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Developing Critical Cultural Competence

Developing Critical Cultural Competence
A Guide for 21st-Century Educators

  • Jewell E. Cooper - The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA
  • Ye He - The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA
  • Barbara B. Levin - The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA

Foreword by Christine Sleeter

Additional resources:

August 2011 | 232 pages | Corwin

"Developing Critical Cultural Competence provides educators with the inspiration, knowledge, and tools to move from theory to action in seeking to eliminate the achievement gap."
—Bess Scott, Director of Elementary Education
Lincoln Public Schools, NE

"As I read this book, it became clear that my long-held belief about the meaning of cultural competence needed a makeover. I am now convinced that my personal definition of diversity should embrace a much deeper appreciation of differences and transformative action."
—Denise Carlson, Curriculum Consultant
Heartland Area Education Agency, Johnston, IA

Cultural competence is key to improved student achievement

The increasingly diverse nature of today's schools and the need to increase the achievement of all students, no matter their background, requires 21st-century teachers to develop critical cultural competence. Looking at data is not enough. We have to know who our students are! This book shows you how to provide professional development that deepens teachers' cultural understanding. Developing Critical Cultural Competence helps educators translate new knowledge into action with activities that focus on the three inseparable insights required for developing teachers' critical cultural competency:

  • Understanding themselves
  • Understanding their students
  • Understanding their students' families and communities

In addition to the activities are reflection questions, group discussion questions, online extensions for facilitators, and a sample professional development plan. A companion website provides reproducible resource lists and handouts as well as examples that can serve as models for some of the activities.

List of Resources
Foreword by Christine Sleeter
Why do we need this book?

What is critical cultural competence?

Who is this book for?

How is this book different from other books about diversity and multicultural education?

Organization and Special Features of This Book


About the Authors
Introduction: What Do We Need to Do to Prepare Teachers for Today's Diverse Classrooms?
Why do we need educators with critical cultural competence in today's schools?

How can we move professional development about diversity beyond knowledge?

Who are we in this thing called diversity?

How do we leverage assets of students, families and communities?

Bringing It All Together

Summary of Key Points

Reflection and Extension

1. Common Practices: How Are We Currently Preparing Educators for Diverse Classrooms?

Common Goals for Multicultural Education

Foundational Understandings About Diversity

Milner's Five Conceptual Repertoires of Diversity

Empathy Versus Sympathy

Strength-Based Approach

Materials and Resources


Historic and Contemporary Videos

Online Learning Resources

Guest Speakers

Other Commonly Used Activities and Approaches

Discussions and Reflection

Case Studies and Case Discussions

Book Clubs

Activity 1.1 Book Club Jigsaw Activity

The Game of Monopoly

Empathy Activities

Summary of Key Points

Reflection and Extension

Online Extensions

2. Who I Am: How Can We Understand Ourselves as Cultural Beings?

Exploring Personal Characteristics and Beliefs

Activity 2.1 Autobiographies

Activity 2.2 Educational Philosophy

Activity 2.3 All About Me Activities

Activity 2.4 All in a Picture and Snapshot of Me Activities

Revealing Beliefs and Identities to Others

Activity 2.5 Intercultural Autograph Hunt

Activity 2.6 Bio-Poems

Activity 2.7 the Privilege Walk

Summary of Key Points

Reflection and Extension

Additional Resources

Online Extensions

Focus for Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

3. Moving From Beliefs and Visions to Action: How Can We Link Our Personal and Professional Identities?

Activity 3.1 Visioning

Activity 3.2 Personal Practical Theories (PPTs)

Activity 3.3 Action Research

Summary of Key Points

Reflection and Extension

Additional Resources

Online Extensions

Focus for Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

4. How Do We Prepare Educators to Understand and Appreciate Student Diversity?

From Understanding Diversity to Appreciating Diversity

Activity 4.1 Diversity Fact Sheets

Activity 4.2 Website Reviews

Activity 4.3 Interactive Survey

Activity 4.4 Description, Interpretation, and Evaluation

Summary of Key Points

Reflection and Extension

Online Extensions

Focus for Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

5. From Critical Awareness to Transformative Action: How Do We Prepare Educators to Become Cultural Brokers for Student Success?

From Critical Awareness to Transformative Action

Cross-Cultural Competence and Critical Self-Reflection

Activity 5.1 Active Listening

Activity 5.2 Classroom Observation Analysis

Activity 5.3 ABCs Project

Summary of Key Points

Reflection and Extension

Online Extensions

Focus for Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

6. Learning About the Community: How Can We Learn More About Parents and Families?

Standards-Based Reform

Benefits of Invoving Parents and Families in Schools

Traditional Ways of Involving Parents in Schools

Nontraditional Approaches to Parents and Involvement

Barriers and Facilitators to Involvement

Extending Traditional Approaches to Parent and Family Involvement

Activity 6.1 Touring the Neighborhood--The Do's and Don'ts

Activity 6.2 Home Visits at the Beginning of the School Year

Activity 6.3 Preparing for the First Parent Conference

Summary of Key Points

Reflection and Extension

Online Extensions

Focus for Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

7. Community-Based Learning: How Can We Learn From Parents, Families, and Communities?

How diverse are families and our communities?

Partnering with Parents, Families, and Communities

What is community-based learning?

Community-Based Learning Activities

Activity 7.1 Home-Community Camera Adventure

Activity 7.2 Walking a Mile in Another's Shoes

Transformative Effects of Community Adventures

Summary of Key Points

Reflection and Extension

Online Extensions

Focus for Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

8. Bringing It All Together: How Do We Maximize Teaching and Learning Opportunities?

Connecting Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and Critical Cultural Competence

Taking Risks to Develop Critical Cultural Competence

Inspiring Critical Reflection and Awareness

Transforming Professional Practice

Using Rogers's Adoption of Innovation Theory

Using the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM)

Planning for Professional Development

Before We Start

Pre- and Postassessment


Summary of Key Points

Final Words

Additional Resources

Reflection and Extension

Online Extensions



Key features
  • Provides activities and ideas that can be adapted and used in professional development workshops, and also in teacher education courses, to actively engage teachers in personally transformative activities that with critical reflection will help them learn from their students, and from their families and communities as well.
  • Includes detailed descriptions, handouts, and resources for each activity to guide teachers in learning more about themselves as cultural beings, and about the strengths and assets of their students, families, and the community.
  • To extend the potential use of these activities, each chapter offers questions for individual reflection; questions for group discussions and for processing the activities; and online extensions for those facilitators who may be planning to provide online professional development for teachers.
  • Provides a sample professional development plan in the final chapter that includes various activities introduced in this book; demonstrates how systematic efforts can be made at the school to lead to the ultimate transformation of school cultures; and offers measures and indicators for success for ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of such professional development efforts.

For instructors

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