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Reflections on Intercultural Learning & Teaching

From the Margins to the Center: The Shifting Role of Intercultural Development in a Polarizing Society

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...

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Practicing Intercultural Competence at the Holidays

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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The #1 Thing You Can Do to Help Students Navigate Cultural Differences

Have you ever wondered how you can better help your students navigate cultural differences (at home or abroad)? I’ve been asked this question by many educators, and my answer often surprises them.

Without hesitation, I would encourage you to first focus not on your students’ learning, but on your own intercultural development. Research and my own experience both strongly suggest that an educator’s degree of intercultural competence impacts how they help students learn through intercultural experiences.


The Intercultural Development Continuum

Before I explain why it’s so important to first focus on yourself, let’s explore what intercultural development entails. Intercultural competence can be defined as the ability to communicate and act appropriately and effectively across cultural differences. Effectively means we achieve what we set out to achieve. Appropriately means we do so in such a way that any other parties involved feel respected.

Intercultural...

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