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...
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...
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...
Last month marked the three-year anniversary of me leaving my stable, full-time job to start True North Intercultural. Reflecting on the journey so far, I’ve noticed a striking number of parallels between intercultural learning and entrepreneurship. I’ve realized that the work I’ve done around my own intercultural development has actually helped me as an entrepreneur.
And so, in this post, I’d like to discuss how intercultural learning has contributed to my success in building a business. The reason I share this is because I think there are a lot of people who don’t see a connection between intercultural learning and their discipline or area of work. They assume intercultural learning is only about interacting more effectively with people from different cultures.
While that’s certainly an important goal of intercultural learning, developing our intercultural competence also involves building skills that are useful in tons of other areas of our...
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about values. Earlier this month, my spouse left a high-paying job with no idea what his next step will be. In fact, the same day he left his company, he also left the country for the rest of the month.
The reason he left is because he’d realized he was no longer living in alignment with his core values, primarily family and freedom.
My spouse was born and raised in Spain, which largely shaped his attitudes and values surrounding work, money, and family—attitudes and values that don’t always square with corporate America, especially a high-stress job that requires him to be physically present the vast majority of the time. He has come to realize that while he is happy to work hard, he needs a job that gives him independence and flexibility to be more present for his family.
This misalignment has become increasingly obvious to him as our kids get older and the years away from family in Spain—including aging parents—add...
One of the things I enjoy most about my work—especially about facilitating the ten-week online Foundations of Intercultural Learning & Teaching program—is that I get to develop relationships with amazing educators, help them explore connections between their own work and intercultural learning, and then watch as they go on to apply what they’ve learned in unique, intelligent, and transformational ways.
This past fall, I was honored to be invited to co-facilitate a session at the POD (Professional and Organizational Development) Network conference with Lillian Nave, an alum of the very first cohort of the Foundations of Intercultural Learning & Teaching program. When I heard more about how she’s not only integrating intercultural learning into her teaching, but also making connections between intercultural learning and another important area of her work, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), I knew I wanted to interview her for this blog.
Above: At my Ph.D. commencement in 2013 with advisor, Dr. Michael Paige, and my daughter (who I was pregnant with when I first started the program).
The field of intercultural education lost one of its founders—and I along with many, many others lost a wonderful mentor and friend—when Dr. Michael Paige passed away earlier this month.
You don’t have to look very far to find Michael’s impact on the field (and I highly encourage you to read his work if you haven’t; a few suggestions are listed at the end of this post), but I would like to use this platform to share a little about what I will remember most about him, and to create a space where others can do the same.
In 2006, I was working as an international student advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and had decided I wanted to pursue a PhD to further develop my capacity to help people and educational institutions maximize the learning opportunities inherent in intercultural...
Are you feeling frustrated, dismayed, disillusioned, angry, sad, or powerless about the current state of the world? If so, you’re certainly not alone. But my experience at two conferences recently gives me hope and makes me believe we may actually be able to play a part in turning the tides…
Last week, I attended a regional NAFSA (Association of International Educators) conference, followed by the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) biennial conference. As I reflected on the week, I came to a powerful realization: we are in the midst of shift—both as a society, but also within higher education—when it comes to the role of intercultural learning. While developing intercultural competence was once seen as a “nice to have,” growing trends in our society are now forcing individuals and organizations to recognize such capacities are actually “need to haves” and to begin to do something about it.
Let me explain why I...
If you haven’t yet noticed, I love learning and growing as an educator and human being. And I enjoy sharing that learning with others who are also passionate about their personal development.
That’s why, when I recently heard about the work my friend and colleague, Dr. Kami Anderson, is doing with HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to better equip students of color with a global mindset, I knew I wanted to interview her for this blog.
Dr. Kami Anderson is an interculturalist, scholar, and language advocate. An HBCU alumna herself, Kami partners with HBCUs to help more students of color develop a global mindset. In addition, as Founder and CEO of Bilingual Brown Babies, she’s created an online program that meets Black families where they are in their journey to bilingualism. Kami holds a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Spelman College, a Master’s degree in International Affairs/Interdisciplinary Studies in International...
In this fifth and final post in a series highlighting how different institutions are supporting intercultural learning, we examine some of the themes and lessons learned from these institutional spotlights.
If you haven’t yet read the previous posts in this series, I’d encourage you to do so before you continue reading (but if you seriously just want the Cliff Notes, I understand; I wrote this post especially for you):
The following are some of the key lessons we can learn from these institutions:
The importance of supporting faculty and staff’s intercultural learning. Augsburg, Purdue, and Taylor are all focused on developing the intercultural capacity of faculty and staff, and have shown that doing so can have direct, positive impacts on students’ intercultural learning.
In the Wofford example, we saw how participating in...
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