In January, we sponsored a giveaway for a copy of Amy Lee’s Teaching Interculturally: A Framework for Integrating Disciplinary Knowledge and Intercultural Development. As part of the giveaway, we asked participants two questions:

  • How do you encourage your students to share and learn from one another’s perspectives in your class?
  • What challenges do you face promoting intercultural awareness through your teaching?

We received a number of thoughtful answers and, in the spirit of building an online learning community, have compiled them in this post. Thank you to all participants for sharing your experience and expertise with us!

Also, if you would like to continue these conversations, the Teaching Interculturally authors will be visiting Ohio State on March 20th and holding an event from 9:30-11:45 am called Reimagining Teaching to Promote Student Engagement and Inclusion. Please register in advance.

How do you encourage your students to share and learn from one another’s perspectives in your class?

“I am open with my own personal stories whenever I feel it is appropriate – I have had experience, or someone I am very closely related to has had experience, with some of the topics I present, so if I can put a face and name (even a nickname) to an experience or subject, I feel it helps students see that we’re not just talking about abstract concepts, but about real things that real people and families deal with. I also ask students to share their experiences when they’re comfortable doing so. Especially when I haven’t had experience with a subject, I am honest about it and ask for students who have to speak up if they are willing (sometimes in the classroom, but also through anonymous pathways so that they don’t have to identify themselves if they don’t want to). ” Anonymous

Ground Rules – established on first day of class. 1. No one can be called upon by anyone in the class to speak for a group, whether they belong to that group or not. 2. If a person offers an opinion that purports to speak for a group, others must respect if not accept their opinions.” Vincene Verdun, Associate Law Professor, Emerita

“I would share my own experience to start out and then encourage my students to share their experience as well. However, if the entire classroom is shy, I will assign a writing assignment so that I will know each person’s ideas and needs. ” –Anonymous

“In a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies course, students often enter with the expectation that the topics we’ll discuss (gender, race, sexuality, etc.) will be inherently “controversial,” and so open to a stream of personal/political opinions not necessarily rooted in the assigned materials (a student once said they chose to take my course because they hoped it would be “polarizing”). While I value the lived experiences and embodied knowledges my students bring to the classroom, I also work hard to give them the tools they need in order to situate those experiences and forms of knowledge in the broader context and logics of social differentiation. That is, I’ve found that they learn best from each other’s perspectives when they begin to speak not only about their racial-ethnic, sexual, and gender identities, but about how those identities come to be and their effects in the social world. I’m fortunate that my academic field engages with these very questions in a way that allows me to encourage my students to root their “opinions” in the very materials with which we are engaged each semester. This actually serves to make things much less “polarized,” so-to-speak, and instead encourages students to listen to and learn from each other and the assigned materials.–Andrea, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies

 “I encourage storytelling. It’s the oldest form of dissemination and can take many forms. Creating a safe space that is conducive to sharing allows for immersion and growth.Karima, OSU Extension Center

“In every class, we make sure at least once to interact in pairs or in small groups. These interactions begin with a reminder that every person in the room is a source of knowledge and end with a prompt for students to thank each other for sharing their insights.” –Ashley Hope Perez, Assistant Professor, Comparative Studies

“I speak about my own experience as someone who was raised in the Middle East and migrated to the States 17 years ago when I was in my early twenties.” S. Hamadmad, PhD

What challenges do you face promoting intercultural awareness through your teaching?

“I find it difficult to promote intercultural awareness since I am a nutrition educator. There are times when people make comments that seem interculturally insensitive, but I find it difficult to discern if I should say anything or not in order to keep the environment inclusive and safe, I sometimes worry that if I point out that what they said was insensitive they will be less likely to participate in the rest of the class. The biggest challenge is finding the balance between being open and inclusive to all, but also knowing when to speak up. Anonymous

 “It is hard to get diverse points of view when the students in the class are not diverse. On occasion, students have been hostile to diversity issues when they perceive them to be not sufficiently related to the subject matter. For example, racial and gender composition of boards when discussing boards of directors of corporations.” Vincene Verdun, Associate Law Professor, Emerita

“My own cultural ignorance, how to respond to and modify/restate stuff that is culturally ignorant.” Anonymous

“I am still new to teaching and I am unsure of how to develop a classroom that promotes intercultural awareness in the biological sciences.” K. Gumpper, Biological Science

“I have encountered some resistant students who find it particularly difficult to consider other perspectives.” Anonymous

“Some students are not interested in other cultures and have confessed to not talking to people of other cultures and not understanding a value of diversity.” Anonymous

“The main challenge (and personal concern) I have is that I have limited experience with other cultures. I’m very open to interacting with all different people, and I do make a regular effort to seek out diverse experiences. But as much as I want to respectfully raise awareness and support positive intercultural interactions in my classroom, I don’t always know the best way to introduce or facilitate them without putting people on the spot and potentially making them uncomfortable.” Anonymous

“Sometimes students come in with a myopic understanding of race based on their regionally specific experiences with US born minorities. Introducing them to the complexity of blackness globally and nationally involves confronting unspoken assumptions about black people that may have been informed by the student’s upbringing and media consumption.” Maria Velasquez, AAAS

 “I believe the greatest challenge I face promoting intercultural awareness through my teaching is having to remember that everyone has unique experiences, and therefore my background and experiences are different from my students. Therefore, concepts and connections that seem very obvious to me may not be apparent to a student because he or she has no basis to make that connection. This seems to present itself most when I talk about environmental conservation with my students; as someone who grew up in a small town surrounded by nature, I find ideas about ecology and conservation to be extremely intuitive, but I often have students say things like, ‘Oh, I never thought about it that way.’ Remembering that my students have different perspectives, and therefore might receive information differently is crucial for connecting with your students and crucial to improving the overall learning experience..” L Collis, GTA

Thanks to all who participated in our January 2018 book giveaway. Please keep an eye on our blog and social for monthly giveaway posts. Our February giveaway is for Therese Huston’s Teaching What You Don’t Know.