Cultural Competence

Cultural Competence in Evaluation | Resources


Cultural Competence may be defined as:

Cultural Competence in Evaluation

Despite recent efforts in a number of disciplines to address issues of culture, the evaluation field has lagged behind. Yet culture is an integral part of evaluation. Culture is present in evaluation in design, approach, implementation, and methods. A common thread between culture and evaluation is values, and since culture shapes values, beliefs, and worldviews, evaluation is basically an attempt to determine values, merit, and worth.

Culture is the embodiment of a world view transmitted through beliefs, values, and practices, including religious and spiritual traditions. It encompasses a way of living informed by the sum of forces acting on a group.

Understanding these underlying dimensions of culture leads to recognizing value differences and value conflicts. These go beyond simple demographics to include intergenerational, socioeconomic, and other group characteristics.

In the following table, Lee (1997) provides an example of how cultural differences lead to value contrasts.

Table 1 – Contrasting Values Underlying Cultural Differences in East and West
(Source: Adapted from Lee. 1997, p. 9)
Eastern Agricultural System: Values
of Traditional Society
Western Industrialized System: Values
of Modern Society
Family and group oriented Individual orientation
Extended family Nuclear or blended family
Multiple parenting Couple parenting
Primary relationship: parent-child bond Primary relationship, marital bond
Emphasis on interpersonal relationships Emphasis on self-fulfillment and self-development
Status and relationships determined by age and role in family Status achieved by individual’s efforts
Well-defined family member roles Flexible family member roles
Favoritism toward males Increasing opportunities for females
Authoritarian orientation Democratic orientation
Suppression of emotions Expression of emotions
Fatalism, karma Personal control over the environment
Harmony with nature Mastery over nature
Cooperative orientation Competitive orientation
Spiritualism Materialism and consumerism
Past, present, and future orientations Present and future orientations



  1. Thompson-Robinson, M, Hopson, R., SenGupta, S. (ed). (2004). In Search of Cultural Competence in Evaluation: Toward Principles and Practices. New Directions for Evaluation, no. 102. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


  1. Lee, E. (1997). “Overview: The Assessment and Treatment of Asian American Families.” in E. Lee (ed.), Working with Asian Americans: A guide for Clinicians. New York: Guilford Press.


  1. Cultural Competence Online. Cultural Competence Online provides information, resources, products for organizations, businesses, and training institutions.