The Essential Elements

The Five Essential Elements of Cultural Competence serve as standards by which one develops healthy individual values/behaviors and organizational policies/practices. These five action verbs lead educators to the shift in thinking represented by the Continuum.

The essential elements are the standards for culturally competent values, behaviors, policies and practices:

  • Assessing Cultural Knowledge – Being aware of what you know about your and others’ cultures, about how you react to others’ cultures, and what you need to do to be effective in cross-cultural situations.
  • Valuing Diversity – Making the effort to be inclusive of people whose viewpoints and experiences are different from yours and will enrich conversations decision-making, and problem solving.
  • Managing the Dynamics of Difference – Viewing conflict as a natural and normal process that has cultural contexts that can be understood and can be supportive in creative problem solving.
  • Adapting to Diversity – Having the will to learn about others and the ability to use others’ cultural experiences and backgrounds in educational settings.
  • Institutionalizing Cultural Knowledge – Making learning about cultural groups and their experiences and perspectives as an integral part of your on-going learning.

The Essential Elements applied to educational leaders encompass these values and behaviors:

  • Assesses culture. The culturally proficient educational leader is aware of her culture and the effect it may have on the people in her work setting.  She learns about the culture of the school/district and the cultures of the parents/guardians and members of the larger community, and anticipates how they will interact, conflict and enhances one another. 

  • Values diversity. The culturally proficient educational leader welcomes a diverse group of parents and community members into the school setting and appreciates the challenges diversity brings.  He shares this appreciation with other fellow educators, parents/guardians and community members, developing a learning community with each group. 

  • Manages the dynamics of difference. The culturally proficient educational leader recognizes that conflict is a normal and natural part of life.  She develops skills to manage conflict in a positive, constructive way.  She also helps fellow educators, parents/guardians and community members to understand that what appears to be clashes in personalities, may in fact be conflicts in culture.  

  • Adapts to diversity. The culturally proficient educational leader commits to the continuous learning that is necessary to resolve issues caused by differences.  He enhances the substance and structure of the work done so that all work is informed by the guiding principles of cultural proficiency.
  • Institutionalizes cultural knowledge. The culturally proficient educational leader works to influence the culture of her school/district so that its policies and practices are informed by the guiding principles of cultural proficiency.  She also takes advantage of teachable moments to share cultural knowledge about her colleagues, their supervisors, the parents/guardians, and the communities from which they come.  She creates opportunities for these groups to learn about one another and to engage in ways that honor who they are.