|Eye on Psi Chi: Winter 2011|
Eye on Psi Chi
Winter 2011 | Volume 15 | Issue 2
Exploring Cultural Diversity
Dr. Kathryn Lee, PhD,
Due to its recent constitutional amendment, as Psi Chi situates itself "at the global table” and is "enriched with a world filled with diverse ideas, perspectives, and opinions” (Wang, 2010, p. 4) it is timely to explore cultural diversity and the tenets of being culturally responsive. Multicultural education and diversity training are complex endeavors; however, one can begin by exploring a few of its many elements. For example, what is culture? How is it important? What are the essential principles for working within a multicultural environment? What are some valuable resources I can use as a Psi Chi member or advisor to increase my cultural awareness and enhance my cultural competence?
So, when you think of culture, what comes to mind? Ethnicity, religious affiliations, socioeconomic status? Or food preferences and holiday celebrations? These are all elements of culture, yet as you can see from the following definition, culture encompasses a myriad of dimensions:
In what ways is culture important? According to Bronfenbrenner’s ecological contextual theory of development (1986), we grow and develop within various nested environments that profoundly influence who we are—our identity. Both the micro and macro dimensions of our environment greatly affect our development. For example, we develop within the multiple contexts of our families, communities, and countries. Our peers, relatives, and other adults impact our development, as well as the media, our national and community leaders, and other environmental and social influences. In other words, our culture greatly shapes who we are.
Many people have long understood the importance of culture in teaching and learning. For example, in Diversity Within Unity: Essential Principles for Teaching and Learning in a Multicultural Society (Banks et al., 2001) a panel of distinguished and interdisciplinary experts identified and published a number of design principles to improve education in the U.S. Although these principles are steeped within the field of education, they may be transferred to the field of psychology. I have modified the language in the following list of principles to fit more seamlessly within the context of this text and have substituted educational practitioners for schools and individuals for both students and teachers:
Many of us perform a variety of roles in which these design principles may be fitting, including the actual teaching of psychology in secondary or higher education; planning and coordinating conferences and workshops; giving presentations in both formal and informal settings; and/or consulting with clients.
As a Psi Chi member or advisor, numerous resources are available to increase cultural responsiveness. Gorski’s Multicultural Pavilion website is an invaluable resource (http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/). His 20 (Self-) Critical Things I Will Do to Be a Better Multicultural Educator (2010) is one of my favorite EdChange resources. In White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, McIntosh (1990) effectively articulates the invisible privileges inherent in being white in our society that many take for granted. Additionally, professional development workshops and conferences often have opportunities to develop one’s cultural competence.
In summary, Hill (1991) eloquently articulates the characteristics of respectful conversations between peoples of diverse communities:
It is essential that we who are involved in the study and practice of psychology possess a high degree of empathic understanding (Rogers, 1961). Understanding cultural differences is, by its nature, an inherently essential aspect of empathy. Cultural competency, however, is more than having empathic understanding. It also involves nonjudgmental active listening as well as acceptance, appreciation, and respect for the myriad of differences in human ways of being. Advancing our cultural competence is a continuous process of learning, reflection, and action.
Banks, J. A., Cookson, P., Gay, G., Hawley, W. D., Irvine, J. J., Nieto, S., Schofield, J. W., & Stephan, W. G. (2001). Diversity within unity: Essential principles for teaching and learning in a multicultural society. Center for Multicultural Education. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from http://education.washington.edu/cme/dwu.htm
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1986). Ecology of the family as a context for human development: Research perspectives. Developmental Psychology, 22, 723-742.
Gorski, P. C. (2010). Multicultural education pavilion: Equity, diversity, and social justice in education. Retrieved April 6, 2010 from http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/
Hill, P. J. (1991). Multi-culturalism: The crucial philosophical and organizational issues. Change 23(4), 38-47.
McIntosh, P. (1990). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Independent School. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from Link
Pai, Y., Adler, S. A., & Shadiow, L. K. (2006). Cultural foundations of education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Wang, A. Y. (2010, Winter). Why Psi Chi needs to sit at the global table. Eye on Psi Chi , 14(2), 4.
Dr. Kathryn Lee is currently an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University–San Marcos. She has been in education and the mental health field in Texas for over 25 years. Her experience as a secondary school teacher, a clinical therapist, and a school counselor for both elementary and secondary students underpins her basic philosophy that we must be responsive to individual student needs in the classroom. Her current emphasis as a teacher educator is preparing preservice and practicing teachers to be empathic and responsive to all students’ needs, including those who are routinely marginalized because of their ethnicity, language, gender, socioeconomic status, religious belief, disability, and/or sexual orientation. Dr. Lee’s primary research interest lies in investigating instructional strategies best suited to meet the educational needs of an increasingly diverse student population, including adult online learners. Her research has the added benefit of informing and improving her own teaching practice while representing what she believes is a valuable contribution to the field.
Author Note. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kathryn Lee, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Texas State University-San Marcos, 601 University Dr., San Marcos, TX 78666. E-mail: KL10@txstate.edu
Copyright 2011 (Volume 15, Issue 2) Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology