Cultural Competence Week: Rupu Gupta, Dominica McBride and Leah C. Neubauer on Critical Self-Reflection and Cultural Competence: From Theory to Practice

Hello, we are Rupu Gupta, Dominica McBride and Leah C. Neubauer, members of the AEA Public Statement on Cultural Competence Dissemination Working Group. At AEA 2013, we participated in the Birds of a Feather session Critical Self-Reflection and Cultural Competence: From Theory to Practice with five others to learn from each other’s experiences in evaluation settings.

We’d like to share some of the great insights generated from this session.

Our discussion began with a scenario highlighting the need for culturally competent evaluation practitioners.  The scenario described a nurse’s interactions with a patient. With limited consideration of the cultural background of the patient, the nurse went right into implementing the ‘nurse protocol’ in rapid time.  In doing so, the nurse misdiagnosed the patient and missed out on opportunities to be culturally competent.

This scenario initiated discussion on critical aspects to consider in any setting where evaluators find themselves. Strategies to become more culturally competent were shared.

Lessons learned: Evaluators’ narrow focus on research aspects may hinder culturally competent practices. Following the scenario, we discussed how the nurse missed a key aspect of her patient (his cultural background) and wondered what other aspects of the diagnosis or his personage were missed. Often, we are mired in the research questions guiding our work and may overlook some critical aspects of the experience with audiences.

Relationship building is central in cultural competence. Gaining trust from the audiences we work with, especially when we are relatively unfamiliar with their cultural backgrounds, was identified as an essential steppingstone. Being a good listener was one strategy in building trust. Being patient was another; the conversation with participants need not follow the evaluator’s timeframe. Rather, we should allow the conversation to go at the audience’s pace.

It is valuable to surface the assumptions we carry with us in an evaluation context. We all hold biases and make assumptions about people we encounter on a daily basis. More often than not, we are unaware of our preconceived notions about others, resulting in culturally insensitive, even offensive behaviors and communication with them. The first step is to be mindful and reflective about the assumptions we make. Reflecting in advance on the different manifestations of culture and bias may help prevent some miscommunications.

Cultural competence is a lifelong process. We acknowledged that cultural competence is a journey, not a destination. Like a muscle, it has to be used and practiced in order to get stronger. There is no perfect end point or score; we won’t be able to please everyone and will make mistakes along the way. The main lesson is to learn from them.

Rad Resources: Steven Brookfield’s book Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher provides insight on continual learning.

This week, we’re diving into issues of Cultural Competence in Evaluation with AEA’s Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation Dissemination Working Group. 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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