Joanna has taught high school social studies both online and in a traditional classroom since 2009, and has a doctorate in Educational Leadership
The Purnell Model
As a new teacher in a new community, you want to connect to your students and to find ways for them to connect to you. You are from a different racial and ethnic demographic, so finding that point of reference is going to be tricky. You want to ensure that you avoid any potential landmines that may offend unintentionally, but you are wholly unsure as to how to proceed.
Luckily, Dr. Larry Purnell and Betty J. Paulanka developed a model that can be used by anyone, including teachers, to maximize and utilize the many different cultures and communities that are present in the modern-day classroom. The Purnell Model explains that culture is the unconscious way learned within our families, in which we develop our behavior, values, customs, and thought characteristics that guide our decision-making, and the way we view the world around us.
Cultural competence is the process of becoming aware of our culture, and how we communicate that awareness to the rest of the world. The Purnell Model for Cultural Competence is a sequence of circles or rings that each contain the development of awareness of culture, and how it continues to expand from the family to the whole world.
The first ring of the model holds the person, the second the family, and the third the community. The outermost ring holds the global community. Different subsections inside each ring account for evolution in the individual's cultural competence that include occupation, religion, education, politics, ethnicity and nationality, and gender. According to the model, all of these different subsections and circles continue on until the individual is culturally competent or aware.
The Model for Teachers
The Purnell Model is used in many different professions and organizations, but it is most associated with the healthcare profession and nurses. However, teachers can use the tenets of cultural competency in their classrooms as well.
Cultural competence is important for those in the healthcare profession, so that they understand and respect the cultural differences of their patients, so that they don't allow their own personal beliefs to interfere with the level of care they give to those they treat. Teachers, too, need to be culturally sensitive to their students to give them the best level of education possible and free from bias.
Teachers can also assist their students in their own process of becoming culturally aware and competent by modeling. Cultural awareness is understanding your own thoughts, feelings, and bias, so that you are aware of how they affect your interactions with others.
Teachers should be aware of their own feelings, so as not to transmit any bias to their students. As students make their own way through the Purnell Model, teachers play an important role in aiding this process, but only if they are culturally aware themselves.
Cultural Sensitivity and Stereotyping
Cultural sensitivity and stereotyping are both parts of the Purnell Model. Cultural sensitivity is both verbal and nonverbal language that exhibits a person's appreciation and understanding for the diversity of another person. Stereotyping is when we use our experiences with diverse populations to develop prejudices and cultural insensitivity.
Studies completed on the Purnell Model and healthcare professionals have shown that stereotyping and prejudice lead to differences in the levels of care that patients receive. Teachers should be aware of this danger as well in their classrooms when their students are from diverse communities.
When teachers fail to see beyond their own stereotypes of the cultural heritage of a student, they do that student a disservice, as well as their own selves. Teachers should strive to not only become culturally competent, but to assist their students to become culturally competent as well. By recognizing instances of stereotyping and cultural insensitivity in themselves, teachers can be a helpful tool in helping their students do the same.
The Purnell Model for Cultural Competence is a sequence of circles or rings that each contain the development of awareness of culture, and how it continues to expand from the person, to the family, to the community, and finally, to the global community.
This model can be used by teachers in the same ways in which it is used for healthcare professionals: to assist them in giving the best education possible to a diverse classroom free from prejudice and cultural bias. Teachers interested in using the Purnell Model in their classrooms can keep the following in mind:
- Cultural competence is understanding not only your own beliefs and values, but those of students from diverse backgrounds.
- Cultural awareness is identifying one's own biases and prejudices, so that they can be avoided when dealing with their students who are culturally different.
- Cultural sensitivity is identifying one's own verbal and nonverbal language, and how it can transmit bias and prejudice or cultural awareness with their students.
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