see if they were as effective in African American, Latino, and even Asian American
communities in the U.S. The arrival of more than half a million Southeast Asian refugees,
from 1975 to 1992, for example, tested the ability of medical and social workers to continue
effective practice among speakers of other languages and among those coming from very
different understandings of everything from mental health to charity.==Education in the United States==
With the larger population of minorities and racial integration during the 1960s and 1970s,
the public school system of the United States had to grapple with issues of cultural sensitivity
as most teachers in public school system came from white, middle class backgrounds. Most
of these teachers were educated, primarily English speaking, and primarily from the Western
European cultures. They often had trouble trying to communicate with speakers of limited
English proficiency, let alone people of vastly different value systems and normative behaviors
from that of Anglo-European culture. The purpose of training educators and others in the area
of cultural competence is to provide new teachers the background and skills to work effectively
with children of all backgrounds and social classes.
With the growing diversity of the student body in U.S. public school, it is increasingly
imperative that teachers have and continually develop a cultural competence that enables
them to connect with, respond to, and interact effectively with their pupils. The achievement
gap between cultural minority and majority students suggests a communication disconnect
often occurs in minority classrooms because cultural mismatch between teachers and students
is common and should not prevent positive, productive for both parties, provided the
educator is a culturally competent communicator. Over the last few decades, scholars have increasingly
shown interest in the relationship between learning, reading, schema, and culture. People’s
schema depends on their social location, which, as Anderson (1984) explains, includes a reader’s
age, sex, race, religion, nationality, and occupation, amongst other factors. Considering
schemata determine how people understand, interpret, and analyze everything in their
world, it is clear that background and experience really do affect the learning and teaching
processes, and how each should be approached in context. “In short,” Anderson (1984) says,
“the schema that will be brought to bear on a text depends upon the reader’s culture”
(p. 374-375). More simply, Anderson (1984) describes a person’s schema as their “organized
knowledge about the world” (p. 372). In considering the role of schema, one of the educator’s
principal functions in teaching, particularly with literacy, is to “‘bridge the gap between
what the learner already knows and what he needs to know before he can successfully learn
the task at hand'” (Anderson, 1984, p. 382). This is important because Staton (1989) explains
that student learning—i.e. successful communication between instructor and pupil—occurs when
teachers and students come to “shared understandings” (p. 364). Thus, teachers must remember that
they are “cultural workers, not neutral professionals using skills on a culturally-detached playing
field” (Blanchett, Mumford & Beachum, 2005, p. 306).
Teachers and administrators in the public school systems of the United States come in
contact with a wide variety of sub-cultures and are at the forefront of the challenge
of bringing diverse groups together within a larger American society. Issues confronting
teachers and administrators on a daily basis include student learning disabilities, student
behavioral problems, child abuse, drug addiction, mental health, and poverty, most of which
are handled differently within different cultures and communities.Examples of cultural conflicts
often seen by teachers in the public school system include: role of women in the family and the decisions
they can make practices among cultural groups (e.g. fire
cupping) symbol systems among cultural groups (see
semiotics)Examples of sub-groups within the United States: African American, Asian American,
Indian American, Irish American, Jewish American, Mexican American, Native Americans or American
Indians and refugees.==Healthcare==The provision of culturally tailored health
care can improve patient outcomes. In 2005, California passed Assembly Bill 1195 that
requires patient-related continuing medical education courses in California medical school
to incorporate cultural and linguistic competence training in order to qualify for certification
credits. In 2011, HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research implemented the
EBAN Experience™ program to reduce health disparities among minority populations, most
notably East African immigrants.==Hispanic versus Latin American==
The term “Hispanic” is problematic. It is impossible to refer to “a Hispanic-American
perspective” or to “a single Latino culture”.(1)(2) The label “Hispanic” is controversial because
it was coined by the Federal Government to describe a heterogeneous ethnic population
whose ancestors come from a Spanish-speaking country. Although these American citizens
have Latin American roots, the term “Latino” to characterize them is more correct since
it is more inclusive of non-Spanish-speaking Latinos. However, the term “Latino” does not
include individuals from Spanish-speaking countries outside of Latin America (e.g.,
Spain). There is also a lack of adequate research
into how race and ethnicity affects members of a group.(3)(4)(5) There are few life histories
and phenomenological studies of illness as experienced by people outside the American
white, urban, middle class, especially of immigrant and native populations. Race has
been used to explain the absence of research. Racial classifications are based on outmoded
concepts and dubious assumptions regarding genetic differences. In fact, outside of skin
color, race is poorly correlated with biological or cultural phenomena, which sharply diminishes
its validity in biomedical or social research. Yet, unlike race or national origin, ethnicity
is a sociological construct highly correlated with behavioral and cultural phenomena, particularly
language, dress, adornment, food preference, religion, social interaction, marriage and
family customs. Further research is needed to determine whether
race and ethnicity among Latinos are rather driven by mechanisms of discrimination and
macrosocial factors or social status. Fortunately, not too long ago, the National Institutes
of Health took an important step by insisting that any NIH- supported clinical investigation
include, where appropriate, minority populations, women and the aged.(6) However, we must guard
against what has been called a new “tokenism”, that is, having a large aggregate of “non-whites”,
and a few African Americans and Hispanics included. This aggregate will never produce
a proper sample. Rigorous attention to sample size, composition and sampling strategies
is required to research basic psychosocial processes and clinical responses of minority
populations. Accordingly, the heterogeneity of the Hispanic community has to be taken
into account. The Hispanic’s country of origin, cultural history, migration history, language,
family, traditions, religion, educational level, socio-economic status, gender, sexual
orientation, age and generation—all need to be explored.==Cross-cultural competence==Cross-cultural competence (3C) has generated
confusing and contradictory definitions because it has been studied by a wide variety of academic
approaches and professional fields. One author identified eleven different terms that have
some equivalence to 3C: cultural savvy, astuteness, appreciation, literacy or fluency, adaptability,
terrain, expertise, competency, awareness, intelligence, and understanding. The United
States Army Research Institute, which is currently engaged in a study of 3C has defined it as
“A set of cognitive, behavioral, and affective/motivational components that enable individuals to adapt
effectively in intercultural environments”.Organizations in academia, business, health care, government
security, and developmental aid agencies have all sought to use 3C in one way or another.
Poor results have often been obtained due to a lack of rigorous study of 3C and a reliance
on “common sense” approaches.Cross-cultural competence does not operate in a vacuum, however.
One theoretical construct posits that 3C, language proficiency, and regional knowledge
are distinct skills that are inextricably linked, but to varying degrees depending on
the context in which they are employed. In educational settings, Bloom’s affective and
cognitive taxonomies serve as an effective framework for describing the overlapping areas
among these three disciplines: at the receiving and knowledge levels, 3C can operate with
near-independence from language proficiency and regional knowledge. But, as one approaches
the internalizing and evaluation levels, the overlapping areas approach totality.
The development of intercultural competence is mostly based on the individual’s experiences
while he or she is communicating with different cultures. When interacting with people from
other cultures, the individual experiences certain obstacles that are caused by differences
in cultural understanding between two people from different cultures. Such experiences
may motivate the individual to acquire skills that can help him to communicate his point
of view to an audience belonging to a different cultural ethnicity and background.===Immigrants and international students
===A salient issue, especially for people living
in countries other than their native country, is the issue of which culture they should
follow: their native culture or the one in their new surroundings.
International students also face this issue: they have a choice of modifying their cultural
boundaries and adapting to the culture around them or holding on to their native culture
and surrounding themselves with people from their own country. The students who decide
to hold on to their native culture are those who experience the most problems in their
university life and who encounter frequent culture shocks. But international students
who adapt themselves to the culture surrounding them (and who interact more with domestic
students) will increase their knowledge of the domestic culture, which may help them
to “blend in” more. In the article it stated, “Segmented assimilation theorists argue that
students from less affluent and racial and ethnic minority immigrant families face a
number of educational hurdles and barriers that often stem from racial, ethnic, and gender
biases and discrimination embedded within the U.S. public school system” (Bondy).
Such individuals may be said to have adopted bicultural identities.===Ethnocentrism===Another issue that stands out in intercultural
communication is the attitude stemming from Ethnocentrism. LeVine and Campbell (as cited
in Lin and Rancer, 2003) defines ethnocentrism as people’s tendency to view their culture
or in-group as superior to other groups, and to judge those groups to their standards.
With ethnocentric attitudes, those incapable to expand their view of different cultures
could create conflict between groups. Ignorance to diversity and cultural groups contributes
to prevention of peaceful interaction in a fast-paced globalizing world. The counterpart
of ethnocentrism is ethnorelativism: the ability to see multiple values, beliefs, norms etc.
in the world as cultural rather than universal; being able to understand and accept different
cultures.==Cultural differences==Cultural characteristics can be measured along
several dimensions that were defined by Geert Hofstede in his studies of cultural differences.
The ability to perceive them and to cope with them is fundamental for intercultural competence.
These characteristics include:===Individualism versus Collectivism===
CollectivismDecisions are based on the benefits of the group rather than the individual;
Strong loyalty to the group as the main social unit;
The group is expected to take care of each individual;
Collectivist cultures include Pakistan, India, Japan, and Guatemala.
IndividualismAutonomy of the individual has the highest importance;
Promotes the exercise of one’s goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance;
Decisions prioritize the benefits of the individual rather than the group;
Individualistic cultures are Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United States.===Masculinity versus Femininity===
Masculine CulturesValue behaviors that indicate assertiveness and wealth;
Judge people based on the degree of ambition and achievement;
General behaviors are associated with male behavior;
Sex roles are clearly defined and sexual inequality is acceptable;
Masculine cultures include Austria, Italy, Japan, and Mexico.
Feminine CulturesValue behaviors that promote the quality of life such as caring for others
and nurturing; Gender roles overlap and sexual equality is
preferred as the norm; Nurturing behaviors are acceptable for both
women and men; Feminine cultures are Chile, Portugal, Sweden,
and Thailand.===Uncertainty avoidance===
Reflects the extent to which members of a society attempt to cope with anxiety by minimizing
uncertainty; Uncertainty avoidance dimension expresses
the degree to which a person in society feels comfortable with a sense of uncertainty and
ambiguity. High uncertainty avoidance culturesCountries
exhibiting high Uncertainty Avoidance Index or UAI maintain rigid codes of belief and
behavior and are intolerant of unorthodox behavior and ideas;
Members of society expect consensus about national and societal goals;
Society ensures security by setting extensive rules and keeping more structure;
High uncertainty avoidance cultures are Greece, Guatemala, Portugal, and Uruguay.
Low uncertainty avoidance culturesLow UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude
in which practice counts more than principles; Low uncertainty avoidance cultures accept
and feel comfortable in unstructured situations or changeable environments and try to have
as few rules as possible; People in these cultures are more tolerant
of change and accept risks; Low uncertainty avoidance cultures are Denmark,
Jamaica, Ireland, and Singapore.===Power distance===
Refers to the degree in which cultures accept unequal distribution of power and challenge
the decisions of power holders; Depending on the culture, some people may
be considered superior to others because of a large number of factors such as wealth,
age, occupation, gender, personal achievements, family history, etc.
High power distance culturesBelieve that social and class hierarchy and inequalities are beneficial,
that authority should not be challenged, and that people with higher social status have
the right to use power; Cultures with high power distance are Arab
countries, Guatemala, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Low power distance culturesBelieve in reducing
inequalities, challenging authority, minimizing hierarchical structures, and using power just
when necessary; Low power distance countries are Austria,
Denmark, Israel, and New Zealand.===Short-term versus Long-term Time Orientation
===See also: Chronemics Short-term or Monochronic OrientationCultures
value tradition, personal stability, maintaining “face,” and reciprocity during interpersonal
interactions; People expect quick results after actions;
Historical events and beliefs influence people’s actions in the present;
Monochronic cultures are Canada, Philippines, Nigeria, Pakistan, and U.S.A.
Long-term or Polychronic OrientationCultures value persistence, thriftiness,and humility;
People sacrifice immediate gratification for long-term commitments;
Cultures believe that past results do not guarantee for the future and are aware of
change; Polychronic cultures are China, Japan, Brazil,
and India.==Assessment==
The assessment of cross-cultural competence is another field that is rife with controversy.
One survey identified 86 assessment instruments for 3C. A United States Army Research Institute
study narrowed the list down to ten quantitative instruments that were suitable for further
exploration of their reliability and validity.The following characteristics are tested and observed
for the assessment of intercultural competence as an existing ability or as the potential
to develop it: ambiguity tolerance, openness to contacts, flexibility in behavior, emotional
stability, motivation to perform, empathy, metacommunicative competence, and polycentrism.===Quantitative assessment instruments===
Three examples of quantitative assessment instruments are:
the Inter-cultural Intercultural Developmental Inventory
the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Measurement the Multicultural Personality Questionnaire===
Qualitative assessment instruments===Research in the area of 3C assessment, while
thin, points to the value of qualitative assessment instruments in concert with quantitative ones.
Qualitative instruments, such as scenario-based assessments, are useful for gaining insight
into intercultural competence.Intercultural coaching frameworks, such as the ICCA™ (Intercultural
Communication and Collaboration Appraisal), do not attempt an assessment; they provide
guidance for personal improvement based upon the identification of personal traits, strengths,
and weaknesses.==Criticisms==
It is important that cross-cultural competence training and skills does not break down into
the application of stereotypes. Although its goal is to promote understanding between groups
of individuals that, as a whole, think differently, it may fail to recognize specific differences
between individuals of any given group. Such differences can be more significant than the
differences between groups, especially in the case of heterogeneous populations and
value systems.Madison (2006) has criticized the tendency of 3C training for its tendency
to simplify migration and cross-cultural processes into stages and phases. Madison’s article
offers an outline of the original research. See also a recent article by Witte summarizing
objections to cultural theories used in business and social life.==See also====Footnotes

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