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CC Week: Dominica McBride on Integrating Cultural Competence into Everyday Practice, Part 2: Cultural Competence through Self-awareness and Reflection

Hi, I’m Dominica McBride, President of The HELP Institute, Inc. and a member of the AEA Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation Dissemination Working Group. I also have my PhD in Counseling Psychology and have provided psychotherapy. This tip focuses on the affective and psychological side of cultural competence in everyday evaluation practice.

Culturally competent evaluation practice requires self-awareness and self-reflection. So much of our evaluation practice is guided by our decisions. It would be nice to think that our decisions are mostly driven by our frontal lobes – the seat of deliberation and reasoning; however, most of our choices are influenced by our subconscious mind, as discovered through recent neuroscience research. Our subconscious mind (influenced by the limbic part of our brains also known as the emotional brain) is constituted of our experiences, exposures, and emotions. Our experiences literally shape the wiring of our brains and repeated exposures to similar messages connect our brain cells, which leads to more automatic thoughts. So, if someone is exposed to repeated messages depicting Muslims as terrorists, for example, our brains begin to incorporate this. These thoughts become a part of us, even subconsciously, and can negatively affect our interactions and decisions in working with the group, especially in the absence of antithetical experiences. Microaggressions, which are unintentional slights towards a person related to their group affiliation, can begin to develop. They can also show up in interactions and decision making within an evaluation, like forgetting or overlooking the inclusion of a certain group in research or evaluation design. For example, a 21st Century study “found” a lack of facial recognition abilities in African-Americans compared to Euro-Americans. However, due to cultural incompetence, the participants were only shown Caucasian faces. When corrected with cultural competence, there was no difference.

The Statement states “cultural competence is a stance taken toward culture” and “culturally competent evaluators respect the cultures represented in the evaluation.” To be culturally competent and value and respect culture and different communities, the Statement asserts that we must challenge our stereotypes and ameliorate our biases. We have to examine and address the biases hidden in our subconscious that influence our decision making, interactions with others, and evaluation practice.

Hot Tips:

  • Take the Implicit Association Test. This test will inform you of some of your implicit biases.
  •  Examine your biases through journaling and deliberately find and create experiences that counter your stereotypes and make conscious note of experiences that do not support them.

Rad Resources:

  • Blink is a good book that describes our subconscious mind and its influences on decision-making and interactions with others
  • Crash is a provocative movie graphically demonstrating explicit and implicit biases and their effects on others

The American Evaluation Association will be celebrating Cultural Competence Week. The contributions all this week come from the Cultural Competence committee. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluator.

6 thoughts on “CC Week: Dominica McBride on Integrating Cultural Competence into Everyday Practice, Part 2: Cultural Competence through Self-awareness and Reflection”

  1. Hi Dominica,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughtful post on Cultural Competence through Self-awareness and Reflection. I agree that the best way to challenge our cultural biases would be through genuine self-reflection to help use see and accept that we do have biases to begin with. I think the biggest problem with cultural biases is that, for most individuals, it is not a natural process to address your own biases and accept that you have them. Sometimes it is difficult to see the problems that we are facing because we ARE, in fact, the problem. For that reason, the Implicit Association Test is a good starting point for a deeper reflection of our implicit biases. I also like the book that you suggested, as I have read it and it provided a good foundation for understanding the subconscious mind.

    Do you regularly engage in journaling to examine your own biases? What advice would you have for someone who wants to start this practice?

    What other suggestions do you have for individuals wishing to challenge their cultural competence through self-awareness and self-reflection?

    Finally, if you are evaluating a program that is made up of individuals with a significantly different cultural background as yourself (religion, race, gender, etc)what would be your top three suggestions to ensure that you are conducting a culturally competent evaluation?

    Thank you again for your post and I look forward to your valued feedback.


  2. Pingback: SWB Week: Jim Cochran on Statistics Without Borders Statistical Capacity Building Efforts · AEA365

  3. Thank you for this excellent post Dominica, this is so important, and yet not very often discussed in evaluation. I believe reflexive practice is required to be a competent evaluator, and I’m finding there are not enough resources in the evaluation field to guide us.

    I agree that journaling and taking the IAT is helpful. Can you recommend any other practices or resources that have helped you become more self-aware?

    1. Hi Jenna,

      Thank you for comment and question. One of the most significant practices that has helped me to become more self-aware is honing my emotional intelligence. The book “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman is a good one to read. Tracking how we feel and our underlying beliefs (if we’re still and looking) can help us develop the beneficial habit of self-awareness.

      Happy tracking!


  4. Great suggestions for thinking about the subconscious mind. I haven’t read Blink yet, but I am interested in reading it. I agree that our subconscious is critical to understanding cultural biases.

  5. Karen Anderson

    Dominica, I believe Crash would make an excellent film for classroom/office training, at least a few scenes, to demonstrate biases that we are conscious and not so conscious of. I often try to push myself to learn about the different people I am working with by spending some time with them at events, outside of evaluation activities. Not only do I learn more about them, but I always walk away learning more about myself.

    Great post!

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