Saturday / June 22

What Facilitators Do To Guide Teams To Excellence With Equity

76731_9781483386980This is the third of a three-part blog series contains excerpts from the book Guiding Teams to Excellence With Equity. In this post, author John Krownapple describes standards for culturally proficient facilitators of professional learning and organizational development. Read Part 1: The Need for Excellence With Equity and Part 2: Facilitators Help Us Move Forward Toward Excellence With Equity.

Any facilitator of professional learning who is committed to goals of high expectations for all, equity, cultural competence, and diversity and inclusion has a responsibility to work in a manner consistent with those goals. Otherwise they risk contradicting and betraying the core values of the work. Therefore, the Cultural Proficiency Framework is useful for facilitator reflection and improvement of practice. Their degree of Cultural Proficiency becomes a measure of their effectiveness.

This is true for all leaders of professional learning, and not just those serving groups explicitly focused on Cultural Proficiency or diversity, equity, and inclusion in general. Just as culturally proficient PK–12 educators aim to serve all students well, facilitators of professional learning communities (regardless of whether their focus is math, reading, or other) should aim to provide inclusive and equitable service to every participant by facilitating in a culturally proficient manner. Furthermore, the primary ethical goal of any PK–12 educator—including curriculum or professional development specialists—should be excellence with equity in education.

To that end, the Cultural Proficiency Framework becomes pragmatic means. To assist facilitators with reflection and goal setting, two of its components are especially useful: the essential elements and the continuum. The essential elements operate as standards for culturally proficient facilitation, and the continuum provides language to illustrate varying degrees of harmful-to-effective facilitation relative to the standards. Chapter 10 of Guiding Teams to Excellence with Equity provides a facilitation rubric that employs these two components.

For now, Table 7.1 makes the essential elements operational for facilitators. The right-hand column describes five standards for culturally proficient facilitators. As a contrast, the left-hand column offers language that represents an alternate and unhealthy paradigm where a leader of professional learning instead chooses to adopt the stance of a diversity trainer who focuses on “them” and provides less than culturally competent service to teams and workshop/seminar participants. From left-to-right, the table provides language to describe movement away from training people about diversity (or any other subject) and toward facilitating a group’s Cultural Proficiency journey.


Table 7.1   Facilitation for Cultural Proficiency




Informed by Barriers to

Cultural Proficiency


Tolerance for Diversity:

The focus is on them.





Informed by Guiding Principles of

Cultural Proficiency


Transformation for Excellence with Equity:

The focus is on our practice.

The trainer/presenter…


Assumes the stance of content expert and presents information and strategies about how to work with cultural groups.



Purges, demeans, or discounts differences (voices other than trainer’s own, different perspectives, diverse strategies, and cultural differences) when presenting about diversity.



Establishes authority; sets the agenda, presents the content; and avoids inquiry, conflict, and divergent thinking. Uses episodic or isolated events and activities.


Responds to requests for diversity trainings with standard presentations that adhere to the agenda set by trainer.


Implements train-the-trainer trainings, maintaining control and/or group dependency on the trainer or the trainer’s trainings and materials.

The facilitator…


Models authentic engagement in learning about one’s own individual and organizational culture and what is necessary to facilitate the Cultural Proficiency journey.


Values differences: inclusive environments and learning, participant voice, diverse perspectives, and a variety of facilitation strategies. The facilitator helps a group focus on understanding personal and organizational response to differences, the need for redressing inequity, and the benefits of inclusion.


Models vulnerability, engenders trust, and engages with authenticity to foster brave space. Builds collective efficacy for inquiry, dialogue, conflict resolution, creative problem solving, and moving through stages of the journey.


Customizes learning experiences and intervenes with moves, strategies, and energy that help the group progress on its journey.


Builds organizational leadership capacity and capabilities to facilitate Cultural Proficiency. Facilitator incorporates policies, procedures, and practices that ensure culturally proficient professional and organizational development.

Deliberate practice and quality feedback over time will establish new habits within the paradigm described in the right-hand column of table 7.1. Part III of Guiding Teams to Excellence with Equity provides cases, tools, concepts, and reflective and dialogic activities to support educators who are aspiring to develop as culturally proficient facilitators. With the help of such facilitators, we can transform our schools into systems that work well for all of our children in support of a fair and just society.

Written by

John Krownapple specializes in facilitating professional learning and organizational development focused on social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. Since 2007 he has led the development and implementation of one of the first and most comprehensive Cultural Proficiency programs in the United States. John continues to administer this program for the Howard County Public School System (Maryland) in his role of coordinator for Cultural Proficiency, where he has guided movement toward inclusion and equity for a variety of teams and groups: organizational leaders, staff members, partners, government officials, students, and families. In his book Guiding Teams to Excellence with Equity: Culturally Proficient Facilitation, he offers professional development leaders knowledge, skills, and dispositions for facilitating Cultural Proficiency in their organizations. As an educator for two decades, John has served as a district office administrator, professional development facilitator, curriculum specialist, and elementary teacher. He is also an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and McDaniel College.

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