Learning and Teaching Intercultural Communication: Challenging and Transforming Cultural Identities
Keywords:teaching and learning, intercultural communication, transformative learning
Studying intercultural communication can be a challenging and transformative experience for students and for their teacher. The experience of being an international student studying abroad also challenges the personal and cultural frameworks that provide the security that enables us to function. The paper reports on a case study of a class in which these situations intersected and where, therefore, there was the potential for even more disruption of the students’ frameworks. For the teacher these factors generate concerns about supporting the students in their coming to grips with questions of culture and identity, while also respecting their autonomy. Establishing a class culture in which the students shared their experiences enabled the expression of the factors of the experience of critical reflection, and rational discourse considered by Mezirow (1991) as integral to transformative learning. The students’ individual journeys were undertaken with critical reflection and rational discussion shared with others who were on parallel journeys. They not only produced assessments of high academic quality but also exhibited transformation in their growth in understanding of themselves, their identities and their relation to the world. The key elements in transformative learning experiences include not only the discipline and the opportunities it offers to widen students’ understanding, the personal attitudes and openness of the students, and the skills and approaches of the teacher, but also the social and cultural environment.
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