Culture Brokers & Community Liaisons: Aiding Diverse Learners

Instructor: Kathryn Lawson

Kathryn has a doctorate in clinical psychology and a master's degree in criminal justice. She has experience with college instruction and staff training.

In this lesson, you will learn about the effectiveness of using culture brokers and community liaisons to reduce barriers and help students from various backgrounds achieve greater academic success.

Different Expectations

Ms. Williams is a dedicated education professional, committed to helping her students succeed. She is therefore eager to partner with parents and caregivers to enhance learning.

Now, Mr. Gaber is a devoted parent, invested in his child's education and careful not to infringe on the educator's expertise in that arena.

It's easy to see how both parties may become frustrated because of a mismatch in their expectations. Ms. Williams is looking for more active involvement from Mr. Gaber, and Mr. Gaber is trying to facilitate learning by not interfering.

Though both parties share the same goal, they are using different maps to reach that goal. As the population of the United States becomes increasingly racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse, what can educators do to bridge the gap? This is where culture brokers and community liaisons come into the picture.

The Role of Culture Brokers

Sue is a culture broker, an individual who is aware of the norms and values (and fluent in the language, if applicable) of a target community. She is committed to forging links and addressing the differences between the educational establishment and the community served.

More than simply a translator of language, Sue is a translator of behavior and can shed light on unspoken assumptions and expectations. A culture broker may explain the school personnel's expectations to parents in a way that is both understandable and acceptable to those parents.

A basic obstacle to successful communication can be language itself. Even among parents who speak English well, some nuances may be lost. Written communications may be unusable to those who are verbally skilled only.

Another obstacle may be simply varying culture-based assumptions. People with different life experiences will have different knowledge bases. For instance, a parent with limited formal education may not know how to navigate the school system and connect to resources.

Finally, a culture broker may be able to identify unacknowledged barriers and work to overcome them. For example, Sue knows that George and Maria do not have a car, so they can't attend the parent-teacher conference nights. Sue might arrange for the school to have chartered transportation for them and any other parents who would participate if they could simply get there.

Culture Brokers Vs Community Liaisons

Many people and organizations use the terms 'culture broker' and 'community liaison' interchangeably, but some organizations reserve the term 'culture broker' for those who are interacting with a racial or ethnic minority or immigrant population.

In that case, community liaison may refer to individuals who serve communities with special needs that are not linked to race or ethnicity, such as visual or auditory impairments, or developmental disorders.

For example, Jack is a community liaison for the community of deaf or hard of hearing individuals. He may intervene when he notices Ms. Williams's well-meaning placement of these students near the front of the class. Depending on the acoustics and the amount of classroom discussion, this placement may not serve students well after all.

For both culture brokers and community liaisons, the role involves helping the target population interact effectively with the educational establishment in order to increase the probability of student success and genuine engagement.

Who Are Culture Brokers and Community Liaisons?

Now that you know what culture brokers and community liaisons do, you may be wondering who they are. The culture broker or community liaison can be a volunteer, member of the school system itself, hired professional, or family member within the target population.

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