Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

The Fine Line between Cultural Competence and Bias

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

The Fine Line between Cultural Competence and Bias

Article excerpt

The need to consider cultural factors and their influence in psychological research and practice requires us to consider the ways in which we view different cultures in our collective society. As Ingraham and Orka (2006) point out, culture includes ways of thinking, patterns of behavior, norms, traditions, and routines that have transformed and transcended through time and generations. However, most researchers rely on basic demographic data to describe such complex concepts. To define culture through simple means of numbers representing socioeconomic status, geography, age, and gender oversimplifies cultural identity and overlooks variability within groups (Coleman & Wampold, 2003). Reliance on statistical descriptors without considering the variability of experiences and perspectives held by individuals greatly increases the use of stereotypes and faulty conclusions about different groups (Ingraham & Orka, 2006).

Helping school psychologists become familiar with diverse groups must be done with the basic premise that generalizations about a group of people cannot be made. As stated in the NASP Practice Model, steps toward understanding an individual's difference within a cultural group must be taken into consideration. There must be an understanding that the criteria for individuals to be categorized into groups across gender, ethnic, racial, and other constructs must be flexible and afford individuals the self-determination to identify (or not) within those groups. An awareness of what it means to characterize an individual based on one's own perception of how that individual may identify with certain groups, versus discussing what are true, historical, or factual realities of some individuals, may be a starting point to addressing such topics as working with CLD students. It is also very important to clearly articulate and emphasize intragroup differences that exist.

Overall, there is a fine line between being culturally competent and biased. Traversing this line requires courage. We applaud NASP, Communiqué, and all authors who have published about working with CLD groups. Indeed, it seems that the quality of the literature about working with CLD populations has improved. For example, recent articles, such as Harper et al. (2016) and Goforth and Hasson (2016), underscore the importance of considering individual differences and the value in following a strength-based approach to working with diverse groups. …

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