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Reflections on Intercultural Learning & Teaching

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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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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​Getting Beyond the Comfort Zone

Update: True North Intercultural now offers a FREE online training on this very topic! It comes with a useful activity and ideas of how you can use or adapt the activity in your context. Click here to enroll in the course now.

I likely never would have met my spouse if I had not consistently and intentionally pushed myself outside my comfort zone while studying abroad.

While spending my junior year of college in Sevilla, Spain, I had what you might call a mantra. I regularly reminded myself of a favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “Do one thing that scares you every day.”

For example, when I stood at the edge of the cafeteria in the residence where I lived one day and surveyed the room, these words rang in my head and inspired me not to sit with the other students from my program, but to instead approach two good-looking guys I had never seen before (go big or go home, right?) in order to make local friends and practice my Spanish. So I introduced myself (in...

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