Intercultural teaching capacity is the ability to engage and support learners through difference in learning activities. Instructors who have intercultural capacity are able to bridge difference in the classroom and foster meaningful relationships with and among students. This is also called intercultural competency, but we like to think of it as a continual process instead of a checkbox. Instead of being just ‘competent’, we need the capacity to work with intercultural relations effectively, and those skills change and grow with each experience as we nurture them. Hence we can be capable or have the capacity to be interculturally competent.
Reasons why instructors may wish to develop their intercultural capacity is so that they may be more aware of their own power and privilege, their inherent biases, and to help them untangle the ‘hidden curriculum’ of attitudes they are inadvertently teaching alongside their content (knowledge and skills). Making the implicit, explicit, serves all learners and leads to a more inclusive and welcoming environment for learning. This aligns with the Learning Charter pursuits of truth and understanding, integrity and respect, and community pursuits. Being open and flexible to change and recognizing the value in other’s perspectives helps build meaningful and authentic community relationships.
Some questions to ask yourself if you want to reach all students so that they all have equitable access to success in your course:
- For whom was the course curriculum designed? Who was the imagined ‘student’?
- How does the curriculum reflect (mirror) the learners in the room, and also provide ‘windows’ to other perspectives?
- How might we build a learning community in the classroom where learners draw from their own and others’ knowledge sources?
- What is the difference between (and purpose of) assimilation and integration in the classroom?
Three things you can do to build your intercultural teacher capacity might be:
- model and encourage perspective-taking and openness to diverse ways of knowing;
- facilitate dialogue about global issues using respectful, inclusive, and culturally relevant teaching strategies;
- think abouy how your assessments and curriculum design promote multiple perspectives among students.
McIntosh, P. (1998). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In S. Rothenburg, (Ed.) Race, Class and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study. New York: St. Martin’s Press. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED355141.pdf?utm#page=43
Questions adapted from the original created by Shannon Morreira and Kathy Luckett, University of Cape Town. Retrieved on July 30, 2019 from: https://folukeafrica.com/questions-academics-can-ask-to-decolonise-their-classrooms/
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