The Federal Government, as part of its Diverse Australia Program, supports Universities in developing cultural competence (including English Language proficiency), thus positioning them to take an active citizenship and leadership role in the local, national and international community.
The forces of globalisation and internationalisation have also required universities to find new ways of revitalising the overall student experience to ensure graduate attributes are aligned with the requirements of dynamic employment markets and social responsibility.
The increasing cultural diversity of Australian society generally, and of the student population of the University of Western Australia in particular, poses both opportunities and unique challenges. Intakes of fee-paying international students at UWA have increased significantly within the past decade. The presence of greater numbers of international students at UWA has added to what was already a diverse student population.
UWA has identified “cultural competence” as an important attribute and has been proactive in addressing it within the University environment. Cultural competence involves a developed understanding of race and cultural diversity in an Australian and global context. This Good Practice Guide on Cultural Sensitivity in Teaching and Assessment addresses one facet of cultural competence as it relates to the campus community and supports recommendations in:
The development of cultural diversity good practice in teaching and assessment provide an opportunity to improve quality within the University. The question around which these guidelines revolve is: ‘How might the University successfully balance its commitment to cultural diversity with its status as an English-language institution?’
Therefore UWA is committed to equipping staff with the necessary skills to assist students from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds (which could include domestic, international and Indigenous students) in progressively improving their English language abilities, while remaining culturally sensitive.
UWA acknowledges the following:
The University has purchased the licence to a nationally-recognised Cultural Diversity and Inclusive Practice Toolkit from Flinders University. The Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (CATL) is currently in the process of adapting these materials to suit the UWA context (scheduled for adoption in late 2009). The Toolkit is a resource designed to develop intercultural capacity among both academic and professional staff and contains useful tips and information to enable staff to monitor their ‘practice’ within the classroom, across the counter and beyond. The Toolkit is focussed on four core activity areas – teaching and learning, research, leadership and administration and community – with practical suggestions in each that make a significant contribution to creating a vibrant, flexible and creative university learning environment.
CATL, Equity and Diversity Office and Research Services provide a range of professional development opportunities for academic and teaching staff to improve cultural competence, such as specific workshops (e.g. Foundations of Teaching and Learning, and Introduction to University Teaching), discrete workshops and ‘tangential’ material embedded in generic courses (e.g. Research support workshops) and ‘Courageous Conversations about Race’ workshops. These interactive workshops provide various tools to stimulate and inform the conversation, and help participants think through the myriad ways race affects our lives and our professional practice.
In addition, Organisational and Staff Development Services (OSDS) provide workshops, primarily for general staff, on customer service, management and leadership training and systems and support. The Library and Student Services also provide support and training for staff and students where the Cultural Diversity Toolkit resources can be used.
A UWA Teaching Fellowship that utilises the CDIP Toolkit will be implemented to further embed cultural competence within the curriculum and broader student and staff experience. The Fellowship will produce a ‘Courageous Conversations about Race’ Resource (with an emphasis on teaching and learning), implement a campus-wide ‘Courageous Conversations’ Champions Program and promote the ‘practical’ application of the UWA-CDIP Resource in the Faculties, Teaching, Learning and Student Support Services community, UWA Library and Residential Colleges.