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Reflections on Intercultural Learning & Teaching

2019: A Year of Purposeful Experimentation


2019 was a year of purposeful experimentation at True North Intercultural.

I started this company in 2016, providing intercultural consulting and training services to institutions of higher education. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what’s most effective in helping institutions achieve their intercultural learning goals. I’ve also learned what my own strengths are—intercultural training and coaching—and the magic that can happen when we work within our strengths. As a result, I've honed in on creating high-impact professional development programs that empower educators to more effectively foster intercultural learning. And I’ve learned a lot in the process.

In this (longer than usual) post, I’d like to share some of the highlights of 2019, what I’ve learned, and what the plans are for 2020.

2019 Highlights

We served a LOT of people. And they are doing amazing things! Through on-campus workshops, one-on-one coaching,...

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How to Get Professional Development Funding


In case you haven’t heard, True North Intercultural is now accepting applications for the (recently renamed) signature program, Facilitating Intercultural Learning. As a result, I’ve recently had a number of conversations with educators about how to secure funding for this type of professional development.

In this blog post, I’d like to share some tips in case you too are interested in developing your capacity as an intercultural educator, and need some talking points to help you get the necessary support and funding.


UNDERSTANDING THE TERMINOLOGY

Many people (and institutions) use phrases like ‘intercultural learning’ without necessarily defining what they mean. Below are a few key definitions that will help you explain what you’ll be learning through this program and how it will benefit others as well.

Intercultural competence is the ability to communicate and act appropriately and effectively across cultural differences.

Intercultural learning...

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Rethinking International Education (Free Live Webinar)

Next week, many colleges and universities will be celebrating International Education Week. Is your institution or organization doing anything special? If so, what? Would you classify any of it as being focused on intercultural learning? Why or why not?

What do you see as the relationship between international education and intercultural learning? Unsure? Do you see them as one and the same? Or is one the responsibility of student services, and the while the other falls within academic affairs?

I spent years working in the field of international education—first international student services and then study abroad. I pursued a PhD and “niched down” to focus on the process of developing intercultural competence through international education experiences (what I often refer to simply as “intercultural learning”). Now I focus on intercultural learning both inside and outside international education.

But I’ve noticed that there is very little...

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Recap of the CILMAR Intercultural Learning Leadership Retreat

Above (from top left, clockwise): Darla Deardorff, Kris Acheson-Clair, Dawn Whitehead, Hazel Symonette, Mick Vande Berg, Terrrence Harewood, Beth Zemsky, Leigh Stanfield, Amer Ahmed, my empty chair, Chuck Calahan. Also present, but not pictured: Annette Benson, Allan Bird, Chris Cartwright, Joenita Paulrajan.


Wow, my September was busy! One of the things I had the pleasure of doing was spending two days at an Intercultural Learning Leadership Retreat, organized by Purdue University’s Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment & Research (CILMAR).

CILMAR brought together a diverse group of intercultural educators to brainstorm about the future of professional development related to intercultural learning in higher education, and we enjoyed a lively discussion (and good company).

Although next steps have not yet been determined, I would like to share here three themes that stood out over the course of our two days together.


#1:  The importance of deep...

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The Trouble With Conferences


As the academic year begins for most of us, I want to ask: what are your professional development plans for the year?

And what is your institution doing this year to build intercultural capacity among faculty and staff, those who are most responsible for shaping the experience students have at your school?

At the risk of inciting some controversy, I want to strongly suggest thinking beyond standard professional development conferences. Don’t get me wrong—conferences are great for many things.

But if your goal is to develop intercultural capacity at your school or organization, conferences are not the best investment of professional development funds or time.

Here’s what conferences are great for:

  • Networking. Attending conferences is a good way to meet and maintain relationships with others in your field.

  • Presenting and sharing research. You can build your resumé and share your knowledge and expertise by facilitating a conference session or presenting your...
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Case Study: One Professor’s Intercultural Learning & Teaching Journey

Above: Professor Kelly Jameson (back row in white, holding the child in green) and fellow faculty, staff, and their families in Alnwick, England, where she recently led a nine-week study abroad program (and lived in this castle!).


In this post, I’m interviewing Kelly Jameson, Professor of Real Estate and Finance at St. Cloud State in Minnesota, about her own intercultural learning and teaching journey, and how it’s impacted her work.

I hope that Kelly’s story will inspire other educators—especially those in fields seemingly unrelated to things intercultural—to see how they and their students might benefit from learning about and incorporating intercultural learning and teaching into their work.

Kelly and I first worked together in spring 2017, when she sought out intercultural coaching due to the growing number of international students in her courses. In spring 2018, she went through the ten-week Foundations of Intercultural Learning & Teaching...

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Leaning into our Learning Edge During Intercultural Experiences

Above: My kids, learning (in Spanish) the basics of how to scuba dive.


At the beginning of summer, my spouse and two kids and I typically spend several weeks in Spain, where my spouse’s whole family lives. During our recent trip, I was reminded of the importance of finding and embracing our “learning edge” during intercultural experiences. And also how different that can be for each one of us.

My kids are currently ten and twelve. Anyone who is a parent of—or close with—multiple children knows how different their ways of engaging the world can be.

Our trips to Spain are great opportunities for me to observe my kids’ personalities and strengths in action, and also to see where the new and different starts to make each of them (as well as myself) uncomfortable. That’s what I call the “learning edge.”

In most of my intercultural trainings and online programs, I talk with educators about the importance of helping learners find their...

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Increasing Buy-In for Intercultural Learning

 

Recently, I sent out a survey to my audience to find out what your burning questions are around intercultural learning. One theme that I saw come up over and over in the responses is an issue around getting buy-in, both from students as well as from faculty, staff, and administrators. The question continually asked was: How do we convince others this is important? There seems to be widespread frustration that many students and educators don’t necessarily see the value of intercultural learning and training.

 

Re-Frame the Issue as an Opportunity to Practice Bridging Across Differences

I want to suggest that we re-frame the issue, not as one of convincing others, but one of bridging a cultural gap. This is an opportunity to use our own intercultural skills to communicate and act in ways that are effective and appropriate with people who have different perspectives and experiences than us.

Let’s try to move away from seeing the issue as one of “them not...

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The Art of Debriefing for Intercultural Learning


In last month’s blog post, I shared some of my favorite resources for intercultural learning activities. This month, I’m following up with a discussion about the importance of effectively debriefing those activities and other intercultural learning experiences. Because the learning really is in the debrief.

This is true whether the “activity” is an intercultural experience—such as a site visit during study abroad or an intercultural dialogue session on your campus—or an in-class activity such as one pulled from the resources mentioned last month.

The activity is where you set the stage. The debrief is where you dig into the learning. 

Why Debriefing is So Important

Experiential Learning Theory tells us that experience alone does not lead to the kind of deep, transformational learning that is the goal of intercultural education. As Kolb (1984) says, “Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of...

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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...

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