The Importance of Cultural Competency Within the Classroom

Cortney L. Navarchi

Psychology of Achievement, Northern Arizona University

Cultural proficiency requires more than becoming culturally aware or practicing tolerance. It is the ability to identify and challenge one’s cultural assumptions, values and beliefs and commit to communicating at the cultural interface (SNAICC). Cultural competency among teachers is crucial to creating a rapport, understanding student behavior, and helping respond to cross-culture differences (Herrmann, 2015). The Constitution requires teachers to ensure every student has the opportunity to an equal education. Without cultural competency, students from different backgrounds may be at a disadvantage.   

Culture is a system of beliefs, values, and assumptions about life that guide behavior and are shared by a group of people. It includes customs, language, and material artifacts. Cultural competence is the integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of service, thereby producing better outcomes. Cultural proficiency requires more than becoming culturally aware or practicing tolerance. It is the ability to identify and challenge one’s cultural assumptions, values and beliefs and commit to communicating at the cultural interface (SNAICC). Having an education on how to conduct a diverse cultural classroom is essential for student’s success and can help close the achievement gap (Coggins & Campbell, 2008).

Students are not uniform in one culture. Since there are many cultures and religions, teachers must be educated about their student’s backgrounds.  Students of different cultural upbringings have other methods of learning and behaviors associated with their lifestyles. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the population of school-aged students is growing more ethnically diverse from 16 to 25 percent from 2000 to 2007 (NCES Blog Editor, 2019). With the increase of diversity in the classrooms, teachers need to connect and relay information to their students.

Children foreign to the U.S.A need help to translate contextual information from one culture to the next. Different languages do not translate the same. Most languages will have sayings that do not translate the same in English due to cultural differences. The fourteenth amendment ensures all students have the right to an equal education. By not being culturally competent, teachers are hindering their students from learning and depriving them of their constitutional rights.

To ensure teachers are prepared for their students, time should be taken at the beginning of the semester to learn about each student’s culture. Being culturally aware takes little effort and will become natural after practice. There are many issues commonly overlooked or inappropriate practices that are not addressed.  By educating staff and hiring unbiased employees, a professional cultural environment can be established.

Before the new semester, teachers should reach out to parents and learn how they conduct their routines. Next, Choral calling and reading is a helpful technique that involves all students reading or saying something simultaneously (Herrmann, 2015). Another method is the 10/2; chunk and chew. Students need time to process instructions; chunk information in manageable pieces to process, and discuss with their peers (Herrmann, 2015). It’s helpful for students to sit in four teams, number each 1-4, call out a number, and discuss the lecture. With the use of movement and sentence frames, starters, and signal words, students can practice their communication (Herrman, 2015). Cultural competency among teachers is crucial to creating a rapport, understanding student behavior, and helping respond to cross-culture differences. The lack of competency in teachers is infringing on students’ constitutional rights to an equal education. By making minor changes to the classroom structures, improvement in communication will be a success.

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