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My Go-To Resources for Intercultural Learning Activities

intercultural activity Apr 17, 2019

Whenever I conduct train-the-trainer workshops with educators—whether on campus or through my online program, Foundations of Intercultural Learning & Teaching—I almost always have multiple people ask something like this:  “These are great activities you’ve done with us! Where can I find more activities like these?”

So this is a very practical post meant to answer that question. One caveat though—please remember that the effectiveness of an activity depends very much on the facilitation, not just the activity itself. And effective facilitation requires an educator to work on their own intercultural competence (see the July 2017 post for more info).

That being said, when you’re designing an intercultural orientation, training, or similar, you don’t have to recreate the wheel. There are tons of great resources where you can find intercultural activities to help you achieve your objectives. Do start with your objectives though, and choose activities that will help you meet them; if not, you’ll be completely overwhelmed by the possibilities! (For more about designing intercultural learning objectives, click here.)

Here are my go-to resources for intercultural activities:

BOOKS

The following three books are what I use more than anything, other than developing my own activities, which are often adaptations of things I originally came across in these books or elsewhere.

Building Cultural Competence, by Kate Berardo & Darla Deardorff (Eds.)
One of my favorite things about this book is the helpful index at the beginning that lists every activity, provides a summary, the key focus or objective, the target audience (maturity level), and level of challenge. This allows you to quickly and easily hone in on the activities that will best help you address your objectives for a particular audience, and avoid the potential overwhelm of a big book full of great activities. There are also two worthwhile chapters at the beginning on intercultural facilitation (by Janet Bennett), and designing and assessing intercultural learning experiences (by Jeanine Gregersen-Hermans and Margaret Pusch); don’t skip these!

52 Activities for Exploring Values Differences, by Donna Stringer & Patricia Cassiday
52 Activities for Improving Cross-Cultural Communication, by Donna Stringer & Patricia Cassiday
These are two of three books by Stringer & Cassiday containing numerous (52, to be exact) intercultural activities, (their other book, which you may also find useful, is 52 Activities for Successful International Relocation). Along with Building Cultural Competence, these are my go-to resource books, as their bookmarks and wear-and-tear attest to.

ONLINE RESOURCES

Admittedly, I love my books (just glancing through a book can give me great inspiration in a way a website never will) and enjoy marking them up—bookmarking, making notes about when and how I’ve used certain activities, adaptations I’ve made, and how the activities have gone—so I don’t use online resources as often. But the following are two resources I recommend.

Purdue University’s HubICL
HubICL is a free online “Hub for promoting intercultural learning,” developed by Purdue University. According to the website, “The HubICL is a collaborative space for intercultural specialists, teachers, and students to network, share information, and collaborate on research across institutions.” A major component of the HubICL is a searchable Toolbox, “a digital collection of intercultural tools to use in your classrooms or at programs and workshops.” Many of the activities in the Toolbox are actually pulled from elsewhere, including some of the books mentioned above. You do have to create a profile, but the resource is free. Once you log in, go to the ‘Digital Toolbox,’ which is under ‘Discover.’ Activities are listed in alphabetic order, but are searchable by a variety of factors, including which of the AAC&U VALUE Rubric outcomes they most address.

The Thiagi Group
Sivasailam Thiagarajan, Ph.D., who goes by “Thiagi,” is a game master, as well as a global nomad. He has published tons of books full of “games” that can be used for various types of trainings. Most of his activities are not necessarily for a specific audience or type of training, but can be adapted for a wide variety of contexts. Many are what you would call “frame games,” meaning the activity simply provides a frame for exploring a topic in a more interesting, fun way. If you have a certain question/issue you want to discuss with a group, or maybe want to survey your learners about something, Thiagi’s activities can help you come up with fun, engaging ways to do so. I highly recommend any of his books and activities, but they do require a bit more creativity in figuring out how to best use them to facilitate intercultural learning. In addition to his books, Thiagi has hundreds of activities (as well as other resources) on his website. The biggest challenge with the website is that there’s not really an easy way to find what you’re looking for unless you are familiar with his activities and can search by name. However, if you have some time on your hands and are looking for inspiration, this is a great resource.

True North Intercultural Blog
This blog is also a great place to find ideas and inspiration for intercultural activities! Click here to see a list of blog posts that discuss specific activities.

ADDITIONAL

While the books I discussed above are my favorites, there are others that may be more appropriate in different situations. Below are two additional books I would recommend, particularly if you’re working with learners with little familiarity with things intercultural, and/or you need more of a self-guided resource.

Figuring Foreigners Out, by Craig Storti
This is basically a DIY introductory workbook that does a good job of covering the basics of interacting across cultural differences. It can be used in a completely self-guided way, or the exercises could be used/adapted for group trainings or individual coaching.

Maximizing Study Abroad – Students’ Guide & Instructional Guide, University of Minnesota
Maximizing Study Abroad was a large-scale research project conducted at the University of Minnesota. One of the results of the study was the creation of these guides, one for students and the other for instructors. The student guide can be used in a self-guided way or combined with facilitation. The instructional guide is meant to serve as a companion to the student guide, providing language teachers and study abroad professionals with “both a solid understanding of language and culture learning theory and concrete ways to use this knowledge to support students in their skill development.” It features a tool kit of more than 100 hands-on activities for use in pre-departure, in-country, and re-entry initiatives for study abroad programs, as well as in language classrooms at home and abroad. 

CONCLUSION

So those are some of my go-to resources for intercultural activities. If your office doesn’t already own the books mentioned here, I highly recommend you invest in one or more!

Remember though, it’s not just about the activity, but also about how it’s facilitated. Be sure to start with the learning objectives, and facilitate the exercise in such a way as to achieve those objectives with your particular audience. Consider what kind of pre-briefing and debriefing are needed to achieve the learning objectives.

What are your favorite activities or resources? Please share in the comments section below!

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