Friday, June 5, 2015

A summer of intercultural journeys begins... Madrid awaits!

You know how teachers get at the end of the school year? The anticipation, the countdown, the desperation for a break? That's exactly how I was feeling about a month ago. Happily, the semester ended, I finished all the grading, and the university parking lots cleared out. A couple weeks ago, I attended graduation, hugging each of this year's nearly 20 grads who earned their Bachelor's degrees with a minor in Speech-Language Pathology.

For university educators (and many K-12 teachers, as well), summer break is just a myth. That is, the end to teaching does not mean the end of work. In fact, everyone seems to have a huge list of summer projects: data to analyze, papers to write, conference proposals to submit. My focus this summer is a bit more hands-on (and fun!): intercultural learning and development. Even though I have personally experienced intercultural learning, I am just now studying the theories and research related to it. Delving into this field is important, due to my involvement with global service learning and the development and teaching of related courses at my university.

I began the summer by co-presenting at the NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo, in Boston, last week. NAFSA focuses on all things international/global in education: study abroad, global service learning, advocacy, international student services, and social responsibility in international education, for example. It was my first time at this conference, and I loved it! My goal was to learn how to better prepare students, as well as how to develop sustainable projects for our college's global service learning in Guatemala. I learned so much about research on cultural competence, how to engage students in international contexts, dimensions of culture, and potential ways to bridge cultural chasms.

The Expo at NAFSA: Candyland for international education junkies

Next on the agenda is a CIEE Faculty Development Seminar on Intercultural Development, in Madrid, Spain. I can't wait! There has been quite a bit of preparation for the seminar. For starters, I took the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a well-established, valid tool for assessing and coaching intercultural development. The IDI experience included a 12-page profile and a one-hour, individual debriefing with a trainer. Results show that my perceived level of intercultural development (acceptance) is higher than my actual level (minimization). No worries, though, as I also received a lengthy, individualized development plan to help me move to the next level.

The IDI continuum. See 
One thing I learned already, and it may seem obvious (but since I'm a minimizer I tend to think everyone is the same), is that everyone's goals for international education are different, and that everyone is in a different place in their own intercultural development. Thus, in planning global service learning experiences and preparing our students, we need to start where they are and have realistic expectations of what they will get out of the experience.

A few other things I have been exploring in the area of intercultural learning:

1. The Hofstede Center: A tool that allows you to compare two countries on 6 cultural dimensions. Obviously, this is not all you need, but it's a great start.

2. I think I've already mentioned this, but it's a valuable resource for global service learning research and practice. They also have a blog.

3. Developing cultural mindedness: A guidebook for generating stronger intercultural service. After attending an IARSLCE webinar on global service learning, one of the participants, Kathryn Burleson,  emailed me with this excellent tool, which she developed.

4. Purdue University's Passport to Intercultural Learning (PUPIL), recommended at NAFSA, a strong model for how institutions of higher education can promote students'  intercultural learning.

5. Vande Berg, Paige, and Lou's (2012) book, Student learning abroad: What our students are learning, what they're not, and what we can do about it. I read a couple chapters for the CIEE seminar, and it's a worthwhile read. It was also recommended at NAFSA.

6. For those of you looking for research articles, the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning (from U. MI), current issue, has a special section on global service learning.

In a future blog, I'll talk about strategies for developing/practicing intercultural awareness and communication. Stay tuned for touristy posts from Spain, as well. ¡Nos vemos en Madrid!

Enjoying Boston at the NAFSA Conference

No comments:

Post a Comment