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Being on common ground: Facilitating increased cross-cultural interactions in diverse learning contexts

Whitsed, C., Richardson, I., Gothard, J., Hobson, J., Middleton, H. and Paull, M. (2012) Being on common ground: Facilitating increased cross-cultural interactions in diverse learning contexts. In: Teaching and Learning Forum, 2-3 February 2012, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia

Abstract

Increasingly in the internationalisation of the curriculum discourse, domestic and international student cross-cultural interaction is identified as a critical and challenging priority across the university sector nationally and internationally. Domestic and international research suggests both international and local students exhibit high degrees of reluctance towards mixing in and outside of learning contexts. Therefore, it is increasingly seen as being important to place an emphasis on engineering cross-cultural interactions in learning contexts, though this is not without its challenges for both academic staff and students.

Building on the ALTC project Finding common ground: Enhancing interaction between domestic and international students [http://www.altc.edu.au/resource-finding-common-ground-enhancing-interaction-between-domestic-and-international-students-fin] five academics from across Murdoch University employed the Interaction for Learning Framework to facilitate increased opportunities for students to interact outside their cultural groups while engaging in authentic learning tasks and contexts.

The units used to implement the framework included: a part-one service-teaching unit Introduction to Statistics, a history unit Australia and its Asian Context, a general elective unit From University to Work Place, a business postgraduate coursework unit Organisational Behaviour and a Mass-communication and Media unit Children and the Media.

The original project identified several potential benefits linked to increased interactions for learning across linguistic and cultural groups, such as, increased awareness of different perspectives and better preparation for employment. The study also identified impediments from both the teaching and learning perspectives. From the perspective of academic staff, challenges included perceptions concerning the time required to facilitate increased interactions in 'crowded' and 'heavy' curricula. From the student perspective challenges identified included perceived levels of English proficiency, limited time spent on campus, and different academic priorities. The study concluded that in spite of the challenges, if interactions across linguistic and cultural groups are encouraged and supported, there are gains to be made for academic staff and students [http://www.altc.edu.au/resource-finding-common-ground-enhancing-interaction-between-domestic-and-international-students-fin].

In this presentation each academic involved in the project at Murdoch University will report on how they implemented the Framework in their particular unit, their observations, the challenges and future directions. All experienced levels of success in increasing student interaction and cross-cultural mixing in these diverse learning contexts. A significant and surprising outcome of the project was the degree to which the participating academics, through their regular interactions, found they had 'common ground'.

Key learnings arising out of this project are: facilitating increased cross-cultural interactions does not require a significant re-writing of unit content, students may grumble about mixing but they acknowledge it is a required workplace competency, and a focus on process rather than content can lead students to increased intercultural awareness and understandings. Facilitating opportunities for academic staff to share and collaborate outside of their discipline context can, as in the case of this project, produce a community of practice who then champion internationalisation of the curriculum across the broader university community.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: Student Learning Centre
Publisher: Murdoch University
Copyright: The Authors
Conference Website: http://www.murdoch.edu.au/Teaching-and-Learning-Fo...
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/15567
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