Milton Bennet, from the Intercultural Research Development Institute defines intercultural learning as an “area of research, study and application of knowledge about different cultures, their differences and similarities. On the one hand, it includes a theoretical and academic approach. On the other hand, it comprises practical applications such as learning to negotiate with people from different cultures, living with people from different cultures, living in a different culture and the prospect of peace between different cultures.”
Encouraging students to explore culture in the classroom can be one of the most effective ways to expose them to world around them and promote critical 21st century skills. How can you promote intercultural learning in your classroom? Here are 6 easy ways to inspire intercultural learning among students in the classroom and beyond.
1. Define Culture
Defining the meaning of culture for students, can be one of the best ways to begin the dialogue on intercultural learning. AFS-USA has outline a variety of lesson plans and eLearning to help guide the discussion. For example, The Hidden Ways in Which Culture Differs lesson plan, uses the iceberg analogy to teach students to look at the hidden dimensions when comparing different cultures.
2. Study Abroad
Participating in a study abroad program is one of the most effective ways to expose students to a different culture and allow them to see the world from a global perspective. To highlight, AFS-USAprovides programs ranging from 2 week Global Prep Program to a yearlong cultural immersion program. With a variety of countries to explore, a study abroad experience will leave students with a renewed vision of what it means to be a global citizen.
3. Host An Exchange Student
While participating in a cultural exchange can be a life changing experience, welcoming an exchange student into your classroom may be just as rewarding. The Department of State offers a variety of opportunities for those interested in hosting an exchange student. In fact, AFS-USA supports Public Diplomacy Initiatives that bring students to the US and sends Americans abroad. These programs include, Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program, NSLI for Youth, and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study.
4. Join or Start a Language Club
Language learning can be one of the best ways to introduce students to intercultural learning. It not only enhances their curiosity for the global world, but it also helps to develop critical skills for college and career readiness. As educators, you can encourage students to start or join language club in your school and explore different dimensions about that culture.
5. Coordinate A Cultural Celebration
Coordinating a cultural celebration at your school can be of the most enjoyable ways to get students involved in learning more about a different culture. By infusing different global themes, such as music, cultural foods, and art, you can begin the dialogue for intercultural learning. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs especially encourages cultural activities and celebration during International Education Week (November 14-18, 2016).
6. Participate In A Virtual Exchange
Virtual Classroom Exchange is one of the best ways to utilize technology as a means to foster intercultural dialogue. For example, as a teacher you can collaborate with an organization such as iEARN, which operates in over 140 countries to bring students and educators together to coordinate interactive global projects.
These 6 simple steps will not only promote intercultural learning in your classroom, but will spark their interest in what it means to be a global citizen. We encourage you to include these steps in your curriculum and inspire your students to see the world as their classroom.