Students laughing with the teacher

Understand culture and context

We understand culture and context by recognizing that innovation cannot be one size fits all. We engage others to develop solutions informed by the cultural wealth and unique, self-defined needs of the communities they impact.

Before launching into problem-solving mode, it is important to take time to understand the culture and context surrounding a change or innovation that we’re looking to make. This means genuinely listening to people, working to understand their experiences and digging into the relevant history, systems and structures to develop a richer picture.

Reasoning and practice

Engage in reasoning and reflection with the following questions to immerse yourself in this practice:

  1. How might you better understand the diverse strengths and lived experiences of people in the community in which you work?
  2. What are the strengths and cultural wealth of the community in which you are operating?
  3. What steps are you taking to understand learners’ culture and context?
  4. Are you approachable and are you approaching others and taking time to build relationships?
  5. Are you being as transparent as possible? In what ways can you be more transparent?
  6. How might you ensure you are listening first to understand before needing to be understood?
  7. How do you know you understand what the other person is saying?
  8. How do you show compassion towards others?


The activities and resources below were designed for individual and group development of the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to engage this practice.

Employ the use of stories and spaces to explore where we see and experience bias in our schools. This activity can be used with students in a classroom setting or adapted for other participants. The YouTube Video provides context for the activity, but personal experiences could be shared in place of the video.

Time required: 45 minutes

Active listening brings more clarity to communication and supports authentic relationships by creating conditions for people to feel valued and understood. This technique can improve our understanding of another’s perspective and help us to navigate conflict. Practicing active listening with a trusted friend is one way to prepare ourselves to better connect and empathize with other people in our lives.

Time required: 20 minutes