Cultural Competency of Teachers and Student Success

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Cross-cultural, or intercultural, miscommunication has become a very significant need for educators in today's global village. Successful cultural communication skills are important in a multicultural learning environment, mainly for those individuals who would be in positions that require effective management of cultural conflicts. This might interfere with effective learning and second language acquisition. The unique features of multicultural education and society at a top notch institute such as the DLI provide very good opportunities to military American students to develop an appreciation and positive reception for cultural differences and effective intercultural communication skills. This study is mainly devoted to illustrate how the teachers' awareness of the major cultural differences between Arab and American can improve the learners' progress. Pointing at these differences will help both the instructor as well the learner in creating healthy learning environment. In the same time, in minimizing any classroom conflict that might impair and negatively impact the learners. This research paper focuses on individual and conceptual dimensions of cross cultural communication. It aims at minimizing the sensitivity regarding intercultural interactions. In other hand it provides helpful guidelines to developing a better understanding of our cross-cultural experiences among American military learners and Arab instructors at the DLI.


Educators and students, generally, from different backgrounds may be challenged to address the ranging diversity of cultures in a classroom setting. The question at hand is this: how significant is the teachers' cultural competency in eliminating classroom conflicts and ensuring the students success? What are the themes and images that resonate across nationalities and cultures, which can be used to more efficaciously, construct an instructional framework for second language acquisition? This grounded theory study will illustrate the effect of cross culture implication in the process of learning Arabic. As well the role of the teachers' cultural awareness in creating healthy learning environment that ensured their success. Data will be collected through a variety of methods including observation, interviews, and document review, with sufficient safeguards to ensure study reliability and validity. Following the data collection, the study will seek to identify and propose better solutions to minimize any cross culture conflict that may lead to better success among the learners. In the same time, it may be applicable to enhanced learning in second language acquisition classrooms.

Nature of the problem

In this study a question of how culture is conceptualized and manifests itself in the classroom communication will be addressed. The intention is to attempt to summaries contributions from the field of intercultural and cross-cultural communication that will help in moving towards the best approach to teach the learners and minimize the class conflicts. Also the arguments that were reviewed will enable researchers to analyze, from a broad viewpoint, the relationship between the teachers' culture competency and communication issues that implicate the learners' success.

Social Significance

This study may serve to identify possible methods to enhance the educational experience of American military students as they interact with Arab teachers in the classroom. Beyond the academic and programmatic benefits gained from enhanced interactions among students and instructors from different backgrounds, the soldiers will be able to understand the nature of Arabs when diploid and the progress to provide future cross-culturally skilled communication in a conflicted global environment.

Literature review

First, the role of culture in intercultural communication is examined. a brief presentation of the history of cross-cultural and intercultural communication as a research field, and then continue by presenting an sketch of the fundamental idea of culture as it is applied in studies of intercultural communication. Some approaches which are currently used in studying culture were introduced as well. Moreover, an outline on how cultural research and qualitative research intersect conceptually is discussed.

The next section is devoted to focus on the role played by culture in class conflicts. In particular, and using a very generic approach, some theoretical contributions are presented which illustrate the role that culture plays in determining the appropriate approach by the educator for the best learner interest, the interpersonal climate which is established, and the language through which the world of facts is approached. The section does not examine specific techniques or strategies but rather it identifies some elements which may influence the way culture enters and influences the teaching and learning process.

Literature review

Culture can have a great impact on the way people (and learners) behave in particular situations, on the way they interact with their environment and peers and on the meaning they give to a specific concept or symbol (Hofstede, 2001). In this respect, in cross-cultural studies, this relation between cultural membership and concept/symbols interpretation is obvious.

According to Kashima [2000], there are two schools of thinking when it comes to defining a culture. Some researchers see a culture as "a process of production and reproduction of meanings in particular actors' concrete practices (or actions or activities) in particular contexts in time and space". For others, it is a "relatively stable system of shared meanings, a repository of meaningful symbols, which provides structure to experience". As we can see, a major distinction between those two definitions is the way culture is seen as a static or dynamic system but both definitions agree on the fact that culture and concept/symbol interpretation are closely linked.

In a community like the DLI, speaking about the instructors and learners nature, where they both come from contradicting cultures. As most intercultural communication scholars tend to view the Arab and American cultures as cultural opposites. The instructors are representatives of Middle Eastern culture, which comprises 22 different countries. And learners represent the American culture with its diverse ethnicities and minorities. Contrary to popular belief, learning a foreign language is not simply about being able to speak it. It is about understanding and experiencing another culture and society, and, through this, broadening your own perspectives and outlook on the world.

Due to the vast differences between the two culture clashes and conflicts constantly arise between instructors & learners. "In order to understand the causes of classroom cultural conflict, an understanding of the different cultural patterns between Eastern (i.e., Arabs) and Western (i.e., North Americans) cultures is a must" (Al-Issa, 2003).

Depiction on the literature of educational anthropology and intercultural communication, classroom conflicts are caused by differences in cultural patterns. Cultural patterns, as defined by Samovar and Porter (2001) are "the conditions that contribute to the way in which a people perceive and think about the world, and the manner in which they live in that world" (p. 58). Among the major cultural differences that contribute to the class conflicts is individualism versus collectivism, high-context versus low-context cultures and the individual personal space. Although there are many value dimensions awarded to low-context and high-context cultures, individualism and collectivism.

Tomlinson and Masuahara (2004) provide a very discrete explanation to concept of cultural awareness as distinct from cultural knowledge. "Cultural knowledge (that is, information about the target culture, its typical patterns of behavior and its attitudes) is likely to be 'external', 'static', 'stereotypical' and 'reduced'; that is, it tends to be knowledge that is passed on to a learner from someone else, rather than arising from the learner's own experience; it reflects broad generalizations often based on a narrow selection of evidence. Cultural awareness, then, is an approach to culture which emphasizes not information about a culture but skills in exploring, observing and understanding difference and sameness, and perhaps most centrally, 'suspension of judgment, i.e. not being instantly critical of other people's apparently deviant behavior' (Tomlinson and Masuhara, 2004:7). So promoting to cross-cultural awareness is getting learners not only to understand 'difference' in the target language culture, but also to explore ways in which what is familiar to them might be experienced as different by others; what Tseng (2002:12) refers to as 'perspective consciousness'.

Rogerson-Revell defends the provision of some cultural information as 'an important building block' in developing a framework for understanding cultural differences and similarities.

This paper will focus primarily on those which impact the relationship between teacher and student in a university setting.

Although this discussion will focus on identifying common characteristics within

cultures, in order to avoid the frequent trap of stereotyping, we must remember that within any

given culture, individuals differ in their beliefs and practices. In other words, it would be

erroneous to assume that any one culture is totally a high-context or a low-context culture. A

great deal has been written on the topic of distinctions between the characteristics of people in

the Arab world (see. esp. Almaney, 1981; Almany & Alwan, 1982; Meleis; 1982; Barakat, 1993;

Nydell, 1996; Feghali, 1997; Al-Issa, 2003) and people in the Western/North American culture

(Stewart & Bennett, 1991). The current debate acknowledges the many variations between the

two cultures, but goes further in order to search for and establish some common grounds.

Individualism-collectivism dimension.

Perhaps one


As fellow teaching practitioners, there is still a great deal to discover in the field of adult education. In the meantime, as practitioners, students we can begin benefitting from what we know, and increase the benefits of adult education, by using traditional (pedagogy) learning techniques as well as incorporating an Andragogy approach. In either case be proactive so that your adult teaching and learning experiences provide the greatest value to you and your colleagues.

Build in action. Any change will not be complete unless it involves action. Taking action related to a new mental concept or to organizational change will increase the flow of information surrounding it and allow those involved to test it out, receive reaction to it, and involve others in learning about it (Williams 1992). Action will also provide the proof that the change has occurred

Adult educators frequently act as change agents, although they may not be conscious that they are playing this role. Like learning, change is a complex process and understanding the relationship between learning and the change process can help adult educators be more purposeful in assisting with change.