Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Enhancing Students' Cultural Competence Using Cross-Cultural Experiential Learning

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Enhancing Students' Cultural Competence Using Cross-Cultural Experiential Learning

Article excerpt

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to explore undergraduate community health students' perceptions of their cultural competence. Little is known about students' cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills after their experience working with diverse cultural groups and language barriers. A cross-cultural experiential learning exercise was used as an educational approach. Reflective writing was used to elicit students'attitudes of the other culture and their coping skills. Three themes emerged as cultural awareness and knowledge, observation and learning, and cross-cultural communication. Results underscore the need for student academic preparation using cross-cultural educational approaches to enhance cultural competence.

Key Words: Cultural Competence; Community Health; Experiential Learning; Health Promotion; Cultural Diversity

hanging demographic trends indicate an increase in culturally diverse populations. By 2050, minority populations will increase to 48 percent of the U.S. population and Hispanics will represent 24.4 percent of the total population (U.S. Census, 2010). With the demographic shift, understanding cultural beliefs of minority and immigrant populations is essential for multicultural health program development (American Institutes for Research, 2002). Culturally sensitive programs may be perceived to be more relevant when cultural values are meaningful to community members.

While student academic preparation includes efforts to expose students to different cultures, it is increasingly important to address cultural awareness (Kardong-Edgren, et al., 2010). It is not sufficient to teach cultural knowledge or language proficiency (Sasnett, Royal, & Ross, 2010). Students must learn to examine their own cultural knowledge, values, and beliefs to enhance their cultural competence. Otherwise, students' perceptions may limit their openness to work with other cultures (Sanner, 2010).

Cultural competency education varies in currículums for students in health sciences (Gregorczyk & Bailit, 2008). Previous studies examined cultural competence of students in nursing (Eshleman & Davidhizar, 2006; Kardong-Edgren, et al., 2010; Krainovich-Miller, et al., 2008), health science (Wilson, Sanner, & McAllister, 2010), occupational therapy (Murden, et al., 2008), and pharmacy (Westberg, Bumgardner, & Lind, 2005). It is critical for students to learn how their understanding of cultural differences and their cultural awareness affect providing quality care and health promotion.

Although previous studies examined cultural competence of students in health sciences, research is not well established for understanding cultural competence among community health students. The purpose of this study was to explore undergraduate community health students' perceptions of their cultural competence as part of a cross-cultural experiential learning process. The study is essential for exploring cultural competence among community health students who work with diverse groups in the U.S.-Mexico border area and other areas in the United States. The study also contributes to the knowledge of cultural diversity to assist academic educators in other health programs with the facilitation of meaningful cultural competency education.

BACKGROUND

Cultural competence involves a process of developing cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills (Campinha-Bacote, 2003; Luquis & Pérez, 2006; Pesquera, Yo- der, & Lynk, 2008). Campinha-Bacote's model of cultural competence includes five constructs (Campinha-Bacote, 2011). Cultural awareness is the self-examination of beliefs, values, and personal biases. Cultural knowledge is acquired to understand other cultural aspects. Cultural skills are abilities used to collect assessment information. Cultural encounters are direct interactions as learning situations. Cultural desire is a motivation to become involved in the learning experience.

Cultural competence is an essential part of the educational objectives for students in the health professions. …

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