Adult educators internationally are being asked to transform the pressures of cultural diversity in their classrooms into opportunities for all learners in the Information Age. Good teachers not only convey a body of knowledge to their students, but they are also aware of how to convey that knowledge by connecting their own experiences with their students’ experiences of the world. Only by the instructor understanding and respecting the students’ language, culture, and knowledge will students be able to achieve optimal academic success to build their future. The challenge today for all adult educators is to develop a personal action plan for cultural competence that helps to ensure their classrooms are grounded on respect for cultural diversity and academic achievement for all.
Adult educators must first begin with a working definition of culture and understand all of the various dimensions of culture when establishing a cultural knowledge base. One definition states “culture is an integrated pattern of human behavior which includes but is not limited to—thought, communication, languages, beliefs, values, practices, customs, courtesies, rituals, manners of interacting, roles, relationships, and expected behaviors of an ethnic group or social groups whose members are uniquely identifiable by that pattern of human behavior” (Gilbert, Goode, & Dunne, 2007, p.14). “Culture is a system of collectively held values, beliefs, and practices of a group which guides decisions and actions in patterned and recurrent ways. It encompasses the organization of thinking, feeling, believing, valuing and behaving collectively that differentiates one group from another. Values and beliefs often function on an unconscious level” (Goode, Stockalingam, Bronheim, Brown, & Jones, 2004, p. 14).