Skip to main content

Cultural resilience: A framework for promoting assets

kate-walker.jpgMinnesota's educational achievement gap between whites and students of color has been narrowing, but remains one of the highest in the nation. To more fully address youth's learning and gaps in academic performance, we need to redefine educational excellence in a global society.

To be successful in school now and ready for college and careers later, young people need to develop a range of skills that extends beyond traditional academics. Content knowledge and academic skills are important, but it is also critical that youth learn how to work well with others, persevere when faced with challenges, and recognize when a new strategy is needed to solve a problem. These social and emotional factors are critical to young people's success, and they can be developed through diverse life experiences and overcoming hardships or struggles.

On Oct. 2, Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz will share a framework for creating a rigorous inclusive environment with a diverse community and reframe the concept of equity issues from a deficit approach to an asset-based approach by identifying the skills young people gain from their diverse life experiences and translating them into success within and beyond the classroom. For those who want to dig deeper, on Oct. 3 Dr. Arauz will facilitate a training for those working directly with young people. You can register for either event or both on our website. This symposium and training is part of our series dedicated to understanding social and emotional learning and its contribution to closing the achievement and opportunity gaps.

Dr. Arauz' work on cultural resilience outlines five competencies derived from life experiences that can be correlated to 21st century skills:
  1. Acculturation - The ability to survive one's environment by analyzing two or more cultural contexts that show various perspectives, observations, and experiences.
  2. Navigation of borders - The ability to survive and navigate a continually changing environment.
  3. Inter/Intra cultural communication - The ability to effectively communicate with an individual from a different cultural background.
  4. Teamwork - The ability to place a priority on the needs of the group by effectively influencing and being influenced, while collaborating with others to accomplish a group task.
  5. Creative Self-Expression - The ability to solve problems creatively that do not necessarily have a solution.
What critical skills do you see young people developing from their diverse life experiences? What life experiences may result in the development of cultural resilience competencies? As someone working with and on behalf of young people, how might you prepare them to thrive in a global society?

-- Kate Walker, associate Extension professor and Extension specialist, youth work practice

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc. -- as well as spam.
Print Friendly and PDF


  1. Great post! I'm curious to what degree you think this requires a dual paradigm shift? In other words, to what degree does this require society to adapt the traditional measures of success to accept culturally relevant skills and knowledge, as well as the recognition on the part of individuals about how their culturally-specific skills and knowledge can be applied to society's traditional measures of success?

  2. I am looking forward to the October 2nd event with JuanCarlos Arauz on cultural resiliency and taking an assets approach.
    As I think about the opportunities as well as challenges that cultural diversity brings to the process of social and emotional learning I am struck with the need to build in, as Dr. Arauz has, specific dimensions of culture.
    For example, while one's cultural identity is often not particularly visible or important to dominant culture folks (like my white, middle class male self), they are very often a critical part of identity for youth in many so-called minority cultures here. Being aware of oneself and one's cultural identity as well as learning to navigate relationships and getting things done when your culture has been systematically oppressed or described in negative stereotypes matters. It adds a complexity as well as sophistication in social and emotional learning that should have value.
    In what other ways does culture come to affect our ways of being, relating, and doing things -- from what one needs to be aware of to what one has to navigate in these everyday areas of life?

  3. Thanks for raising an important question, Sara! What’s most compelling to me about Dr. Arauz’ work is that it holds up and values the skills marginalized youth gain from their diverse and challenging lived experiences as something that needs to be recognized and accounted for in order to better engage them in learning. Certainly young people should nurture their own cultural resiliency and learn how to transfer these strengths and talents into 21st century skills. But it seems to me the onus is on us – educators, youth workers, society – to adopt strength-based strategies. As I write this, it reminds me a bit of the Capabilities Approach (Joanna Tzenis blogged about this a while back) that focuses on what opportunities we as a society need to ensure young people have rather than just which competencies we need to ensure they develop. What do you think?

  4. Thanks for weighing in, Dale! Your “dimensions of culture” comment reminds me that we talk about culture and SEL on a lot of different levels. It can be an issue of language/terminology, of beliefs and values, of cultural bias in measurement, etc. Obviously our cultural perspectives shape the ways we see ourselves, how we relate to others, and what we think is important. So when we think of strategies and approaches to explicitly teach, model, facilitate and measure social and emotional learning skills and competencies, we want to do so in ways that are responsive to and relevant for the diverse population. I’m hoping Dr. Arauz’ visit will help spark interesting conversations and shape how we move forward in Minnesota.


Post a Comment