Most people make assumptions when thinking about success. Culture shapes the way individuals respond to social and learning opportunities within the learning environment. As stated earlier in chapter one, individuals react differently to change and expectations. This is the point where you hear people begin to reference factors like grit, determination, and self-efficacy. In other words, if someone can tap into their personal skill set of superpowers, they will be successful. Deconstructing barriers is almost impossible in many cases due to the omission of cultural responsiveness. The current practices of cultural responsiveness create four common obstacles to cultural responsiveness and social and practical learning.
Barrier 1: Assumptions
We assume individuals can succeed regardless of circumstances within our current frameworks and institutional systems. Individuals from all socio-economic classes face challenges in the professional and educational setting. Bullying, depression, anxiety, isolation, and feelings of inadequacy, are prevalent as well, and ‘imposter syndrome’ is commonly associated with juxtaposed racial and cultural differences, however, such feelings do not fall solely along ethnic and racial lines. However, those noted feelings can originate from experiences of racism, marginalization, micro-aggression, prejudice, and prejudice.
The rejection of culturally responsive practices significantly limits academic success. Moreover, systematically marginalized and racialized students may not select assimilation because of the negative influences associated with the host culture (culture individuals are moved to). It also contributes to a rapid increase in acculturative stress.
Barrier 2: Lack of Affirmation
Educators may fail to effectively identify, recognize, and support individuals who experience acculturative stress. Strong self-concept, identity, and efficacy have been tied to affirmation within the learning environment as well as contribute to the decrease of acculturative stress. For instance, this is why something like representation matters.
The diverse representation of students affirms their likeness and value within the learning space. Affirmation is often molded within the learning environment prior to someone providing self-affirmation. Self-affirmation supports improvements in executing functioning, e.g., attention, thinking, knowledge, and perception. Little research has been conducted on the use of affirmation strategies in higher education, however, representation has been significantly discussed, which is most often referred to as visual affirmation or visual representation.
Barrier 3: Limited Access to Formal Assessment and Culturally Responsive Practitioners
According to the Labor Department in the United States (2020), the counseling and psychology profession is a predominately white profession.
Additionally, counselors and psychologists are not well-versed or trained in the nuances of culture and are quick to note that anxiety is generalized rather than culturally specific. The lack of mental health providers originating from marginalized populations contributes to the continuation of acculturative stress in learning environments. Individual experiences noticed cultural responsiveness was conspicuously absent from their therapists’ knowledge base including issues such as racism and discrimination
It should also be noted that many mental health professionals of color have been trained in a Eurocentric framework as well and are just more recently exploring culturally responsive counseling applications in higher education.
Barrier 4: Diversity vs. Disability
According to Collier (2011), educators have difficulty identifying cultural differences and often confuse or conflate them for learning disabilities. Equally, as problematic, learning disabilities may be generalized to cultural differences, when in reality, culturally responsive teaching and design strategies provide clarity where there is confusion. Under-standing cultural interventions and strategies for teaching cross-culturally have a significant outcome for systematically marginalized student groups.
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