What is Intercultural Teaching Capacity?

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.

Learn more:

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/

Come say hi! We’re at the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning. We can help individually or direct you to one of our workshops to meet your needs.



Is Your Instruction Designed to Produce Student Learning?

Lecture is an efficient way to transmit information, especially in large classes. We inevitably feel there is a lot of content to cover, since the gap between what novice students know and expert professors know is large. However, large, uninterrupted blocks of lecture are very inefficient ways to learn, because they are passive. Learners get cognitive overload and stop processing, have trouble paying attention, and remember some ideas that they struggle to apply or connect conceptually.  All of these occur, even with strong learners, and even with instructors who provide exceptionally focused, clear delivery of information. The mind just learns more if it is actively engaged in thinking.

As a method of direct instruction, lecture is focused on a well-organized, clear presentation of information.  Its cousin, explicit instruction, is much better aligned with what we know about how the brain learns, because it is active.

Explicit instruction:

  • students are guided through the learning process with clear statements about the purpose of learning the new skill
  • teachers give clear explanations and demonstrations
  • students engage in supported practice with feedback at intervals throughout the entire class, not just at the end

The key distinction is that while there are periods of telling information, student are asked to demonstrate the skill they are learning and practice it with feedback.  As a result, they are much more likely to remember, make fewer errors, are more focused, and more motivated.  They are also more likely to describe the learning and important and describe how to keep improving. There is clear alignment between the goal of having students understand more deeply, and the activities they are asked to participate in to support their learning.

Why does all this mater?

When we set the goals for what our students will be able to know and do by the end of class (outcomes), we need to think carefully about how remembering information is essential, but not sufficient, learning. We want students to be able to correctly apply the new information in a process, to make decisions and informed judgments, and to use new information for reasoned arguments.  That means our classes need help students develop these competencies and practice them with feedback. Our outcomes, our instruction, and how we assess all need align and work cohesively together to support effective learning processes. If they don’t, we become Professor Dancelot of video fame, with good intentions and little actual learning.

Learn more:

  • Interesting Book: Donald A. Bligh, What’s the Use of Lectures? (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000), pp. 252, 11.
  • Oft cited scholarly history: C. Bane, “The Lecture vs. the Class-Discussion Method of College Teaching,” School and Society 21 (1925); B.S. Bloom, “Thought-Processes in Lectures and Discussions,” Journal of General Education 7 (1953).