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Developing Intercultural Competence

My experiences teaching English abroad plus my research investigating the culture learning of sojourning English language teacher have helped me gain a deeper understanding of intercultural communication.  During the past year and a half, I have been developing my skills to become an intercultural communication trainer as an instructional designer at Kirkwood Community College.  Although I have achieved a lot with Kirkwood's Culturally Responsive Classroom course, I was still uncertain if my intercultural communication training skills could be applied elsewhere.  I found a good opportunity to interact with other intercultural communication trainers was to attend the 2014 SIETAR-USA Conference in Portland last month.  I learned about SIETAR through my literature review for developing the Culturally Responsive Classroom, which is what I and a colleague presented on at the conference.  Below is our presentation, which represents a portion of what we shared with our participants.

At the conference, I was surprised at how informed I was.  I felt almost as informed about intercultural communication as I am about applied linguistics, comparing my SIETAR-USA experiences with my AAAL experiences, coincidentally both in Portland in 2014.  I found the conference to be very helpful and interactive, more so than most other conferences I have attended.  The people there were warm and inviting, and I felt as if I belonged as I had similar experiences and viewpoints as many of the other participants.

A week later, I attended NAFSA's annual Region IV Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The purpose of this was to present how two of Kirkwood's departments, International Programs and KCELT, are working together to connect faculty study abroad leadership with professional learning.  Because of my background, this connection seems common sense, but I was surprised to find that many people in higher education did not see this connection.  Fortunately, I co-presented with a colleague who also believed this connection to be common sense.  We were pleased to present this to a very curious group of educators.

This presentation has similar concepts to my teaching philosophy and research agenda: that intercultural experiences enhance one's pedagogy in terms of better empathizing with students who come from different backgrounds.  I was proud to discover that we seemed to be pioneers with these efforts at the community college level.  How many other higher education institutions have attempted and succeeded with connecting international experiences with professional learning?


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