March 2016
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EXPANDING INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION COMPETENCE IN TESOL: THREE APPROACHES FROM HIGHER EDUCATION CONTEXTS
Heidi Faust, Ramin Yazdanpanah, & Jane Dunphy


Heidi Faust
University of Maryland Baltimore County
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

 
Ramin Yazdanpanah
Florida State University
Tallahassee, Florida, USA


Jane Dunphy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

As part at of our 2015–2016 goals, the ICIS is working to interact with intercultural organizations outside of TESOL, to create networks and bring new knowledge to the organization. Three ICIS members presented at the 2015 SIETAR conference in Orlando, Florida. Their presentation, “Expanding Intercultural Communication Competence in TESOL: Three Approaches from Higher Education Contexts,” featured diverse ways in which intercultural communication is addressed in TESOL at their university programs.

As part at of our 2015–2016 goals, the ICIS is working to interact with intercultural organizations outside of TESOL, to create networks and bring new knowledge to the organization. Three ICIS members, Ramin Yazdanpanah (Florida State University); Heidi Faust, ICIS Chair (University of Maryland Baltimore County; UMBC); and Jane Dunphy (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), presented at the SIETAR conference 14–17 October 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Their presentation, “Expanding Intercultural Communication Competence in TESOL: Three Approaches from Higher Education Contexts,” featured diverse ways in which intercultural communication is addressed in TESOL at their University Programs.

Heidi presented on the Advanced Professional Writing in English Online course offered by UMBC's Center for Advanced Proficiency in English to nonnative-English-speaking employees of the U.S. Department of Defense. This online course focuses on intercultural communication and writing skills for an American workplace. In designing the course, various cultural contexts needed to be considered, including the context of military culture; workplace culture; diverse cultural communication styles of the participants, who spanned various cultural and linguistic backgrounds, age groups, education levels and English levels; as well as participants’ level of comfort and familiarity with online instruction and web 2.0 resources. The course helps participants explore the relationship between language and culture, expectations for diverse writing tasks in the workplace, as well as intercultural communication styles, and provides direct instruction in writing emails, reports, evaluations, and so on.


ICIS members present at SIETAR. Left to right: Ramin Yazdanpanah (Florida State University), Heidi Faust (University of Maryland Baltimore County), Jane Dunphy (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Jane described the design, content, and assignments for Communicating Across Cultures, a course that brings together domestic, international, and bilingual undergraduates at a U.S. research university. In the course, students examine the features that compose macro- and microcultures, and study the impact of these cultural components on the communication norms of nations, regions, genders, institutions, disciplines, and age groups. The course’s overarching goals are (1) to foster sensitivity to students’ own communication norms and intercultural communication differences, and (2) to provide the knowledge and skills to interact successfully with people from different cultures.

Ramin lead the audience in activities that demonstrate how "cultural synergy" can be facilitated for increased intercultural competence. Ramin discussed his research findings within the context of a TEFL certification program, highlighting the importance of bringing together TEFL student-teachers and ELLs to focus explicitly on intercultural topics and activities. Facilitation of this cultural exchange and guided reflection are also key aspects for teacher and intercultural trainers.

The SIETAR conference offered many highlights, including a very welcoming and social group of knowledgeable interculturalists that represented higher education programs, corporate trainers, and researchers. Among Heidi's favorite events was the storytelling open mic, where interculturalists from around the world shared their "How did that happen?" moments of intercultural miscommunications and their learning from such rich experiences. Another rich presentation was “What Are You? Exploring the Ambiguity and Complexity of Mixed Race and Biracial Identity,” offered byPatricia M. Coleman, Kelli McLoud-Schingen, and Tamara Thorpe. This workshop approached the topic of communication around the issue of outsiders' reactions to biracial identities through powerful personal narratives. This storytelling technique highlighted three diverse narratives and was then debriefed with the participants who explored their own experiences and the impact of the question "What are you?" and the alienating effect it has on those who are racially diverse. Finally, the group brainstormed alternative communication techniques that result in less insulting/alienating encounters.

Heidi and Jane bothappreciated learning how the intercultural critical incident videos, produced by the Norquest College presenters from Alberta, Canada, can be used to generate cross-cultural dialogue, build intercultural sensitivity, and help people navigate communication differences in multicultural workplaces. Their website has many free resources, videos, simulations, and activities that may be useful supporting cultural integration and workplace communication. Check out their resources here. Jane also found a good balance between the more serious conference sessions and the lighter side of cross-cultural training. First, Janet Bennett’s humorous “Five Weird and Wonderful Ways to Grow Intercultural Competence” demonstrated ways to integrate the three key elements of intercultural competency—curiosity, cognitive complexity, and empathy—into the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) and into adaptable learning activities. “The Use of Film in Cross-Cultural Training: Moving Beyond Stereotypes” focused on how film presents (and misrepresents) cultural information. Presenter Julia Gaspar-Bates provided some well-chosen and entertaining clips in her demonstration.

In addition, Ramin greatly appreciated keynote speaker Amer F. Ahmed's talk (and rap) on the intersections of intercultural communication and social justice, leading him to explore Kathryn Sorrell's textbook, Intercultural Communication: Globalization and Social Justice. He also enjoyed Dr. Mary Kay Park and Madeleine St. John's insights on the use of history and narrative to illustrate intercultural themes.

SIETAR affiliates are located globally and provide access to many intercultural resources and networking opportunities. For more information, see the links below. As we continue to grow our ICIS, please share other intercultural organizations and networks that may be of interest to the membership so we can continue to highlight resources in the newsletter.

Related Links:

SIETAR Networks

SIETAR: About Us

SIETAR 2015 Conference Website


Heidi Faust coordinates online training for EFL teachers and English learners as the associate director of TESOL Professional Training Programs at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. She is interested in equity and diversity in education and the intersections of race, class, and intercultural communication. She lives in Baltimore, and loves to sing and play guitar.

Ramin Yazdanpanah is the TEFL program coordinator at Florida State University, specializing in English language teaching, EFL/ESOL teacher education, and intercultural communication training. A visionary with a global-to-local perspective, Ramin strives to apply effective and creative methods to learning and teaching that facilitate personal and professional growth. Ramin is set to complete his PhD in international and comparative education, with a focus on intercultural competence training within English language teacher education programs.

Jane Dunphy directs MIT's English Language Studies Program and teaches subjects in professional and cross-cultural communication: communication for managers, scientific and technical writing, advanced speaking and critical listening, and communicating across cultures. Beyond MIT, she has designed professional communication workshops for domestic and international organizations, companies, and academic institutions, including Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Daimler-Chrysler, GEN3, the International Institute in Spain, the Masdar Institute (UAEs), Vellore Institute of Technology (India), Yasar University (Turkey) and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. With Catherine Ross, Jane Dunphy coauthored Strategies for Teaching Assistant and International Teaching Assistant Development: Beyond Micro Teaching (Jossey-Bass, 2007).

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