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“We teach who we are.” – Parker Palmer

Cultural competence

Cultural competence is an ongoing process of examining one’s own attitude and values, and the acquisition of the values, knowledge, skills and attributes that will allow an individual to work appropriately in cross cultural situations. (Adapted from Denboba, MCHB, 1993) Cultural competence mandates that organizations, programs and individuals must have the ability to:

  1. value diversity and similarities among all peoples;
  2. understand and effectively respond to cultural differences;
  3. engage in cultural self-assessment at the individual and organizational levels;
  4. make adaptations to the delivery of services and enabling supports; and
  5. institutionalize cultural knowledge.

Reflection 1 

Take this short cultural competence self assessment.

Reflection 2

Save this PDF to your desktop and respond to the questions on this Self-development Checklist for Inclusive Teaching.


For a deeper explanation of intercultural sensitivity, check out Milton Bennett’s Model of Intercultural Sensitivity

Implicit Bias

“Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.  Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness.  Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection.

The implicit associations we harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance.  These associations develop over the course of a lifetime beginning at a very early age through exposure to direct and indirect messages.  In addition to early life experiences, the media and news programming are often-cited origins of implicit associations.” From the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University: Understanding Implicit Bias


We all have bias. To understand some of your own biases, take one of the tests developed by Project Implicit at Harvard University:


Listen to this NPR piece on How the Concept of Implicit Bias Came into Being.


In 1988, Peggy McIntosh wrote an article that became the launching pad for thinking about how privilege works.

“Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn’t determine one’s outcomes, but it is definitely an asset that makes it more likely that whatever talent, ability, and aspirations a person with privilege has will result in something positive for them.” ~Peggy McIntosh, 1988

Reflection 1

 This list of questions from the Safe Zone Project will help you explore identity and privilege from your personal experience, and help you consider how they might impact you and your teaching.

Reflection 2

Check Your Privilege After you take the quiz, watch this short video of students who took the quiz as well! See their reactions.


Read Peggy McIntosh’s classic article White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack ; To explore other ways in which privilege plays out, visit this site: Privilege Lists

The New Yorker: The Origins of Privilege ; The Huffington Post: Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person

Identities and Intersectionality


Intersectionality A Fun Guide

Intersectionality: A Fun Guide (Miriam Dobson)

The concept of intersectionality recognizes that people can be privileged in some ways and definitely not in others. Intersectionality refers to how a diverse set of identities intersect and affect the lived experience and well-being of each student as a whole person. Intersecting identities include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ability or disability, socioeconomic status, first-generation status, and more. The salience of one identity over another changes with time and with context.

Reflective Exercise  Mapping Your Identities


Watch this TED Talk: “Now more than ever, it’s important to look boldly at the reality of race and gender bias — and understand how the two can combine to create even more harm. Kimberlé Crenshaw uses the term “intersectionality” to describe this phenomenon; as she says, if you’re standing in the path of multiple forms of exclusion, you’re likely to get hit by both. In this moving talk, she calls on us to bear witness to this reality and speak up for victims of prejudice.”

Read this 1993 article in the Stanford Law Review by Kimberlé Crenshaw: Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.

Back to:

Learning: What Do I Need To Know?

Changing: How Do I Get Started?

Assessing: Is it Making an Impact?