Intercultural Link News Magazine v4 i2&3 – Global Edition

 

The newest edition of the Intercultural Link News Magazine has just been launched. Read it on-line or download it here. Enjoy!

 

 

 

AFS Intercultural Programs is pleased to announce the new issue of AFS Intercultural Link Newsletter volume 4, issues 2 and 3 – Global Edition, which can be shared with everyone interested in learning more about intercultural education.

At AFS we understand that intercultural learning goes far beyond that of our exchange students. This issue brings you some ideas on how to use intercultural learning with host families, both on the level of concepts and in practical activities, featuring:
  • a look at what potential obstacles to intercultural communication exist and how to overcome them;
  • a new Learning Session Outline to help you introduce basic notions of intercultural learning to new host families;
  • an interview with Fred Dervin, whose work focuses on the intercultural learning and communication;

and much more!

The AFS Intercultural Link News Magazine is the quarterly magazine on intercultural learning in the AFS Network. The magazine features content shared by the Intercultural Learning Work Group as well as other AFS Partners and guest writers, including information on trends in intercultural education, interviews with experts in the field and overviews of upcoming and previous conferences.

 

Search Google for Stereotypes

What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you think about another nation, country or a group of people? That Asians are so hard working? The French are really romantic? Old people are boring, but young are too careless? These assumptions are wide spread and they fall into the categories of generalizations and stereotypes.

Generalizing about cultures means that you assign the similar characteristics to most members of that particular culture, but you are still flexible enough to incorporate new information about that group once you have it. Hopefully, this flexibility can also turn into more cultural curiosity and awareness and improve your intercultural relationships. Generalizations are unavoidable and they can even be helpful in making sense of complex intercultural settings.

Generalizations become stereotypes when you assume all members of a group have exactly the same characteristics. Stereotypes can be linked to more than just gender, age or nationality. More often than not, they are very negative and tend to be less flexible to new information. They often create prejudice and discrimination, not allowing us to understand individual differences and understand others.

Even though everyone was at least once confronted with a generalization or a stereotype about a group they belong to, we often like to think that the internet is the one fair arena where equality prevails. But what happens when you type a question into a search engine starting with, for example, “Why do Germans…”? A list of suggested endings to those questions immediately pops up, and it might not always be a flattering one. Have you ever tried googling for your country or social group using this principle? We took a few examples, and here is what came out:

What results did you get?

Cultural diversity is of paramount importance for AFS programs, enabling our exchange students to have first hand experiences with other cultures rather than relying on old stereotypes. If you want to read more about generalizations and stereotypes or other intercultural topics, we encourage you to visit the ICL for friends of AFS section on our website.

 

Host Families are Key to Successful Cultural Adaptation

Researchers at the University of Essex, in collaboration with AFS, recently completed the The Impact of Living Abroad, an 18 month study that involved almost 2500 sojourners enrolled in a 10-12 month AFS program, as well as 578 control group participants.

The project investigated four central components of intercultural contact: acculturative stress, cultural learning, intergroup contact, and the effect of cultural distance. More information about this research can be found in the Intercultural Link news magazine or on our website.

This article looks at how the relationship a sojourner has with her/his host family influences the exchange experience.

We at AFS know that our host families play a critical role in the intercultural learning experience. Families are among the first members of the host culture that the sojourner meets and are often people with whom s/he spends the most time. They introduce exchange students to cultural traditions, support the language learning process, serve as “cultural informants” and provide the basis of a new social network to complement the one the traveler left behind in her/his home country.

The Impact of Living Abroad study further confirmed that the sojourner-host family relationship significantly influences a sojourner’s sociocultural and psychological adaptation and overall exchange experience in several ways. Here, the researchers define sociocultural adaptation as adjusting to lifestyle, social norms, language use and other practical considerations in a different culture; psychological adaptation refers to one’s sense of belonging, feelings and other emotional aspects of being in a new environment.

Here’s how:

  • Strong social identification with members of the host culture, most notably the host family, is related to success. The more a sojourner can see her/himself as a part of the host community and feel strong attachment to it, the more likely they will be to have a positive adaptation process.
  • Adopting and/or incorporating traditions of the host culture, which are frequently and deeply learned directly from the host family, has a positive effect on adaptation. Called acculturation orientation in the study, sojourners adapt well when they try to take on local customs and ways of behaving within a new place (even if this orientation also remains high with the home culture, too).
  • Quality contact – or the amount of time where interactions are perceived as good, close and strong – with host nationals, particularly host family members, is connected to several other positive outcomes in addition to successful adaptation:
  • an improvement in cross-cultural competence, which, in this study means the ability to adjust appropriately to new cultural environments and interactions with people from different cultural backgrounds
  • high satisfaction with life during the exchange,
  • an increase in the level of cultural knowledge of both home and host cultures, and
  • positive evaluation of the exchange.

In other words, host families play a determining role in how intercultural adept, happy, culturally savvy, and satisfied the exchange student is. In sharing the AFS Educational Goals with families and ensuring they are well-prepared to help facilitate sojourner learning – and are open to learning themselves – AFS optimizes our education and mission impact.

For more information about The Impact of Living Abroad study results, contact us at icl@afs.org.

Teacher Education for Change: Pestalozzi Programme

As governments and leaders around the world realize the growing importance of the change in how we educate the 21st century citizens, we can see intercultural and global competencies making their way to educational policies and more concretely into curricular documents around the world. This trend as such won’t make a difference unless it’s embraced by educators and that’s why we should be asking: How does the policy get translated into practice, into the day-to-day reality in the classroom?

One of the initiatives that strives to respond to the above mentioned challenge is the Council of Europe Pestalozzi Programme. It is a program for the professional development of teachers and education actors which aims to deliver the message of the Council of Europe and its values – democracy, respect for human rights and dignity and the rule of law – into the practice of education (formal, non-formal and informal). It supports its member states in the move from education policy to education practice in line with these values by offering training activities, publishing and sharing resources and creating an on-line Community of Practice.

The program targets teachers, school principals, inspectors, educational advisers, teacher trainers, textbook authors and other education professionals and supports them in the development of knowledge, skills and attitudes they need in order to guide and facilitate the learning of the young members of their societies.

The growing need for the development of transversal knowledge, skills and attitudes among teachers to make them fully equipped for educating the 21st century citizens is a belief that is also strongly present in the work of AFS Intercultural Programs, which cooperates with teachers and educators in many of the Council of Europe member states, as well as with those outside of Europe.

Pestalozzi program represents an inspiring and valuable resource for anyone who works on intercultural competence development of pre-service and in-service teachers, educators and other related audiences. Visit the FAQs to learn more about the program or explore how to take an active part in the training events and modules.

 

 

Atlantic & Aspen Institute – New York Ideas Event: How AFS Can Get with the “Blended Learning” Program

Today, we are reposting a blog article from the Global Education blog of AFS USA, one of the AFS Intercultural Programs’ member organizations, with permission of the author Sarah Ingraham.

What a spectacular day at the Atlantic/Aspen – New York Ideas event on May 7th, a gathering of innovative thinkers and groundbreaking discoverers who monitor trends, create possibilities, and navigate our increasingly globalized 21st century world with excitement and good intention. From the founders of Google to Zipcar to women on Wall Street to a socially conscious eyewear designer with 100% carbon neutral products, the room was buzzing with brilliant minds. And online education, fused with traditional, brick and mortar education – now known as “blended learning” was definitely a hot topic.

As AFS approaches its 100th year anniversary, it is good time to reflect on the valuable advancements our world has made in e-learning, new technologies, and their application in a disparate world – and how AFS will become part of the innovative mix. David Levin, co-founder of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) spoke about serving under-resourced communities with online, open-enrollment, college preparatory schools, and noted the successful interplay between guided and independent practice and strong student retention rates.

Anant Agarwal, President of edX, talked of online courses reaching remote locations. He was asked, “Does e-learning equalize or widen the social divide?” and responded with a scenario of a student in rural Mangalore, India, where university professors are few and far between so are merely required to hold a Bachelor’s degree to teach at this level. Would this student be better off taking an online science technology course at Berkeley from a PhD expert on the topic? Good point.

David Levin asserted that in the long run access to technology and e-learning tools will only serve to democratize education and narrow the gap. However, the importance of great principals and quality teachers alongside e-learning tools is of paramount importance for the best possible results.  How can AFS-USA help to promote e-learning in its intercultural programs for students and teachers? An important question to consider.

For more information on blending learning, please see the following helpful resources on the topic:

The Basics of Blended Learning

The Definition of Blended Learning

Evaluating What Works in Blended Learning

AFS USA Resources for Educators

Global competency, 21st century skills, intercultural communication competence – these are all buzz words present in most curricular discussions and educators’ conversations nowadays. Understanding the importance of the role of educational institutions in nurturing these highly demanded skills is without a doubt the key starting point in shifting the focus of our educational systems. But how do we apply this new approach in practice? How do we work with global competence development in the classroom?

AFS USA, one of AFS Intercultural Programs’ member organizations which runs all of AFS’s exchange programs to and from the US, has recently launched a brand new section on their website that aims to provide inspiration and answers to some of the questions above. Their Educators website offers a variety of resources and tools that are not only relevant for US based Educators, but that can also be used by other teachers around the world.

Browse the Teachers Toolbox that includes suggested lesson plans and curricular resources or learn about the AFS Educational Goals. The portal also presents the various offerings AFS USA has for schools: group educational programs, scholarship opportunities for individual students or AFS school clubs are some of the examples.

Do you want to receive Education and Intercultural Learning news from AFS USA? Subscribe to the Global Classroom Newsletter that will bring new inspiration directly to your inbox every three months!

Join Us and Stretch Your Cultural Comfort Zone!

We are happy to share a fun, informative activity brought to you by AFS Intercultural Programs, Inc. that you can use to bring Intercultural Learning concepts to life!


Stretch Your Cultural Comfort Zone®
 is an exercise that aims to raise awareness of personal preferences in cultural contexts and encourages users to explore the boundaries of their comfort zones. The exercise is built around several cultural dimensions as defined by Geert Hofstede and Edward T. Hall. It asks participants to identify with one of the extremes* on six different scales representing six different dimensions, then try out activities or tasks that represent the other extreme and are not necessarily comfortable to them. The activity can be used as an interactive and self-guided display, or it can be used in a training situation with space provided for facilitated reflection and discussion. While the original activity is in English, all the documents are able to be edited and transformed into other language versions. We invite you to make your own language version using the templates provided and share them with others who are interested in working across cultural differences.*For the purpose of this exercise, participants are asked to pick one of the extremes on the dimensions scales; the authors acknowledge that reality is much more complex.

Intercultural Link News Magazine v4 i1 – Global Edition

The newest edition of the Intercultural Link News Magazine has just been launched. Read it on-line or download it here. Enjoy!

AFS Intercultural Programs is pleased to announce the January/February/March/April 2013 issue of AFS Intercultural Link Newsletter volume 4, issue 1 – Global Edition, which can be shared with everyone interested in learning more about intercultural education.

The AFS Intercultural Link News Magazine is the quarterly magazine on intercultural learning in the AFS Network. The magazine features content shared by the Intercultural Learning Work Group as well as other AFS Partners and guest writers, including information on trends in intercultural education, interviews with experts in the field and overviews of upcoming and previous conferences.

Concept of “Cultural Intelligence”

Today we recommend an article on the concept of “Cultural Intelligence” by Clodagh O’ Reilly. The article is published on the site TrainingZone.co.uk, a portal with resources and articles for trainers and educators.

Cultural Intelligence” is a concept that is directly related to cultural values and dimensions and to cultural adaptation. Generally, cultural intelligence consists of understanding the values, attitudes and behaviors of a culture group and a knowledge of how to appropriately apply this to achievement a specific goal (Earley & Ang, 2003). One’s own cultural intelligence is therefore developed not only by learning about other cultures, but also by interacting closely with people of cultures other than our own. By paying special attention to the motivations and emotional maturity of others during our own process of developing cultural intelligence, we can better foster this ability in others. According to O’Reilly, cultural intelligence also requires an intrinsic demonstration of respect for the other culture.

Cultural intelligence is relevant for individuals, but also for teams. Research shows that in multicultural teams and organizations, especially those with diversity in leadership, can offer more creative and innovative outcomes. However, diversity does not just happen by having diversity within a team. Unmoderated cultural diversity may increase team conflicts and miscommunication; therefore, cultural intelligence is necessary in teams in order to minimize the chances of experiencing conflict and increasing the successful communication that leads to innovation, Earley and Ang (2003) say.

To read more about cultural intelligence, check out Earley and Song’s book Cultural Intelligence: Individual Interactions Across Cultures or several books by David Livermore. Also, the Center for Leadership and Cultural Intelligence in Singapore and the Cultural Intelligence Center in the US are important points of reference in the study of this concept, not only with their research but also with professional and educational activities.

While defined differently by different groups of researchers and trainers, cultural intelligence is a concept that can expand the focus AFS places on increasing intercultural competence. As we learn more and incorporate frameworks and concepts into our work, we should keep an eye on research and practices in cultural intelligence that connect with our Intercultural Learning in focus (for instance: understanding values, attitudes and behaviors) and in our mission to promote heightened understanding between cultures.

The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace

Intercultural Skills is becoming a buzzword in educational and work environments, but why do employers value such skills? And which specific skills are employers actually looking for? British Council, together with Ipsos and Booz Allen Hamilton (a market research and consulting company, respectively), recently conducted a study on the Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace which addressed these particular questions.

The study found that “employers are under strong pressure to find employees who are not only technically proficient, but also culturally astute and able to thrive in a global work environment.” 

The intercultural skills that where shown to be most important were:
  • The ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints
  • Demonstrating respect for others
  • Knowledge of a foreign language
And these skills were so highly valued because employees with them:
  • Brought in new clients
  • Worked well within diverse teams
  • Supported a good brand and reputation for their organization
The study also suggested that policy makers and education providers could contribute to the development of these intercultural skills by prioritizing:
  • Teaching communication skills
  • Offering foreign language classes
  • Opportunities for students to gain international experience
These results from British Council’s study provide further justification for the importance of developing intercultural skills and sensitivity to differences – especially for the younger generations who have not yet entered the job market.
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AFS is proud to have a long history of providing opportunities for its audiences to develop intercultural skills – as an exchange student, host family, volunteer, or staff! Read about the AFS Educational Goals and the Intercultural Link Learning Program as examples of how AFS activity contributes to this global theme.
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