Reflections on Intercultural Learning & Teaching

Equipping Students of Color with a Global Mindset

Sep 25, 2018

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...

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Lessons Learned from Institutional Approaches to Intercultural Learning

Aug 27, 2018

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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Spotlight on Wofford College’s Intercultural Living & Learning Community

Jul 24, 2018
This post is the fourth in a series highlighting how different institutions are supporting intercultural learning. While previous posts have looked at institution-wide approaches, this one discusses one particular project—an intercultural living and learning community—developed by two professors at Wofford College, an independent liberal arts school with approximately 1,700 students in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
At Wofford, first-year students can choose to participate in a living and learning community (LLC), which means they live together while taking two classes linked by a common theme. In Fall of 2017, professors Dan Mathewson and Britt Newman, who teach religion and Spanish respectively, teamed up to offer an intercultural-themed LLC, and invited me to partner with them in the process.
Origins of the Intercultural Living & Learning Community
Mathewson has taught an introductory religion course at Wofford for many years and is always...
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Institutional Approaches to Intercultural Learning Series: Spotlight on Taylor University

May 21, 2018
This is the third post in a series highlighting how different institutions are supporting intercultural learning. This month, the spotlight is on Taylor University, a non-denominational Christian liberal arts college in rural Upland, Indiana, with just under 2,000 students.
According to the university’s website, approximately 80% of students have an overseas experience while at Taylor. Short-term faculty-led programs are growing rapidly, with Taylor sending about 15% of the entire student population on such programs (referred to as “global engagement experiences” at Taylor) each January the past few years.
For that reason, Dr. Charlie Brainer, Associate Dean of International Programs, explains, “Increasing faculty intercultural learning and expertise in leading student groups abroad is vital to our efforts.” In early 2017, Brainer reached out to me about partnering with True North Intercultural to build the intercultural capacity of...
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Institutional Approaches to Intercultural Learning Series: Spotlight on Purdue University

Apr 22, 2018
I often get asked by educators, “What are other schools doing to foster intercultural learning?” So I’m answering this question with a blog series highlighting several institutional approaches to intercultural learning.
For background on how I’m defining intercultural learning (hint: it’s about much more than learning about other cultures), see last month’s post, which featured Augsburg University, a smaller, private school in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
This month, the spotlight is on Purdue University, a state school with more than 40,000 students in West Lafayette, Indiana.
A Focus on Developing Intercultural Competence at Home and Abroad
In late 2011, Dr. Charles Calahan, then a faculty member at Purdue, was asked to take on a new position that would focus on developing intercultural competency both on campus and through more intentional, targeted study abroad efforts.
Calahan, whose title is now Assistant...
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Institutional Approaches to Intercultural Learning Series: Spotlight on Augsburg University

Mar 19, 2018
I often get asked by educators, “What are other schools doing to foster intercultural learning?” So I’ve decided to answer this question with a blog series highlighting several institutional approaches to intercultural learning. In this month’s post—the first in the series—the spotlight is on Augsburg University.
Defining Intercultural Learning
First, let’s define intercultural learning, an often-misunderstood concept. Intercultural learning involves developing one’s intercultural competence. Intercultural competence can be defined as the ability to communicate and act appropriately and effectively across cultural differences. Effectively means we achieve our aims. Appropriately means we do so in such a way that any other parties involved feel respected.
Learning about other cultures is not the same as intercultural learning. Ideally, as one develops their intercultural...
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Examining the Syllabus as Cultural Artifact

Feb 26, 2018
Have you ever stopped to consider how your syllabus—and even your institution and country’s educational system—is influenced by cultural values, beliefs, and assumptions?
Our educational institutions—and everything we do within them—are socially and culturally constructed.  We all have beliefs, values, and assumptions when it comes to what “good” and “bad” education look like, and it’s important for us to reflect on what those are, where they come from, how they shape our work, and how they might be perceived by and impact others.
But where to start?  How about with your syllabus!
Examining the syllabus as a cultural artifact is a helpful exercise for educators to deepen our own self-awareness and create more inclusive communities on our campuses and in our classrooms.  In addition, it can be a great activity to do with students who are studying in another country so they can examine their own...
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Challenges & Practical Realities of Assessing Intercultural Learning

Jan 21, 2018
In November I facilitated a webinar entitled, “Assessing Intercultural Learning: Beyond Assessment Tools.” Due to the high interest in and positive reception of that session, I decided to also write a blog post on the topic.

In this post, I discuss some of the challenges involved in assessing intercultural learning, and share the webinar slides, which contain practical examples of ways to address these issues.
Formative & Summative Assessment
First of all, it’s important to distinguish between two primary types of assessment—formative and summative—and think about the role both play in intercultural learning.
Summative assessment is typically given after the instruction or learning experience is over. It provides information about what has been learned. The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.
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Practicing Intercultural Competence at the Holidays

Dec 18, 2017

Winter break is almost here, and many of us will soon be gathering with family and friends to celebrate various holidays. These holiday gatherings can be a lot of fun, but they can also be stressful. One reason is because they oftentimes require us to engage with people with whom we don’t always see eye to eye.
I’d like to invite you to re-frame the holidays as an opportunity to practice intercultural competence, and perhaps build some bridges and promote peace in the process.
Two difficulties that even fairly interculturally competent people oftentimes have (see the July 2017 blog post for more information about developing intercultural competence) are applying their intercultural skills when engaging with people who have a more polarizing (“us” vs. “them”) approach to cultural differences and when engaging with close family or friends. Yet intercultural competence is relevant not just when traveling abroad or...

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Thankful: Foundations of Intercultural Learning & Teaching Program a Success

Nov 27, 2017
Happy belated Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate this holiday! As an interculturalist, it can be a bit difficult for me to reconcile celebrating a holiday that is related in some way to one group of people taking over another peoples’ land (that’s a conversation for another blog post). So I try to focus on what I am thankful for and how I can do my small part to help prevent such things from happening in the future.
I’ve been reflecting this Thanksgiving on all that I’m thankful for, not only in my personal life, but especially since leaving my steady international education job to begin True North Intercultural LLC, and the recent success of the Foundations of Intercultural Learning & Teaching professional development program.
This company started as an idea in the back of my mind while I was working as the Academic Director of Intercultural Learning with CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange). I was developing...
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