Intercultural Awareness for Learning


Extract from Issue#30 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link

Build International Student Success with Intercultural Awareness

By Flower Darby


This 50-minute seminar has three clear sections

0-12 min – Introduction to the topic of intercultural competence, its definitions and its importance.

12-36 min – Examining worldviews, cultural dimensions and their effect on interactions with others; Developing empathy and respect.

36-50 min – Teaching strategies to include and support culturally diverse learners.

(from the 12 min mark)

Three primary worldviews are examined:

1. Honour/shame – where communication and interaction are relationship oriented. The concepts of “saving face” and helping others to do the same and avoiding shame or “losing face” can lead, for example, to a different interpretation of academic integrity.

2. Guilt/innocence – where there is always a right and wrong, communication is usually direct and “doing the right thing is the most important”.

3. Power/fear – avoid causing offence and suffering the potential consequences.

For further information, check out The Three Colors of Worldview link.

How do our worldviews shape our interactions?

– Inform our values

– Shape deeply held beliefs

– Lead to cultural biases. Links to Harvard implicit bias test via direct website or Diversity Australia.

– Cause evaluative judgments of others

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

This section of the webinar goes into detail about the how the different expressions of these cultural dimensions influence the interactions between students, peers, teachers and learning activities.

  • Power Distance – the extent to which less powerful members of a society accept and expect unequal distribution of power
  • Uncertainty Avoidance – a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity
  • Individualism – the extent to which people are integrated into groups
  • Masculinity – the extent to which a society prefers achievement, assertiveness, strength
  • Long-term orientation – the extent to which a society values planning for the future
  • Indulgence – the extent to which a society permits gratification of desires

The important message about using these dimensions is

Don’t generalise or stereotype about a specific culture.

For more information, check out

Interview with Geert Hofstede: on YouTube (32 min) in which he draws out his theories of culture and research into cultural dimensions.

(from the 36 min mark)

How do our cultural values shape our interactions?

– Inform our values

– Shape deeply held beliefs

– Lead to cultural biases

– Cause evaluative judgements of others

Inclusive intercultural teaching

Darby drew these strategies from the TESOL publication

Fostering international student success in higher education (Shapiro, Farrelly & Tomas, 2014).

These strategies can benefit all learners and encourage cultural competency and global citizenship for the academic community as a whole.

  • conduct ice-breakers in the first few weeks of class
  • learn student names (ask a few times if necessary, get students to record audio of their name online or on your phone so you can practice pronunciation)
  • talk with students before and after class
  • clearly communicate expectations – especially related to academic integrity and plagiarism and cheating – don’t assume that students with different cultural values understand our policies
  • engage learners with targeted participation strategies – may be uncomfortable with some active learning strategies, but ultimately helpful
  • consider the cultural references you are using – are they relevant (or comprehensible) to all students
  • provide graphic organisers or partial outlines – also can have neurocognitive benefits for all students
  • mentor international students on academic culture in our local higher education setting

Inclusive intercultural assessments

How might you adjust your assessments to better support international students?

– Offer assessments that are:

  • Low-stakes
  • Early and often
  • Multiple formats
  • Constructively aligned and leading to achievement of subject learning outcomes

– Provide explicit instructions and grading criteria – rubrics, exemplars

– Provide timely and targeted feedback
– Discuss “unconventional source use”
– Design to minimise test anxiety

  • Provide review activities, teach study skills, use of bilingual dictionary (if school allows);
  • Be careful of wording on tests – can it be expressed more simply?
  • (test should not be about learner’s understanding of the English language, but about the concepts of the discipline)

Learning from international students

Help these students share global perspectives

  • Think-pair-share
  • Jigsaw survey
  • Small group discussion
  • Role-play

Don’t spotlight international students

  • Avoid: Where are you from? What do people in your country think about this?
  • Instead: Ask ALL students – Where did you grow up? How has your background influenced your response to class material? What perspectives might be missing from our discussion so far?

Now what?

Knowing all this, how might we improve our teaching to make it more culturally relevant?

Cultural Intelligence CentreMOOC on Cultural Intelligence started on October 1 in partnership with Purdue University


Shapiro, S., Farrelly, R., & Tomas, Z. (2014). Fostering international student success in higher education. Alexandria, VA: TESOL International Association.