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On Measuring Cultural Competence: Instrument Design and Testing



This research paper presents a novel instrument that measures the cultural competence of computing students. Cultural competence first emerged in social work and counseling psychology, and has extended to disciplines such as healthcare, where graduates are expected to effectively render services to clients and patients from all identities, especially vulnerable populations. However, several limitations with current instruments that measure cultural competence render them impractical for adoption in computing. While computing graduates do not work directly with clients and patients, the technologies they develop also directly impact people (especially vulnerable populations) in ways that range from uncomfortable to life-threatening.

The instrument was developed in two phases. The original 42-item instrument was mapped to five constructs. Within each phase, internal consistency was determined via Cronbach’s α, followed by item-to-item and item-to total correlations. Principal component analysis determined the number of latent dimensions, and principal axis factoring identified meaningful data interpretations. Item revision, redistribution, and analysis in phase 2 resulted in a 25-item instrument that loaded onto four factors (Skills, Attitude, Self-Awareness, and Knowledge) with internal consistencies of 0.75, 0.82, 0.76, and 0.80, respectively.

While the instrument is not designed to be an intervention, it can be used to measure the impact of specific interventions on improving not only cultural competence, but also department climates (especially in longitudinal studies). Since the instrument was developed to be less discipline-specific than traditional ones measuring cultural competence, it also allows for broader use across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.


Computer Science, Computing, Diversity, Equity, Identity, Publications, Research