Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cultural Proficiency ~ Dr. Franklin CampbellJones

“The increased diversity in schools raises numerous questions about how teachers teach, students learn, and leaders lead.” – Linda C. Tillman, PhD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

SHAN: What is cultural proficiency?

DR. CAMPBELLJONES: The best way to describe cultural proficiency is that it is a state of mind where we respond to each other in a way where we appreciate one another’s culture. There is reciprocal space, where people look to understand one another.

Photos provided by Dr. Franklin CampbellJones and S. F. Renbarger.

Teachers and students play a game together.

SHAN: How did you become involved in this kind of work?

DR. CAMPBELLJONES: Growing up in the South, I had the experience of being one of the first students to attend an integrated school during the desegregation era. During this time, Dr. King was assassinated. I had the opportunity to witness the ugliness of hatred in our country.

I wanted to know why people do the things they do. What’s behind all those behaviors? I felt if you went deep enough, people would realize there is more to these discussions that could move us beyond initial fears. Maybe we have to deal with morality.

My work in this area slowly evolved.  I moved to California and went to work in a school system where I was asked to write a unit on diversity for the Beginning Teacher Support and Assistance (BTSA) program. Then I was asked to present to teachers. From there I was asked to do workshops and began working with the California Leadership Academy. Eventually, I went to WestEd where I worked with some very heavy-duty people like Delores Lindsey, then I began working with Randall B. Lindsey. A whole number of people were having this conversation (surrounding equity in our schools) – so I joined the conversation.

SHAN: How do you create a transformative experience for participants in cultural proficiency workshops?

DR. CAMPBELLJONES: It’s a journey. In a learning seminar, you use tools to create a safe space for open and honest discussion and exploration.  You look at barriers to cultural proficiency. There is also a cultural proficiency continuum that lets us know where we are and we can see our progress and growth.

There are certain ways we can assess our progress. First, we look at language. The way we communicate is a huge clue as to how well we are doing. When you hear someone use language like “those kids” versus “our kids,” you become aware that there is work to be done in coming together as one. What you want to hear is ownership and inclusiveness – empowering words (that can also empower kids).

Next we look at guiding principles for cultural proficiency. These are philosophical statements that help shape our vision toward the appreciation of others. These help to expand our horizon for a larger perspective.

After that the individual can reach a level where they grasp a perspective of inclusivity, the essential elements are employed to help us monitor our behaviors.

Then finally, we see an individual embrace the best of all worlds creating a stronger bond within relationships.

“I was reading this book and I thought it was about others – then I discovered it was about me.– a teacher

“The cultural proficiency framework represents a foundation for gaining knowledge and skills that will help teachers and leaders not only to become culturally proficient, but to view cultural proficiency as integral to good teaching and effective leadership.”
– Linda C. Tillman, PhD 

Most educators really want to do a good job working with kids. But what we see is what they know to do at a Skinnerian level. They’re reacting without thinking. Sometimes you get the impression teachers don’t want to get involved with their students. So you flip the relationship and you amp up their experience. You practice an inside-out approach. You help them reach a level of awareness so they can move forward. The “cultural proficiency journey” cuts across all the barriers we create to separate ourselves from one another. 

Drs. Franklin and Brenda CampbellJones.

I work with my wife, Brenda, who is one of my co-writers along with Dr. Randall B. Lindsey and Dr. Delores Lindsey. When we do professional learning sessions together, I always ask, how can I take the energy of the group and use it in a way that enhances their learning? One of the keys to working with people is to focus on the group before you begin attending to their needs. It isn’t about you. It’s about them.

SHAN: What are some of the success stories you can share?

DR. CAMPBELLJONES: In one school system, we were hired to work with a school board. Then we were asked to get the community involved. Soon we were developing administrative teams and working with teachers and administrators. Before long an entire department for cultural proficiency was created. The school system eventually institutionalized cultural proficiency into the teacher and administrative evaluation system as a formative assessment option.

We thought we’d be done in three years. It has now been seven years and we have taken on the whole school system of 85 schools.  Every staff member has gone through the training including bus drivers, janitors, and school secretaries.

Cultural proficiency is something everyone should get involved with in some sort of way. Ultimately, all organizations that care for people need awareness – whether you work in education or medicine or any other kind of work with the public – you should seriously consider it.

Special thanks to Dr. CampbellJones for making this blogspot interview possible.

Dr. Franklin CampbellJones’ bestselling book, The Cultural Proficiency Journey: Moving Beyond Ethical Barriers Toward Profound School Change, is published by Corwin Press ( and on Amazon.Com (

Shän Boggs is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. Her interests include science, technology, the environment, health, education, multimedia, and art.

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