Thursday, January 7, 2016

Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

Most educators are familiar with the Four Cs, explained here by the National Education Association:
America’s system of education was built for an economy and a society that no longer exists. In the manufacturing and agrarian economies that existed 50 years ago, it was enough to master the “Three Rs” (reading, writing, and arithmetic). In the modern “flat world,” the “Three Rs” simply aren’t enough. If today’s students want to compete in this global society, however, they must also be proficient communicators, creators, critical thinkers, and collaborators (the “Four Cs”). Students need to master additional subject areas, including foreign languages, the arts, geography, science, and social studies. Educators must complement all of those subjects with the “Four Cs” to prepare young people for citizenship and the global workforce.
As we ponder the skills and knowledge our students need to lead meaningful lives in a global society, I offer the concept of cultural intelligence -- CQ -- as a lens through which to look at our preparation of students. CQ is "an individual's capacity to function effectively in situations characterized by cultural diversity" (Rockstuhl et al, 2011, p. 827). Optimally, high CQ means a person will:
  • be consciously aware of differences before and during interactions, and question their own assumptions;
  • be knowledgeable of norms and practices in different cultures through education and experiences;
  • be intrinsically motivated to learn about different cultures and have confidence in his or her ability to be interculturally effective; and
  • be flexible and adapt to use appropriate words and actions when interacting with people from other cultures
(Rockstuhl et al., 2011). Before turning to how might we build or cultivate CQ, I'm guessing that some of you may be asking, "what on earth does it have to do with innovation????"

CQ implicates the concept of diversity. The world beyond the borders of Forest Hills looks different; a comparison between the self-identification of our students and national figures reveals the following:

FHPS  2014-15 (MI School Data Report)
UNITED STATES 2014 (U.S. Census Bureau)
American Indian or Alaskan Native
African American
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
Two or more races

Globally, other countries do not categorize or collect race and ethnicity data in the same way we do, but global population information published by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2004 shows this profile:


According to Forbes, Inc.:
Diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale.  Senior executives are recognizing that a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds is crucial to innovation and the development of new ideas. When asked about the relationship between diversity and innovation, a majority of respondents agreed that diversity is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation.
So we know the what and why of CQ and its connection to innovation, but how might we seek to increase our students' CQ?

First, by ensuring that behavior is in alignment with our core values and beliefs:

Each of us individually, and our organization as a whole, must continually self-assess and realign or recalibrate as needed.

Second, with a strong, common foundation, we can upshift our climate and our teaching and learning. This does not mean that great things are not already happening -- they are! But to become truly exceptional, as students, as staff, as an organization, and as innovators, grounded in diversity and equity, this lens asks us to focus on a transformational upshift. As we continue to lead from where we are, we will embrace our collective responsibility for the climate in our schools and in our district. As we continue to integrate the Instructional Framework and grow professionally, we will work to transform pedagogy and curriculum. We look to affirm and understand multiple identities and perspectives.

This is the opposite of being color-blind or neutral to any other categorization. We decide to consciously focus on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexual identity so that we can recognize any broad or systemic disparities in our policies or practices and bring them into alignment with all of our guiding principles (Milner, 2012). In addition, we can continue to cultivate a supportive culture with:

  • flexible school norms and values that allow students to express themselves in the manner of their choosing and still be recognized as academically successful;
  • an inclusive school community that helps students and staff feel welcomed and supported;
  • teachers and school leaders who initiate conversations about race and racism, religious freedom, sexual identity, and gender issues in an appropriate and safe way, and take proactive measures to address incidents when they occur; and
  • teachers and other staff committed to all students by encouraging and supporting them on an individual level
(Venzant Chambers & Hudgins, 2014). Again, this is not a judgment on past or present efforts, but just a different lens.

I have no idea if CQ will ever take hold in K-12 education as it has in the post-secondary world and the workplace. I merely offer it as an alternative way to consider our innovation efforts.

Join the conversation...
How might the concept of CQ resonate with you?


  1. Great thinking! Thank you for adding to the conversation. I am excited to see how the concept of CQ can support all learners in FHPS!

  2. As we elevate our consciousness, we elevate our potential to do great things. Thank you for adding CQ to our dialogue around supporting all learners in FHPS.

  3. As we elevate our consciousness, we elevate our potential to do great things. Thank you for adding CQ to our dialogue around supporting all learners in FHPS.

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  5. Thank you for this! It's a good reminder to incorporate the concept of CQ regularly. We do (almost) daily class meetings. We begin by giving compliments and appreciations. I think that I can be more aware of teaching cultural intelligence during these meetings, and my guess is that I will see the results of that come out in the compliments and appreciations.