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The environment that learners find them self in at international schools and national school is constantly changing and becoming more diverse than ever. The international school in Geneva has 123 different nationalities with 89 different mother tongue languages represented within its student body with 32 different nationalities (Internationals School of Geneva, Annual Report 2010) within its teaching staff. This type of wide ranging diversity in school bodes is very common place in international schools and can also be found in any learning environment, 'As long as human societies have been in contact with each other, voluntarily or involuntarily, there have been cross-cultural learning situations' (Hofstede (1986 pp 302). For learners to the successful, in a truly international environment the students have to have the competence to learn, work and function in an intercultural environment. It is those individuals whom have this competence to learn, work and function in intercultural environments whom are successful learners in international schools and multicultural environments.
The ability of students to conduct them self's across intercultural environments is therefore critical for their success as learners at the international school across the world. The assertion that I have made, I am arguing that the cultural mixing of students is having an effect on learning of students and more specifically that the cultural environment that learning occurs in, has an effect on learning.
In the USA there is evidence to support the assertion. The President's initiative on race, quoted by Cushner et al (2003) shows that the proportions of populations to finish high school indicated that students from outside of a white ethnic group where noticeably down (Whites 93%, Blacks 87% and Hispanics' 62%). There is also a vast amount of research into cultural approaches to learning and education which help explain why student from outside of the dominate culture appear to underperform in learning environments.
So if there is an some effect on learning has this been explored in research? Hofstede (1980, 1986) formed key factors when looking at cultural differences to educational relationships. Hofstede's study of over 50 counties and includes 116000 participants, proposes a 4-D model to explain cultural difference in work related fields and has applied them to intercultural learning environments. Hofstede's model proposes the following four factors that effects learning across cultural boundaries;
1. Differences in the social positions of teachers and students in the two societies;
2. Differences in the relevance of the curriculum (training content) for the two societies;
3. Differences in profiles of cognitive abilities between the populations from which teacher and student are drawn;
4. Differences in expected patterns of teacher/student and student/student interaction.
Hofstede (1986) also goes on to problematize language, being that often teachers and students (or peers within the learning situation) do not have the same mother tongue. Hofstede argued that language is a vehicle of culture and that understanding in a second language is akin to trying to understand in a different culture, 'Language categorizes reality according to its corresponding culture' (Hofstede 1986 pp 314). Hofstede argues that ineffective learning occurs when individuals are not taught via their mother tong. Some meaning is lost in either direct translation or the within the cultural context the learning is occurring in. It is the author's personal view that from experience the degree of miss understanding is not as large as expressed by Hofstede. Many students in the International school of Geneva operate outside of their mother tong and have a high degree of success in learning. The author notes however that this is not always the case, as the majority of the students are bilingual or trilingual and their ability level in the language of instruction is equal to those of mother tong in the language of instruction.
Clearly Hofsede research, and hence the 4-D model, have a very strong international experimental bases, a very large participant base (116,000 participants), from 50 counties from around the globe. However the research is not without its limits.
Firstly the initial research (Hofsede 1980) was conducted within a single organisation, (an American high tec. Company) which operates in over 40 countries around the world at the time of the research. Although this gives access to a large international pool of participants the research will be limited to the organisation in which the research is conducted in. Furthermore the findings of the research will also have some biased. The organisation its self will have an inherent culture. All of the participants will be affected by that originations culture and will in turn affect the findings of the research.
Sulkowski and Deakin (2009) add to Hofsede's model with more up to date research in a more relevant learning (education) setting. The research aligned its self closely to the model proposed by Hofsede and others, 'The same conclusions have emerged from previous studies conducted by butcher and McGrath (2004), Smith and Smith (1999) and Ward (2001)' (Sulkowski and Deakin 2009 p157). It is clear then that Hofsede's 4-D which leads to cultural factors that can affect learning have very strong empirical evidence.
The educational applications of Hofsede's model are questionable however. The model goes a long away is explain and describing the cultural factors that can affect education. However it is of limited use for a teacher with a highly diverse class to know that one group of students with a more collectivist cultural background will 'place more emphasis on improving their standing with their peers than students from individualistic culture who were found to act largely out of self interest' ' (Sulkowski and Deakin 2009 p157). There is little practical help for a teacher in such an example and it more is likely to lead the teacher to stereotype the students and to act on the stereotypes in the classroom setting. Sulkowski and deakins (2009) suggest that the deviations from expected values indicate that existing conceptualization of culture in attempting the explain behaviour only have limited use in diagnostic value in term of student behaviour. It is the authors own opinion that by defining groups and learner profiles of nationalist and if possible cultural groups within national areas is of limited value for teachers. As stated above it can lead to stereotypes and further more lead to apathy amongst teachers, believing that a student is not learning successfully, attributing this to a cultural facet of the student and thus alleviating the teacher of the problem of insuring that the student is successful at learning.
Hofsefe's research dose however give a perspective to problematize cultural with respect to a learning environment. The research aslo give an empirical biases for my assertion that learning in an intercultural environment can be harmful to an individuals learning, if not controlled and managed effectively by the learner or those aiming to support the learner (such as teachers).
To overcome the issues raised by his own model Hofsefe (1986) proposed two solutions. Firstly teachers can either assimilate all of the students into the teacher's culture of the class room (teach all students how to learn within the teachers culture) or teach the teacher how to teach such a cultural diverse class. There is also a third option; we can educate the learners to become intercultrually competent. The definition of an interculturally competent person is a contentious issue within literature and will be discussed further on.
This then raise the following questions, what is understood by the term interculturally competent? How do individuals become interculturaly competent? Those questions also lead us to answer a question first posed by Gardner (1962);
'To what extent is it actually possible for an expert from one culture to communicate with, to get though to, persons from antoher culture?' (Gardner 1962 pp241)
In answer to his own questions Gardner (1962) suggested that there a some individuals equipped with an unusual ability for intercultural communication with other traits that contribute to that success such as integrity, stability, extroversion, socialisation in universal values and including special intuitive and even telepathic abilities (pp248). Although Gardner's theory's have come into strong criticism (Waterhouse 2006) the observation that some people are more able in intercultural situations (individuals whom are deemed to be interculturally compotnet) to perform in some action over others has lead to a large amount of research.
To be able to define what interculturally competence the term culture also needs defining first. Culture is a contentious issue within literature and society. However for individuals to become intercultrualy competent you must first understand what you are going to interact with. The first use of the term culture with regard to anthropology was in 1871 by Tylor (quoted in Berry et al 2004) who defines culture as;
'That complex whole which includes knowledge, believe, art, morals, laws, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society'
The global literature has 'literally hundreds of definitions' (Cushner et al 2003 p 36) from a very wide range of disciplines. However the original idea of culture from above has little changed in the view of the author. However the author acknowledges that there are more succinct definitions of culture.
For simplification for this essay the author will take Berry et al 2004's definition of culture as the 'way of life of a group of people' (p229 Berry et al 2004). The author also acknowledges that the definition of culture that is used to define intercultural competence will affect the very definition of intercultural competence in the literature. This will then be discussed as I progress towards a definition of intercultural competence and its conceptualizations.
Development of Intercultural competence in research and definitions started in the 1950's and onwards with research into westerners working abroad. The early research focused on explanations for breakdowns in cross cultural communication between individuals which can commonly occur in multicultural learning environments such as internationals schools.
The early research used assessment of individuals' attitudes, personalities, values and motives assessed though self reports, surveys or open-ended interviews. Ruben (1989) defines the outcome of early research in intercultural competence focusing on 4 key factors;
To explain overseas failure
To predict overseas success
To develop personnel selection strategies
To design, implement and test sojourner training and preparation methodologies
Developed from Ruben (1989 p230)
Adding to this review of early studies (quoted from Cushner et al 2003), looking in to the characteristics of people who were competent and living and working across a culture boundary suggested that the intercultually competent have 3 qualities in common;
Ability to manage the psychological stress that occurs during most intercultural interactions
Ability to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries
The ability to develop and maintain new and essential interpersonal relationships.
(Cushner et al 2003 p 121)
Apply this to learning...useful? critique this model- use Rubens model...
So what then is intercultural competence? Bennett (2008) states that 'emerging consensus around what constitutes intercultural competence, which is most often viewed as a set of cognitive, affective and behavioural skills and characteristics that support effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts (p97).
Fantini (2006) adds to this definition of intercultural compotence as "a complex of abilities needed to perform effectively and appropriately when interacting with others who are linguistically and culturally different from oneself" (p. 12, emphasis in original). Throughout the literature, researchers and theoreticians use a range of more or less related terms to discuss and describe intercultural competence, including intercultural communicative competence (ICC), transcultural communication, cross-cultural adaptation, and intercultural sensitivity, among others (Fantini, 2006). What all of these terms attempt to account for is the ability to step beyond one's own culture and function with other individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds.
By way of example, Table 1 presents 19 terms that have been used as alternatives for discussing intercultural competence. Though often used interchangeably with the most frequent labels of intercultural competence, intercultural communicative competence, intercultural sensitivity, and cross-cultural adaptation, each alternative also implies different approaches that are often only implicitly addressed in research.
Table 1. Alternative terms for intercultural communicative competence (ICC) (Adapted from Fantini, 2006, Appendix D)
global competitive intelligence
effective inter-group communication
Hammer, Bennet, and Wiseman (2003) attempted to overcome some of the murkiness of ICC definitions by drawing a major distinction between intercultural sensitivity and intercultural competence. From their perspective, intercultural sensitivity is "the ability to discriminate and experience relevant cultural differences" whereas intercultural competence is "the ability to think and act in interculturally appropriate ways" (p. 422). Their distinction between knowing and doing in interculturally competent ways offers a fitting prelude to the themes that have emerged from most contemporary work on ICC.
Fantini's definition is more useful to educators. The ability of students to 'perform effectively and appropriately' in a learning environment or situation where there are many cultures represented and which are contributing to the learning will have a profound effect on the outcome of the success of the learning. This definition developed from the literature leads in to models that can be used to develop intercultural competence relevant to improving student's successes rates at learning in multicultural or international school environments.
Given the above definition how then is intercultural competence best conceptualized and measured? One of the earliest comprehensive frameworks was Ruben's behavioural approach to the conceptualization and measurement of intercultural communicative competence (Ruben, 1976; Ruben & Kealey, 1979). Rubens model is different to the personality or more individual approaches, which have limited use for educators being that the knowledge of the personality traits required for intercultural competence dose not lead into interventions to develop intercultural competence.
Ruben's model (Ruben, 1976; Ruben & Kealey, 1979) focused on a behavioural approach to intercultural competence by aiming to think the gap between knowing and doing. Ruben focused on the relationship between what individual know to be interculturally competent and what those individuals are actually doing in intercultural situations.
Ruben (1976) argued that to understand behaviours linked to intercultural situations measures of competency needed to reflect an 'individual's ability to display concepts in his behaviour rather than intentions, understandings, knowledge's, attitudes, or desires" (p. 337). Ruben then used observations of individuals in situations similar to those in which they have received prior training for or selection for, and using the performance as predicators for similar future situations.
Based on findings in the literature and his own work, Ruben (1976) identified seven dimensions of intercultural competence:
Display of respect describes an individual's ability to "express respect and positive regard" for other individuals.
Interaction posture refers to an individual's ability to "respond to others in a descriptive, non-evaluative, and nonjudgmental way."
Orientation to knowledge describes an individual's ability to "recognize the extent to which knowledge is individual in nature." In other words, orientation to knowledge describes an individual's ability to recognize and acknowledge that people explain the world around them in different ways with differing views of what is "right" and "true."
Empathy is an individual's ability to "put [himself] in another's shoes."
Self-oriented role behaviour expresses an individual's ability to "be flexible and to function in [initiating and harmonizing] roles." In this context, initiating refers to requesting information and clarification and evaluating ideas for problem solving. Harmonizing, on the other hand, refers to regulating the group status quo through mediation.
Interaction management is an individual's ability to take turns in discussion and initiate and terminate interaction based on a reasonably accurate assessment of the needs and desires of others.
Lastly, tolerance for ambiguity describes an individual's ability to "react to new and ambiguous situations with little visible discomfort".
(Ruben, 1976, pp. 339-341)
From the observation Ruben was then able to operationalise the seven dimensions and use observation (rating scales) for assessment. Rubens model therefore was based on the definition that there is an outcome goal for intercultural interactions, for example in a learning situation for the individual to understand a new concept. Ruben's (1976) perspective, ICC consists of the "ability to function in a manner that is perceived to be relatively consistent with the needs, capacities, goals, and expectations of the individuals in one's environment while satisfying one's own needs, capacities, goals, and expectations" (p. 336). This ability is then assessed by observing the individuals actions as apposed to reading self reports by the individual.
A model such as Ruben's asserts that there is goal or end point of intercultural interaction. For example from this definition the interculturally competent are able to maintain interpersonal relationships. Therefore intercultural interactions can be define and successful or not towards a given goal. Not only does this leave intercultural interactions open to manipulative behaviour (Rathje 2007). Furthermore Herzog (2003) quoted by Rathje (2007 p 256) states that there apparels to be a lack of distinction between competence and performance.
Byram (1997) and Risager (2007) theorized a multidimensional model of intercultural competence which removes the importance placed on intercultural performance. Byram's proposed a five factor model of intercultural competence (shown in a diagram below)
Bryam Intercultural compotence.png
Each 'Savoir' has their own factors and definitions;
The attitude factor refers to the ability to relativize one's self and value others, and includes "curiosity and openness, readiness to suspend disbelief about other cultures and belief about one's own".
Knowledge of one's self and others means knowledge of the rules for individual and social interaction and consists of knowing social groups and their practices, both in one's one culture and in the other culture.
The first skill set, the skills of interpreting and relating, describes an individual's ability to interpret, explain, and relate events and documents from another culture to one's own culture.
The second skill set, the skills of discovery and interaction, allows the individual to acquire "new knowledge of culture and cultural practices," including the ability to use existing knowledge, attitudes, and skills in cross-cultural interactions.
The last factor, critical cultural awareness, describes the ability to use perspectives, practices, and products in one's own culture and in other cultures to make evaluations.
Byram (1997) pp 97-98
Byram added to his model with the interaction factor (skis of discovery and interacting) to include other communication forms, verbal and non-verbal with the development of linguistic, sociolinguistic and discourse competencies. This models key strengths lies in the requirement of critical cultural awareness. Whereas Ruben's model simply aims to foster successful intercultural by aiming interactions with to understand and mimicking of the others culture, Byram's critical approach allows for individuals to understand, interact with the other culture, as well as, holding firm to their own culture with a critical eye on both cultures values.
When applied to a learning situation the model indicates that is learning is to be successful individuals need to understand all saviours of the culture of all individuals whom are involved with the learning of a new concept. Byram's model also indicated that there is a continuum of being more interculturally competent as each of the 'saviours' is developed.
However this model has been criticised as being too narrow by Risager (2007). Risager argued that intercultural competence must included broad resources an individual possesses as well as the narrow competences that can be assessed. Risager developed her own model with she claimed to be broader in scope. The author notes that in Risagers model the 10 elements outlined are largely linked to linguistic development and proficiencies;
Linguistic (languastructural) competence
Languacultural competences and resources: semantics and pragmatics
Languacultural competences and resources: poetics
Languacultural competences and resources: linguistic identity
Translation and interpretation
Interpreting texts (discourses)
Use of ethnographic methods
Knowledge of language as critical language awareness, also as a world citizen
Knowledge of culture and society and critical cultural awareness, also as a world citizen.
(Risager, 2007, p. 227)
The ideas from Byram's model have been used to develop the intercultural competence assessment (INCA) (2004), an assessment tool for intercultural compotence. The INCA has utilized and developed the multidimensional model of Byram's and other theoretical work (quoted from INCA 2004) which include Kühlmann& Stahl (1998) as well as Müller-Jacquier (2000) to develop the assessment.
The INCA model has two sets of key dimensions, one for the assessor and one for the examinee, with three skill levels for each dimension (basic, intermediate and full). The assessor looks for 6 different dimensions, as defined form the INCA assessor's manual;
Tolerance for ambiguity is "the ability to accept lack of clarity and ambiguity and to be able to deal with it constructively".
Behavioural flexibility is "the ability to adapt one's own behaviour to different requirements and situations".
Communicative awareness is "the ability [â€¦] to establish relationships between linguistic expressions and cultural contents, to identify, and consciously work with, various communicative conventions of foreign partners, and to modify correspondingly one's own linguistics forms of expression".
Knowledge discovery is "the ability to acquire new knowledge of a culture and cultural practices and the ability to act using that knowledge, those attitudes and those skills under the constraints of real-time communication and interaction".
Respect for otherness is "the readiness to suspend disbelief about other cultures and belief about one's own".
Empathy is "the ability to intuitively understand what other people think and how they feel in concrete situations".
From the examinee's point of view, intercultural competence consists of three dimensions, in a simplified version of the assessor's model:
Openness is the ability to "be open to the other and to situations in which something is done differently" (respect for others + tolerance of ambiguity).
Knowledge is the characteristic of "not only want[ing] to know the 'hard facts' about a situation or about a certain culture, but also want[ing] to know something about the feelings of the other person" (knowledge discovery + empathy).
Adaptability describes the ability to "adapt [one's] behaviour and [one's] style of communication" (behavioural flexibility + communicative awareness).
This assessment framework explained the theory for each dimensions and also gives concrete descriptions for each skill level. This is clearly a strong point for both the model and the assessment tool. There are also other assessment tools biased on Byram's and Risager's models (intercultural sensitivity index, Olson and Kroeger 2001 and Assessment of intercultural competence, Fantini 2006). The key factor that separates this work from that of Ruben's is the emphasis on the acquisition of proficiency in the host culture, which is beyond the ability to interact respectfully, non-judgmentally and effectively with the host culture.
Once allied to learning and development of intercultural competence both Byram's and Risager's model become relatively week. Although the models have developed very strong and culturally reliable assessment tools for intercultural competence, the models do little to indicate the development of intercultural competence along a continuum. The models appear to show that there is a either or question to intercultural competence. Bennet's (1993) model of intercultural competence however is more useful for teachers aiming to develop intercultural competence.
Bennett (1993) looked into intercultural competence with a different perspective than that of Byram's. The development of intercultural competence (shown in the diagram below) developed a liner stage model. Bennett model allows individuals to move up or down stages and identity's key barriers to moving into the next stage. Each stage has its effects on individuals and hence the learning capabilities of the individual. development of intercultrual sensitivy.bmp
The first three stages, the ethnocentric stages, where the individual's culture is the central worldview have gradually less effect on an individual's learning but still limited the effectiveness of intercultural interactions and learning across intercultural borders.
In the first ethnocentric stage, denial, the individual denies the difference or existence of other cultures by erecting psychological or physical barriers in the forms of isolation and separation from other cultures.
In the second ethnocentric stage, defense, the individual reacts against the threat of other cultures by denigrating the other cultures (negative stereotyping) and promoting the superiority of one's own culture. In some cases, the individual undergoes a reversal phase, during which the worldview shifts from one's own culture to the other culture, and the own culture is subject to disparagement.
Finally, in the third ethnocentric stage, minimization, the individual acknowledges cultural differences on the surface but considers all cultures as fundamentally similar.
The three ethnorelative stages of development lead to the acquisition of a more complex worldview in which cultures are understood relative to each other and actions are understood as culturally situated.
During the acceptance phase, the individual accepts and respects cultural differences with regard to behaviour and values.
In the second ethnorelative stage, adaptation, the individual develops the ability to shift his frame of reference to other culturally diverse worldviews through empathy and pluralism.
In the last stage, integration, the individual expands and incorporates other worldviews into his own worldview.
While Bennett's model for intercultural sensitivity is highly useful to educators but it is note worthy that the model is not based on an specific empirical research. The model was developed from a ground theory, that is to say, 'using theoretical concepts to explain a pattern that emerges from systematic observations' (Bennett 2004). Mover over the model is biased on congestive constructivism that states individuals build upon all experiences by placing them into patterns or categories already within the individual. More clearly, that we perceive event and interpret them due to our 'home' culture.
Secondly that the development of intercultural sensitivity in liner. Although Bennett dose acknowledge that individuals may move forward and backwards and any one point when developing intercultural sensitively often a key critique of liner models.
The model has been used by Bennett et al (2003) with the development of the intercultural development inventory. This inventory is based on Bennett's model of intercultural sensitivity and is a development from an earlier inventory which was tested by Paige et al (1999 quoted by Bennett 2003 page 426) and found 'specific directions in further development of the IDI' (Bennett et al 2003).
The inventory is a 50 item questionnaire biased on the categorisations of responses by a wide range of experts in the field of intercultural interactions on semi-structured interviews. The inventory is based on a 5 point scale response to questions. The research found the inventory to be valid and reliable across gender, social, age and education populations.
The author acknowledges that the inventory has not as such been used to test the intercultural sensitivity model but notes that development of the inventory from the model which is reliable and valid across cultures is a strong point of both the inventory and the model.
Furthermore over the last 10 years the models has been used by other researchers in the development of assessment tools (Olson and Kroeger 2001). Bennett dose not however see communication in the development of intercultural sensitivity rather as a developmental strategy especially in the ethnorelative stages;
Participants moving out of acceptance are eager to apply their knowledge of cultural differences to actual face-to-face communication. Thus, now is the time to provide opportunities for interaction. These activities might include dyads with other-culture partners, facilitated multicultural group discussions, or outside assignments involving interviewing of people from other culturesâ€¦ communication practice could refer to homestays or developing friendships in the other culture. (Bennett, 1993, pp. 58-59)
Recently however, these models (Byram and Bennett) have been accused of being subjective have often been subjective and limited by the cultures of the individuals involved in their conceptualization and assessment (Arasaratnam and Doerfel 2005). Arasaratnam and Doerfel (2005) call for a culture-wide model of intercultural communication competence.
Arasaratnam and Doerfel use a bottom-up approach with the model developed though interviews. They interviewed 37 interculturally competent participants from a university in the USA. The participants were from a large international background (14 from counties outside of the USA). The students were chosen for the involvement in international student organizations, study aboard programs and international friendship/host programs.
The interviews followed a semi structured method using prompts to engage the participants, such as, Can you identify some qualities or aspects of people who are competent in intercultural communication?
The data semantic analysed to reveal four or dominant clusters of words for each prompt. From this analysis Arasaratnam and Doerfel identified 10 unique dimensions in intercultural communicative competence (see appendix 2)
This model has not been used to develop any assessment tools but it noteworthy for the approach of being based on dimensions of individuals deemed to be interculturllay competent.
To add to this model Rathje 2007 further proposes that the culture can be defined as cohesion based concept. Rathje argues for a new definition of culture away from nationalistic definitions. Quoting Hasen (2000) Rathje states that 'cultures simply exist within human collectives' (pp 261) and that many cultures occur within borders be that with a local football club or within one class room to anther within a school.
Hansen (2000 paraphrased by Rathje 2007) differences allow for the creation of individuals within a culture. Therefore cultures are made up of known differences that are finite and known. The differences within a culture will differ from culture to culture. Individuals are different from the norm of a culture but the differences are known to the human collective, 'individuals traits and characteristics nevertheless observably refer to his cultural membership' (Rathje 2007).
Culture is there for the understanding or knowledge of differences within a given culture that defines cultural membership. For example a student might know that one student likes to talk while working on a science experiment while another dose not. Both students are members of the classroom culture and know of the differences in their approaches to experiments.
Applied to intercultural competence this definition means that unknown differences within a culture must to know, indicating that there is a knowable aspect to intercultural competence.
If during intercultural interactions an individual in understand and knowing the know difference of another culture the individual is then generating a new culture them self.
What Rathje 2007 is stating that during intercultural interaction and when gaining intercultural competence individuals are actually forming a new culture to add to the number of cultures that the individual is already a member.
When a student walks into a new classroom with a unfamiliar class and teacher the student is then in an intercultural environment. Rathje would argue for the student to interact and be successful within the environment the individual must first form a new culture with the current culture of the classroom. 'Intercultural competence is best characterise therefore, by the transformation of intercultural interaction into culture itself' (Rathje 2007 p263).
This argument however is not without its floors its self. In creating an extra culture outside of either individuals 'home' cultures dose this not lead to assimilation of both cultures into a super culture made up of both sets of cultures.
Rathje is therefore indicating that individuals who are highly successful and intercultural interactions (or learning) are individuals who are very good at developing culture.
What then given all the models proposed are the applications for teachers whom develop the learning culture for the students?
So how is culture developed? Socialization model..... Development of a culture- soclization theory.
Link to other theorys of learing, social learing theory and criteci with congtnive learning theorys
Applications for teacher- conclusion.
Culture shock- and anxtiy reduction theorys???