Cultural intelligence in the classroom plays a crucial role in education for students and teachers. Understanding culturally based beliefs and practices can impact educators' teaching methods and students' learning and performance.
Teachers are the key to bolstering cultural intelligence (CQ) in the classroom. Developing CQ helps educators to engage in diverse educational settings. By increasing their CQ and cultural competence, educators support their students to do the same. It also informs their lesson design to prepare students for an inclusive, multicultural world.
What Is Cultural Intelligence (CQ)?
Cultural intelligence signifies a person’s ability to relate, communicate and work with others in culturally diverse situations. CQ goes beyond cultural sensitivity and awareness (although those are also important). Someone with a high CQ can quickly adapt and feel at ease in academic, business and social environments that include people from various cultures and ethnic backgrounds.
CQ involves appreciating and respecting a person from a different culture and embracing the benefits that cross-cultural collaboration brings to the task at hand. CQ is critical for success for working adults in an increasingly diverse nation. But cultural competence and CQ are also crucial for students in the classroom and engaging in society.
5 Ways to Develop Cultural Intelligence in the Classroom
Teachers can improve CQ in their classrooms through various strategies. The following are evidence-based tips teachers can incorporate in their classrooms.
Encourage and Model Respectful Behavior
Educators can use mini-lessons that teach students empathy-building skills, including critical thinking, perspective-taking and respectful communication. They can also consistently model these skills and praise students who show empathy, respect and compassion for others.
Emphasize What Students Have in Common
While respecting students' differences is essential, it’s also beneficial to point out the shared identity that brings them together. For example, while children in a classroom might come from different backgrounds, they share the common traits of being in the same grade and have come together to learn.
Promote Equitable Relationships
Teachers must stay alert for “power language,” or words that show the speaker feels inferior or superior to a peer or peer group. Educators should remind students that no matter where someone is from, there is always something to learn from them. Students should view those from different backgrounds and cultures as friends to learn from, not subjects to learn about.
Approach Differences With Kindness
While students should feel comfortable noticing differences between themselves and their peers, they should look at these differences with kindness and curiosity to learn more. Students should always discuss differences respectfully. Many students may say something they are unaware is offensive, so teachers may want to talk privately with them.
Overcome Generalizations and Stereotypes
Inaccurate generalizations and unfair stereotypes lie at the heart of the negative attitudes some people harbor toward those of other cultures. Students may, unfortunately, become exposed to these ideas among family or friends away from school. Teachers can help counter this by encouraging students to use critical thinking skills and consider the traits of the person they have met in class, not generalizations about their ethnic group.
The Fresno Pacific University CQ Course
The Cultural Intelligence in Education course from Fresno Pacific University offers educators the opportunity to earn professional development credits, expand their CQ and learn how to help students develop their own. The flexible online program allows teachers to schedule classwork around their busy professional and personal schedules.
Educators in the course develop a personalized plan to increase their CQ level and gain competence to function effectively in diverse educational settings. They also design lessons to lead others in their understanding and growth in cultural intelligence. The class incorporates interactive scenarios, videos and roleplay to enhance the learning experience.
Student outcomes from the course include:
- Clarifying personal culturally or ethnically based values, beliefs and practices, including worldviews
- Articulating the education system's complexities associated with diverse student populations
- Developing strategies addressing the educational needs of culturally and ethnically diverse populations
- Demonstrating the application of professional values for education in the classroom and other educational settings using CQ
- Creating a personal growth plan, including experiential strategies, to increase cross-cultural competence personally and in the educational field
A teacher from Georgia who completed the course commented that “this course has made me a better educator. It has equipped me with knowledge and tools to implement in my classroom to better serve ALL my students.” A California teacher said the course was “super helpful for introducing me to new ways to consider bias.”
Completion of the course is applicable toward earning a Social Emotional Learning Certificate.