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College of Professional and Global Education · School of Information

Seminar in Contemporary Issues - Cultural Competence for Information Professionals
INFO 281

  • Fall 2023
  • Sections 05, 17
  • 3 Unit(s)
  • 08/21/2023 to 12/06/2023
  • Modified 07/03/2023

Canvas Information

This course will be available on Canvas beginning August 21st, 6 am PT.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Contact Information

Dr. Michele A. L. Villagran
Phone: 626-703-1903
Office Hours: Virtual office hours & telephone advising by appointment.

Course Information

The iSchool utilizes a content management system called Canvas for class communications, submitting assignments, and grade records. This course will be available on Canvas. 

Weekly class sessions run from Wednesday through Tuesday of each week (with the exception of week one which is Monday through Tuesday). Weekly material and assignments will be visible in Canvas from the beginning of the semester for students' semester planning. Assignments are due TUESDAYS at 11:59 pm Pacific Time. NOTE: Set your calendars up to consider Pacific Time for due dates. Late assignments will not be accepted. 

Course Description and Requisites

Given the increasing diversity in our communities, information professionals need to develop the competencies required to work for and with diverse groups. This course is designed to prepare future information professionals to develop their cultural competence in order to be able to provide inclusive services to diverse populations. It explores cultural knowledge, skills, abilities, and attributes of cultural competence/intelligence in general.

This is a subject related to all areas of the information profession (i.e., preservation, collections, technology, communication, archives, programming, marketing, etc.). It is important regardless of which type of information organization (private, public, academic) students concentrate on and what type of position (information broker, archivist, librarian, records manager, data analyst, information architect, etc.). This course will complement the information conveyed in other courses. It is designed to introduce students to the theoretical and practical application of cultural competence when working with and serving diverse populations through all aspects of the information profession and allow for students to develop their own cultural competence.


INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204, other prerequisites may be added depending on content.

Classroom Protocols


Students are expected to participate fully in all class activities. It is expected that students will be open-minded and participate fully in discussions in class and debate in a mature and respectful manner. Use of derogatory, condescending, or offensive language including profanity is prohibited. Disagreement is healthy and perfectly acceptable. Expressing disagreement should always include an explanation of your reasoning and, whenever possible, evidence to support your position. In accordance with San José State University's Policies, the Student Code of Conduct, and applicable state and federal laws, discrimination based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability is prohibited in any form.

Program Information

Course Workload

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group; contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Goals

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes) Supported

INFO 281 supports the following core competencies:

  1. C Articulate the importance of designing programs and services supportive of diversity, inclusion, and equity for clientele and employees.
  2. O (For students entering from Spring 2015 onwards) Understand global perspectives on effective information practices that are supportive of cultural, economic, educational, or social well-being.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe cultural dimensions, cultural factors, bias and how they could affect effective information services, training, programming, organizing and other efforts in the information profession.
  2. Describe cultural competence knowledge, skills, abilities and attributes, and employ these to strategies within a selected information environment in order to recognize, appreciate and support differences and similarities of culture of patrons, employees, stakeholders.
  3. Compare frameworks and models of cultural competence and intelligence. Identify best practices for application within a selected information environment.
  4. Develop and apply an action plan of strategies for improving one's own cultural competence.

Course Materials


No Textbooks For This Course.

Course Requirements and Assignments

Reflection Paper #1

Students will participate in an assessment to learn about their own implicit biases. Students will reflect upon their results and write a paper addressing their reactions to the IAT assessment, agreement/disagreement with the results and why, and how being aware of your own biases is important in the workplace. (Course Learning Outcomes: #1)

Reflection Paper #2

Students will participate in an activity with a cultural group or underserved population with which they do not identify and then reflect on their own experience afterward. Students will write a paper defining their cultural group, discussing the venue, and summarize their feelings and thoughts during participation [A list of potential populations is provided in the course] (Course Learning Outcomes: #1, #2)

Research Paper

Students will research association guidelines/standards and write a paper related to their findings (see the list of suggestions within the course). Are there any specific to cultural competence? If so, review and report what else you would add. If not, draft brief association guidelines/standards for your type of information organization. Review week 1-2 again for ideas on terminology and history within the profession. (Course Learning Outcomes: #2, #3)


Students will delve deeper into an area of cultural competence/intelligence covered in class or another that is discovered on their own and focus specifically on how they feel it relates to an area(s) of the information profession. Students will need to clear their own topic with the instructor before you begin. Students will deliver a 5-minute lightning talk - this requires PowerPoint or other media presentation. The goals are to 1) create a presentation that clearly and accurately describes the topic and makes a compelling argument as to how said topic is/should be incorporated into practice, 2) clear and appropriate use of presentation/media, 3) evidence the presentation has been informed by the literature and class resources, and 4) adheres to time limit. (Course Learning Outcomes: #1, #2, #3)


Students will be required to agree that they will take several assessments (i.e., Implicit Association Test, Cultural Intelligence Scale), and may submit results with their assignments to their instructor. Results will not be used beyond the class without a student's permission. The Cultural Intelligence Scale is a $25 cost per student, which students will directly pay through the CQC portal. (Course Learning Outcomes: #1)

Discussion Posts

Students will research and explore various topics related to cultural competence and reflect on them in discussion posts. Students will author eight (8) discussion posts of 200 words, each minimum, including introductory and final reflective posts. Six (6) discussion posts have a guided topic for students to explore (see Discussion Topics below). Some discussion posts will be two parts (your initial response of minimum 100 words and a response of 100 words to a scholar in the course). (Course Learning Outcomes: #1, #2, #3, #4)

Discussion Topics

  • Values
  • Cultural Competence Continuum
  • Interaction with a cultural group
  • Value orientations
  • Cultural action
  • Leading across cultures

Final Paper

Students will complete their cultural intelligence personal development plan within their feedback report. Students will write a final paper minimum of 2500 words in length; the reference list should have at least 10 sources, and the formatting should follow the APA Publication Manual Style (7th ed.). (Course Learning Outcomes: #1, #2, #3)


Assignment Point Value

Due Dates

Reflection Paper #1-2

Research Paper

25 points each (75 total)

See Course Calendar & Weekly Module Schedule below and Canvas Assignments Page

Presentation 25 points  
2 Assessments 10 points each (20 total)  

8 Discussion Posts

10 points each (80 total)  
Final Paper 50 points  

Due dates will not be changed under any circumstances. Please communicate with Instructor if you are in a documented personal health or family crisis that might impact your work. Check the course site daily for announcements and discussion posts.

Grading Information

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100A
94 to 96A minus
91 to 93B plus
88 to 90B
85 to 87B minus
82 to 84C plus
79 to 81C
76 to 78C minus
73 to 75D plus
70 to 72D
67 to 69D minus
Below 67F

In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA) level work;
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, or BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9 (PDF), relevant university policy concerning all courses, such as student responsibilities, academic integrity, accommodations, dropping and adding, consent for recording of class, etc. and available student services (e.g. learning assistance, counseling, and other resources) are listed on the Syllabus Information web page. Make sure to visit this page to review and be aware of these university policies and resources.

Course Schedule

Course Calendar & Weekly Module Schedule (subject to change with fair notice)


Module Topic

Assignment & Activities

Using a Wednesday to Tuesday week [except first week]

Spring semester begins August 21.

Week 1: August 21-29 [this is Monday to following Tuesday]

Cultural Competence/Intelligence: An introduction

Discussion Post #1 due Tuesday, August 29 @11:59 pm PT

Week 2: August 30-September 5

(Labor Day: September 4)

History of Discussions about Cultural Competence/Intelligence in Library and Information Professions

Importance of Values

Values Wheel

Discussion Post #2 due Tuesday, September 5 @11:59 pm PT

Week 3: September 6-12

Implicit (Unconscious) Bias

Assessment: Implicit Association Test

Reflection Paper #1 due Tuesday, September 12 @11:59 pm PT

Week 4: September 13-19

Cultural Competence frameworks and models

Discussion Post #3 due Tuesday, September 19 @11:59 pm PT

Week 5: September 20-26

Application in different types of information organizations (private, public, academic)

Research Standards

Research Paper due Tuesday, September 26 @11:59 pm PT

Week 6: September 27-October 3

Cultural Intelligence Framework

Assessment: Cultural Intelligence Scale due Tuesday, October 3 @11:59 pm PT

Week 7: October 4-10

CQ Drive (Motivation): Intrinsic interest, extrinsic interest, self-efficacy

Discussion Post #4 due Tuesday, October 10 @11:59 pm PT

Week 8: October 11-17

CQ Knowledge (Cognition): Cultural-general understanding, context-specific understanding

Cultural Experience

Reflection Paper #2 due Tuesday, October 17 @11:59 pm PT

Week 9: October 18-24

Cultural Value Orientations

Discussion Post #5 due Tuesday, October 24 @11:59 pm PT

Week 10: October 25-31

CQ Strategy (Metacognition): planning, awareness, checking


Week 11: November 1-7

CQ Action (Behavioral): speech acts, verbal and nonverbal actions

Discussion Post #6 due Tuesday, November 7 @11:59 pm PT

Week 12: November 8-14

(Veterans Day: November 10)

Application in different areas of the information profession (i.e., preservation, technology, communication, archives, marketing, etc.)

Presentation: 5-minute lightning talk due Tuesday, November 14 @11:59 pm PT

Week 13: November 15-21

Cultural Competence & Leadership

Discussion Post #7 due Tuesday, November 21 @11:59 pm PT

Week 14: November 22-28

(Thanksgiving Holiday: November 23-24)

Action Plan


Week 15: November 29-December 5

Final Reflections

Final Paper due Tuesday, December 5 @11:59 pm PT

Discussion Post #8 due Tuesday, December 5 @11:59 pm PT

Week 16: December 6-12

Course Wrap Up

SOTES and Review