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Teachers for an Inclusive School

Homepage > Guideline > Teachers for an Inclusive School

Acquisition of intercultural competences based on understanding human rights and non-discrimination values

Definition of Skills Required by Teachers
to Become Agents of Change in Inclusive Schools

Table of Content

Chapter 1 – Definitions and Models of Intercultural Competences
1.2 Definitions and Meanings Proposed by Scholars for the Concept of Intercultural Competence
In the following three paragraphs, based on the work of Perry and Southwell (2011), an attempt is made to convey the variety of definitions and meanings scholars have proposed for the concept of intercultural competence. Following the authors, three main conceptualizations will be described: (a) intercultural competence, (b) intercultural understanding, and (c) intercultural communication.

(a) Although “there has been little agreement amongst scholars about how intercultural competence should be defined” (Deardorff, 2006a pp. 5-9), it seems that definitions, meanings and conceptualizations frequently overlap. After a review of the literature, intercultural competence can be conceived as consisting of knowledge, attitude, skills and behaviour. Bennett (2008), after studying similarities between the definitions, affirmed that scholars talk about a “set of cognitive, affective and behavioural skills and characteristics that support effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts” (p. 16). Other conceptualizations include: knowledge, attitudes, understanding, motivation, skills in verbal and non-verbal communication, communicative awareness, language proficiency, appropriate and effective behaviours, flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity, knowledge discovery, respect for others, empathy, interpreting and relating skills , skills of discovery and interaction, and critical awareness (Byram, 1997; Heyward, 2002; Lustig & Koester, 2006; Hiller and Wozniak, 2009). Specifically, Byram defined intercultural competence as “intercultural communicative competence” where intercultural communication in a given social context sets the parameters for the development of such a competence (Byram, 1997).

(b) Intercultural understanding, another broad concept indicated by Perry and Southwell (2011), embraces cognitive and affective domains. Knowledge is a fundamental part of the construct; knowledge of one’s own and other cultures, but also other characteristics related to attitudes, such as curiosity and respect (Hill, 2006; Arasaratnam & Doerfel, 2005; Deardorff, 2006b; Heyward, 2002). The other fundamental part of intercultural understanding is the affective component, which is also called intercultural sensitivity. Perry and Southwell (2011) present Chen and Starosta’s (1998) conceptualization of intercultural sensitivity as an “active desire to motivate themselves to understand, appreciate, and accept differences among cultures” (p. 231). Another definition presented by Perry and Southwell (2011) is Bennet’s idea that intercultural sensitivity is the experience of cultural difference that is dependent on the way a person constructs that difference (1993). It is worth mentioning that the intensification of culture-driven conflict in parallel to the acceleration of the rhythm of globalization renders intercultural understanding an imperative need (Kwok-Ying Lau, 2016)

(c) The third concept which scholars have debated in the last few years is that of intercultural communication, defined as ″the ability to communicate with people of different cultures effectively and appropriately″ (Arasaratnam, 2009). Unlike the previous two constructs, Perry and Southwell (2011), citing Lustig and Koester (2006), remember how intercultural communication is an attribute related to an association between individuals. Fundamental to the concept are empathy, intercultural experience/training, motivation, global attitude and the ability to listen well in conversation (Arasaratnam and Doerfel, 2005). At the same time, emphasis may be placed on the interdiscourse analysis as the discourse in intercultural communication by examining the presuppositions in an intercultural communication setting (Scollon, Scollon, & Jones, 2011, pp. 30-31).
Online Resources
  • Laura B. Perry & Leonie Southwell (2011), Developing intercultural understanding and skills: models and approaches, in: Intercultural Education 22, pp. 453-466
  • Byram, M. (1997). Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence. Multilingual Matters.Intercultural competence as an aspect of the general communicative competence in teaching and assessing a foreign language.
  • Bennet, J. M. (2008). On Becoming a Global Soul. Developing intercultural competence and transformation: theory, research, and application in international education. Sterling, Va: Stylus Pub.
    The chapter forms part of the book entitled “Developing intercultural competence and transformation: theory, research, and application in international education”. The thesis of the book is that enrollments in international education programs are projected to grow exponentially as students, parents, and university personnel seek to prepare future leaders who can live and work effectively in a global environment. The outcomes of such opportunities emphasize not only traditional academic competence, but also changes in motivations, attitudes, self-identity, and values
  • Mark Heyward (2002), From international to intercultural: Redefining the international school for a globalized world, Journal of Research in International Education, pp. 9-32(full text) This article defines intercultural literacy as the competencies, understandings, attitudes, language proficiencies, participation and identities necessary for effective cross-cultural engagement. A new multidimensional and developmental model for intercultural literacy is proposed with reference to previous culture shock and cross-cultural adjustment models, and some implications for international schools are suggested. International schools, it is argued, are in a unique position to develop understandings and practice in relation to intercultural literacy. Not only can they do so but they should do so.
  • Myron W. Lustig, Jolene Koester (eds.) (2006), Among US: Essays on identity, belonging, and intercultural competence (2nd ed.), Pearson/Allyn & Bacon, Boston
    The collective volume ‘AmongUS’ presents readings from individuals whose intercultural experiences give insights on how to achieve an effective and fair multicultural society where cultural identities are celebrated and maintained. The essays provide a rich source of materials to teach a broad array of interpersonal, sociological, and psychological concepts that apply to educational, business, and cultural settings. The authors have arranged the book around four themes: Identity, Negotiating Intercultural Competence, Racism and Prejudice, and Belonging to Multiple Cultures.
  • Gundula Gwenn Hiller, Maja Wozniak, Developing an intercultural competence programme at an international cross-border university, in: Intercultural Education, Volume 20, Supplement 1, October 2009, pp. 113-124 Abstract: The European University Viadrina located on the German–Polish border, with a high number of international students, was founded to promote the ‘growing‐together’ of Europe. Despite these aims, it is becoming more evident that international institutions must develop special strategies to sensitize their members on an intercultural level and to encourage intercultural communication. The case of Viadrina University serves as an example of how a course programme can be created in order to promote intercultural competence. One of the programme’s main aims is to give students the possibility of experiencing, discovering and discussing the diversity of values and worldviews in special workshops. Today, the training programme, which at first had not been considered necessary by many university employees, has turned into a success story which can be transferred to other international academic institutions
  • Ian Hill (2006), Student types, school types and their combined influence on the development of intercultural understanding, Journal of Research in International Education, pp. 5-33
    This article focuses on students' exposure to intercultural understanding in a number of educational settings. The effect of that exposure depends very much on the nature of the schools, the programmes they offer, and their location. It also depends on the ‘nature’ of the students and how that affects their interaction with the school and its cultural context both within and without. The variables are many, the lines of influence are complex, and the whole process is full of nuances. Typologies of schools and students are used in an attempt to overcome these difficulties and arrive at some conclusions, including the need for an improved nomenclature of school types, which may form the basis for testing through future empirical research.
  • Lily A Arasaratnam, Marya L Doerfel (2005), Intercultural communication competence: Identifying key components from multicultural perspectives, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29, pp. 137-163Intercultural communication competence (ICC) is an area of study that is becoming more relevant in the increasingly multicultural communities that we live in. Though much progress has been made in this area of research since Hall [(1959). The silent language. New York: Anchor Books], a satisfactory model of ICC and a scale that translates well into different cultures is yet to be developed. This paper presents a review of past research in ICC and describes a unique approach to identifying variables that contribute toward perceived ICC. Specifically, this study triangulates and updates past research on ICC by integrating the theoretical backgrounds of social psychology, interpersonal communication, and anthropology to construct a multidimensional understanding of ICC. Data were collected via face-to-face interviews with participants representing 15 different countries and responses were analyzed using semantic network analysis. A definition of intercultural communication was derived from the responses, and knowledge and motivation were identified as important components of ICC. Additions to a multidimensional definition of ICC include listening skills, prior cross-cultural experiences, having a global outlook as opposed to an ethnocentric one, and an other-centered style of communication. Limitations of the study and implications for future research are discussed.
  • Guo-Ming Chen, William J. Starosta (1998), Foundations of Intercultural Communication, PearsonWritten by two leading scholars in this fast-developing field, this text surveys the entire field of intercultural communication, presenting to undergraduate and graduate students the broad range of important themes, issues, and theoretical positions relevant today. In addition, the text treats the history of the field, covers important subjects like ethics and multiculturalism, and describes the way in which new advances in theory are starting to diverge from earlier emphases. In short, this is the broadest, most inclusive overview of the field of intercultural communication now available.
  • Kwok-Ying Lau (2016), Phenomenology and Intercultural Understanding: Toward a New Cultural FleshOnline extract from the book by Kwok-Ying Lau on intercultural understanding in terms of philosophy
  • Scollon, R., Scollon, S. W., & Jones, R. H. (2011). Intercultural communication: A discourse approach. John Wiley & Sons.Online extract from a book discussing and analyzing intercultural communication in discourse analysis and in sociolinguistic terms.
  • Darla K Deardorff (2006a), Identification and assessment of intercultural competence as a student outcome of internationalizationThis article is available in the Journal of Studies in International Education. Deardorff, D.K. 2006b. ‘Assessing intercultural competence in study abroad students’ in: Living and studying abroad: Research and practice, ed. M. Bryam and A. Feng, pp. 232–56. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
  • Jolene Koester, Myron W.Lustig, Intercultural communication competence: Theory, measurement, and application, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Volume 48, September 2015, pp. 20-21This brief article focuses on issues or concerns about the current state of intercultural communication competence (ICC) research. Theoretical issues include problems with ICC terminology and with conceptualizations of ICC. Measurement issues include problems with the use of self-reports to assess the “appropriateness” dimension of ICC and with the domain of skills and traits that make one more likely to be perceived as competent. Application issues centre on the desirability for increased attention to practical uses of research-based theory.
  • Wolfgang Fritz, Andrea Graf, Joachim Hentze, & Antje Möllenberg (2005), An Examination of Chen and Starosta’s Model of Intercultural Sensitivity in Germany and United States, Intercultural Communication Studies XIV: 1 , pp. 53-65This study examines, via a replication study, Chen and Starosta’s Model of Intercultural Sensitivity, which is developed in the US context. Although an earlier attempt to reproduce the model in Germany has been successful, the present replication study does not reach the same result based on German and US-American samples. Consequently, the intercultural validity of Chen and Starosta’s Model is doubtful for the time being, and which requires closer examination in future research.

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.