8.2 Cultural Competence in Instructional Design

In our increasingly globalized economy and increasingly multicultural local contexts, consideration of culture is gaining attention among instructional designers and educational technology researchers. Dr. Patricia A. Young from the University of Maryland is one of the leading researchers in this area of cultural competence in instructional design.  Her work is based on a definition of culture as “the patterns of behavior and thinking by which members of groups recognize and interact with one another” (Scheel & Branch, 1993 as cited in Young, 2008b, p. 8). She identifies two trends in the development of communications technology – internationalization and localization – that have made consideration of culture salient.  Internationalization “seeks to eliminate culture, thus making the product one that can be used by all or a universal design” while localization “tailors products to the needs of a target audience” (Young, 2008b, p. 7).  Designers attempting to design for an international market may, for example, avoid humor, metaphor, and colloquial language in order to create a product that they believe will translate into any language and cultural context. Designers wishing to localize, on the other hand, would study the local context and target the product to fit that context.


Young (2008b) advocates a culture based model (CBM), “an intercultural, instructional design framework that guides designers through the management, design, development, and assessment process while taking into account explicit culture-based considerations (p. 107).  The acronym ID-TABLET represents the eight major areas of concern when incorporating culture into instructional design.  These areas are:

  • Inquiry – a series of questions for designers can use to constantly verify the product they are creating is appropriate for the audience
  • Development – design factors to keep in mind as decisions are made and problems solved during the development process
  • Team – decision making is a team effort including all needed areas of expertise, including a cultural expert
  • Assessments – assessments at all levels of the process, including ongoing critical evaluation of the assessment process itself and culture-specific assessments.
  • Brainstorming – guidelines for gathering input from multiple stakeholders during the design process
  • Learners – “support the learner’s cultural frame of reference while meeting the learning outcomes of the project” (p. 114)
  • Elements – elements of culture, as defined in a variety of disciplines such as anthropology and psychology
  • Training – providing product-specific and culture-based training to instructors

While the details of how this model is used is outside the scope of this chapter, the most important point to note is that it is not a mere “layering” of culture onto an existing ID model, but rather a new model that seeks to embed cultural awareness in each step.


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Foundations of Educational Technology Copyright © 2017 by Penny Thompson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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