Welcome! (Apologies, this page is under construction)
Congratulations on finding your way to this page: Intercultural Learning & Teaching. We have developed this site not as an exhaustive explanation of Intercultural Pedagogy, but rather as a landing place for those interested in beginning or continuing to develop their practice as educators in intercultural settings. For us the label "educator" includes instructors in the classroom, as well as support staff, administrators and even students.
"In strolling in the company of just two other persons, I am bound to find a teacher." -Confucian Analects 7:21
What you will find on this site:
More about what is:
Intercultural Learning & Teaching?
Professional Development Opportunities
Information on Promising Practices
Resources (videos, articles/books/websites, activities & exercises)
Click the relevant tab below:
- What is Intercultural Learning & Teaching?
- Professional Development Opportunities
- Promising Practices
If we are going to talk about intercultural learning & teaching we should probably start with internationalization in higher education. Many associate internationalization with study abroad, however the term internationalization is used to describe the much larger phenomenon of the flow of students and knowledge between world regions. The idea of travelling outside of one's country to study has existed since the 6th century AD when Buddhist students from around the world would travel to Nalanda University in India (Altbach, de Wit; 2015). Since then, the motivation of students to study internationally and for universities to attract international students has been driven by various combinations of political, colonial, economic and social interests and policies.
In Canada, internationalization in higher education has surged since the 1980's. The Canadian Bureau of International Education (2016) reports that in 2015 there were 335 570 International Students studying in Canada, a 92% increase since 2008. Interestingly, CBIE (2016) also reports that in the 2014-2015 academic year only 2.3% of Canadian students studied abroad.
It must be acknowledged that today the internationalization of higher education in Canada is being driven largely by an economic rationale. However, many faculty, staff and students are fully engaged in the process of balancing economic outcomes with social and academic outcomes that prepare faculty, staff and students for life and citizenship in the 21st century.
Intercultural learning & teaching is critical if the internationalization of higher education in Canada is to be a mechanism for the development of a more ethical, inclusive and equitable society (Garson, 2016).
Intercultural Learning & Teaching
We have purposefully put learning before teaching because we are making the assumption that to facilitate or teach intercultural learning we must experience it first ourselves.
Grounded in empathy, intercultural learning and teaching allows us to consider the educational experience from the perspective of someone with cultural identities different to our own. In this consideration we may discover both what makes us that same as well as what makes us different and then adapt our behaviour (e.g. communication strategies or teaching approaches) in order to interact effectively.
In the book Building Cultural Competence, Darla Deardorff (2012) shares the "sunglasses story" (p.153). It is a story about two groups of people who live on opposite sides of a river. The people on one side of the river wear blue sunglasses and the people on the other side of the river wear yellow sunglasses. The two groups have never met each other. One day, a person from the blue sunglasses side of the river decides to visit the yellow sunglasses people. The person discovers there is much about the yellow sunglasses people that is a lot like the blue sunglasses people, including the fact that they were also born with sunglasses! Curious to get to know them better the blue sunglasses person asks one of the yellow sunglasses people to try on their sunglasses to see what it is like to see the world through yellow sunglasses. However, with their blue sunglasses still on, the blue sunglasses person does not see yellow, nor do they see blue...they see green.
Similarily when we invite our cultural identities into our learning experiences, we can try our hardest to see things from another person's perspective but our own identies will always prevent us from being able to truly know what it is like to be that person (and vice versa). As a result it would be unrealistic to expect either party to completely adapt to the other. Rather, intercultural learning and teaching should aspire to meeting in the middle.
For more on what intercultural learning & teaching looks like please visit the Promising Practices section.
Intercultural Perspective is one of the Graduate Attributes identified by VIU and is included in the section: Civic Engagement:
"Intercultural perspectives comprise awareness and appreciation of different ways of knowing and being which encompass diverse peoples, cultures and lifestyles."
-VIU Graduate Attributes:
While this attribute speaks to attitudes and knowledge, additional graduate attributes speak to the related skills and behaviour a student is expected to have developed as a result of their time at VIU: Capacity to engage in respectful relationships, ethical reasoning, foundations for lifelong learning and integrative learning.
The information contained within this website has been included in the belief that intercultural learning and teaching involves not only increased awareness and knowledge of culturally conditioned ways of knowing and being but also the development of skills and behaviour that lead to an individual engage with the world with positive regard, openess, curiosity, reflexivity and resilience.
Altbach, P. G., & de Wit, H. (2015). Internationalization and global tension: Lessons from history. Journal of Studies in International Education, 19(1), 4-10. doi:10.1177/1028315314564734
Berardo, K., & Deardorff, D. K. (2012). Building cultural competence: Innovative activities and models (1st ed.). Sterling, Va: Stylus Pub.
CBIE (2016). A World of Learning: Canad'as Performance and Potential in Intenrational Education 2016. Retrieved from: http://cbie.ca/what-we-do/research-publications/research-and-publications/
Garson, K. (2016). Reframing internationalization. The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 46(2), 19.
This "menu" is a list of workshops that have been developed and facilitated for VIU Students, Faculty and Staff in the past 2 years. Some of these workshops are offered during employee orientation in August, some are offered after the exam period in the spring semester (See the INVIU Calender for currently scheduled sessions for faculty and staff). More often though, these workshop are run on a by request basis. Custom workshops or Training & Development opportunities can also be designed and facilitated.
For more information or to discuss possibilities please contact the Coordinator for Intercultural Learning and Support: Mackenzie.Sillem@viu.ca
These grants are designed to support VIU faculty and staff in their own efforts that contribute to the internationalization of VIU. There are three types of grants available; Travel Grants, Program Development Grants, and International Work Opportunity Grants. Built into each grant is the opportunity to explore personal goals in regards to intercultural learning that may be achieved through the individuals participation in the global engagement grants program. Application deadlines are September 30th, January 31st and April 30th . For more information please visit: https://international.viu.ca/global-engagement/global-engagement-grants.
This is professional development offered through the Office of Aboriginal Education and Engagement at VIU. We highly recommend any of the sessions offered to anyone interested in intercultural learning & teaching. For ore information visit: https://aboriginal.viu.ca/professional-development .
External Professional Development Opportunities
There are multiple professional development opportunites run by institutions and organizations both close to Nanaimo and further afield. To find out about opportunities that are more closely aligned with your interests please feel free to contact the Coordinator for Intercultural Learning and Support: Mackenzie.Sillem@viu.ca.
What is a Promising Practice?
We have chosen the term "Promising Practice" because from an intercultural perspective the context (social, political, economic, environmental and cultural) in which a practice is implemented will always have an impact on the success of the practice.
The following are some examples of promising practices that you may want to use and possible adapt depending on your own context. They are grouped into categories defined by common challenges that students coming from diverse cultural backgrounds often experience in Canadian Higher-Education.
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list. If you have promising practices to contribute we would love to include them! Please contact Mackenzie.Sillem@viu.ca
Examples of Promising Practices:
A. Cultural Adjustment
- Acknowledge cultural adjustments challenges that students may be experiencing.
- Students coming from another part of the world, or even another part of Canada to study at VIU will often experience stress related to living in a new and unfamiliar place far from home. In addition to the challenges students face in successfully completing course work they may also be challenged by homesickness, disorientation or language fatigue. The stress related to cultural adjustment often peaks mid-semester coinciding with midterms and initial paper deadlines.
- Students have told us how helpful it is to them when faculty have shared their own experience of having to adjust to another culture, or have checked in with students about homesickness, disorientation or language fatigue. Knowing that their experience is something that another has experienced AND survived, or having their experience validated contributes to a student's ability to be resilient.
B. Different Academic Expectations: i.e. different expectations as to the role of the teacher and the role of the student.
- Make your expectation that students will contribute to large group discussions either through questions or making points explicit. This can be done both verbally and in the course outline. Students who come from education systems where the professor is expected to be "sage on the stage" or who come from more collective cultures may not realize that they are expected to speak in a large group discussion.
- Provide time for students to prepare their responses or questions. For example if you expect to have a large group discussion during the next class let the students know what the topic will be and ask them to come prepared with questions or ideas to share at the next class.
- Invite questions and make it clear that all responses and contributions are equally valued.
- Use other strategies to elicit input from all students such as a "Class-Discussion by Post-It Note": https://viuvideos.viu.ca/media/Class+Discussion+by+Post-It+NoteA+Increasing+International+Student+Participation/0_dysaqrn4
- Provide opportunities for students to get to know you and to get to know eachother. Some instructors have found it helpful to spend the first class facilitating opportunites for students to get to kow eachother in order to begin developing relationship. Some instructors also find it helpful to ask each and every student to meet with them during their office hours in the first week or two of classes. The opportunity allows the instructor to clarify their expectations as well as to identify what students will bring to the class and where they may need extra support.
B. English Competency: Differences in comprehension or confidence when working in English is challenging for both instructors and students.
- Often English language learners find it difficult to listen to an instructor and write notes in English at the same time. It is helpful to provide handouts/use powerpoints that have key words or concepts in writing that students can access before, during, or after class.
- Repeat main ideas or definitions using synonyms.
- Ask student to summarize key concepts or ideas in their own words.
- Be aware of your pace, if you tend to speak quickly you may need to build in reviews and recaps more often.
- Be concious of cultural references. For example students who did not grow up with the American TV show All in The Family may not understand comparisons or metaphors that refer to Archie Bunker. Similarily it is helpful to avoid slang and idioms.
- Often students English comprehension is higher than we might realize, however they lack confidence in their english language abilities. Providing encouragement and empathy can go a long way in motivating a student.
- Contact International Academic Support (IAS): a team of 3 English as a SEcond or Other Language Specialists whose goal is to Help English Language Learners with Writing, Reading, Referencing, Presentations and more. Visit:
- Libguide: Intercultural Learning for Campus Internationalization
- A collection of articles and books hosted by the VIU Library. If you have suggests for additional resources to include please contact Mackenzie.Sillem@viu.ca
- Intercultural Communication Institute Selected Bibliography: Based in Portland Oregon, this organization is home to the largest library of literature in the intercultural field. They have posted a bibliography at their website: http://intercultural.org/intercultural-bibliographies.html
- In their small library the Center for Innovation and Excellence in Learning at VIU has several titles relating specifically to intercultural learning and teaching.
- Cultural Detective: https://www.culturaldetective.com/
- Great Blog that can sometimes be used as non-academic reading for students.
- Thiagi: http://www.thiagi.com/resources/
- A Gold Mine of interactive activities and frame games that can be used to increase the ability of students to retain information and participate in class.
3. Center for Intercultural Learning Country Insights: http://www.international.gc.ca/cil- cai/country_insights-apercus_pays/countryinsights-apercuspays.aspx?lang=eng
- Provides information on cultural norms of different national cultures from the perspective of a Canadian expatriate and a National of that country.
- What Helps Me Learn
- Culturally Diverse Learners
- The Danger of a Single Story
- The Monotone Piano (diversity at work)
- Ash Beckham, So Gay
- Sheena Iyengar: The Art of Choosing
- Brene Brown: Empathy
When it comes to intercultural learning and teaching connecting with colleagues and peers who are also interested in this work is VERY helpful. To find out who on campus may be the most relevant contact for you please contact: Mackenzie.Sillem@viu.ca