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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cultural humility: A framework for authentic, participatory engagement

I've been reading about the concept of "cultural humility" this week. It's an intriguing and attractive concept for those of us who engage in international (and inter-cultural) work.

Cultural humility emerged from the medical field to address power imbalances between patient-physician and non-paternalistic approaches to medicine (Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998, p. 117). It certainly has relevance within education as well as we consider relationships that involve power over versus power with others. Essentially, cultural humility speaks to the importance of first developing relationships with those who we engage with, striving to learn about the other, and then working in true partnership to address identified areas.

A helpful book in this regard is Corbett and Fikkert's (2009) When helping hurts: How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor and yourself. The following chart is adapted from the book and provides an excellent framework to consider the work we do in global and local contexts:

Mode of Participation
Type of Involvement of Local People
Relationship of Outsiders to Local People
Local people submit to predetermined plans developed by outsiders
Local people are assigned to tasks, often with incentives, by outsiders; the outsiders decide the agenda and direct the process
Local people’s opinions are asked; local people analyze and decide on a course of action
Local people work together with outsiders to determine priorities; responsibility remains with outsiders for directing the process
Local people and outsiders share their knowledge to create appropriate goals and plans, to execute those plans, and to evaluate the results
Community Initiated
Local people set their own agenda and mobilize to carry it out without outside initiators and facilitators

Taken from Hockett, E., L. Samek, & S. Headley (2014). Cultural humility: A framework for local and global engagement. Faculty Publications – School of Education, Paper 13. http://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/soe_faculty/13

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