Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Administration and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Kent Seidel, Ph.D.


Cultural competency, Cultural proficiency, Intercultural sensitivity, International schools, Student engagement, Third culture kids


This exploratory study investigated teachers' cultural competency and their students' engagement within international high schools located in Hong Kong. Cultural competency is defined as a combination of knowledge about cultural groups as well as attitudes towards and skills for dealing with cultural diversity (Betancourt, 2003). The literature indicates that cultural competency will continue to play an increasingly important role in the professional work place as culturally diverse people become more interdependent. When examining the classroom experience, cultural competency equates to a teacher's ability to successfully instruct and engage culturally different students.

The students in this study reported over 30 different nationalities. Many of these students were internationally mobile and lived outside of their home country for a significant portion of their lives. As Third Culture Kids, these students grew up between cultures and reflect our global society (Pollock & Van Reken, 1999). In turn, the teachers in these international schools worked with a culturally diverse population of students. An unsubstantiated assumption follows that as educators increase their cultural competency, student engagement and achievement also increases. Thus, this study sought to determine if a relationship exists between teachers' cultural competency and their students' engagement.

The study involved 70 high school teachers and 520 high school students within two international schools in Hong Kong. Two survey instruments were used to measure teacher cultural competency and student engagement. The Multicultural Awareness Questionnaire (Culhane-Pera, et al., 1997) measures cultural competency along three subconstructs: knowledge, skills and attitude. The Student Engagement Survey (Skinner, 1991) measures a four factor model of engagement. A quantitative analysis determined several salient findings. International school teacher perceptions of their cultural competency are primarily in an ethnorelative frame. The study also revealed that teacher self-reported cultural competency does not have a significant correlation with student engagement. However, students' perceptions of their teacher's cultural competency does bear a strong positive relationship with student engagement.

This study has ramifications for both educators and researchers. There are recommendations for instructional practice and school leadership. As a foundational study, additional research is required to further explore the impact of teachers' cultural competency on student success.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Erin Nicole Robinson

File size

238 p.

File format





Education, Multicultural education