Cultural assessment tools are used to identify aspects of the culture of a particular group of people. In this usage, culture refers to a belief system that is shared among many. The belief system can be in regard to peoples' feelings toward school curricula, such as on which subjects should or shouldn't be taught to students. By collecting this information, schools are able to make informed decisions to benefit the learning experience of students.
An effective way to gain insight about peoples' cultural preferences is through a cultural assessment survey. In the education system, surveys offer school board executives the chance to find out what types of cultures exist in their student demographic. To host a successful survey project, surveys should be mailed to students' parents with a self-addressed stamped envelope and a letter that explains what the survey is and what it shall be used for. Parents can use the envelopes to mail in their responses. It is important to include questions on the survey that capture the specific cultural components that you are interested in learning about. Some question examples are "Do you consider yourself a minority?" and "Do you believe your child's ethnicity is respected at school?" Additionally, providing a scoring system, such as a number scale or yes/no answers, is an easy way quantify the responses.
A focus group is a group that consists of employees, administrators, students, parents or customers, who have each volunteered to be a part of a particular study that the facilitator is conducting. When it comes to collecting cultural information, a focus group serves as an assessment tool that provides useful information. Facilitators use the focus group to ask questions and gain feedback on cultural issues. For instance, if a school is debating on whether to institute bilingual classrooms, questions related to the theory can be presented to the focus group and data from their responses collected and reviewed. Sample questions include "Are you for or against the integration of a bilingual classroom?" and "Do you think bilingual classrooms will improve or reduce the learning environment for students?" The answers the facilitator receives will give her insight into the types of cultures that exist within the group. Focus groups should be diverse enough so that the information the facilitator extracts is not biased.
Cultural Assessment Audits
Any school or organization can create an audit tool to capture information on a culture. An audit checklist can be created to ensure that certain areas are being reviewed during the process. School or organizational policies should be reviewed to assess the language on cultural fairness and and ensure that people with different cultural backgrounds are being treated equally. Visual observations can also be performed on the audit, such as checking to see whether signs are posted in English and in Spanish. If a school has all of its signs posted in English, but half of the students in the school are of a Hispanic culture, the school is not exemplifying cultural sensitivity. The results of the audit will determine whether a school or organization needs to make changes for improvement.
In an academic environment, questionnaires allow you to capture personal cultural information from parents and/or students that can be used to assess whether or not the school is operating in a culturally fair and equal manner. A questionnaire is a document that asks people questions about their personal history, experiences and educational backgrounds. Some questions may be "What is your primary language?" "Were your parents born in the United States?" or "What was your parents' highest level of education?" The answers should be reviewed to create sets of data that can be used to make school improvements. For instance, data from questionnaires may reveal that only 50 percent of students speak English as their primary language. Information such as this may cause school administrators to think of ways to make their school more bilingual-friendly, which, in turn, benefits half of the population of students.
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Kyra Sheahan has been a writer for various publications since 2008. Her work has been featured in "The Desert Leaf" and "Kentucky Doc Magazine," covering health and wellness, environmental conservatism and DIY crafts. Sheahan holds an M.B.A. with an emphasis in finance.