Critical intercultural incidents

Alina Schartner (Lecturer in Applied Linguistics)

School of Education, Communication & Language Sciences

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

What did you do? 

A 4-week curriculum-embedded virtual exchange activity.

Who is involved? 

MA Cross-Cultural Communication students at Newcastle University and undergraduate sociology students at Indiana University-Purdue University, Columbus (IUPUC).

How did you do it? 

The project ‘critical intercultural incidents’ was a curriculum-embedded VE activity between Alina Schartner (NU) and Nathan Rousseau (IUPUC). In February and March 2023 master’s students undertaking the module ALC8007 Professional Communication Skills at NU came together with IUPUC undergraduate sociology students. We facilitated live Zoom sessions over a period of 4 weeks. Each weekly live Zoom interaction lasted for one hour and followed the same structure:

  1.  ice-breaker
  2. group activity
  3. plenary discussion
  4. introduction of follow-on homework task

In-between Zoom sessions the students worked together asynchronously to complete a follow-on task. Session 1 followed the UNESCO Story Circles method where students shared a memorable intercultural experience with one another in breakout rooms. The follow-on task was to compile a list of cultural proverbs to be shared on Padlet.

A map of the world with location pins showing the location of spaces of interculturality and diversity. There are pins in Europe, America, Central and Eastern Asia and North Pacific Islands

A map of the world with location pins showing the location of spaces of interculturality and diversity

In session 2 the students designed a flag in small groups. In session 3 the students discussed several intercultural scenarios provided by the facilitators and suggested solutions. A follow-on photo task involved exploring ‘spaces of interculturality & diversity’ and sharing pictures of these spaces. In session 4 the students crated a World Café menu together. All artefacts produced by the students were collated by the facilitators.

An image of a menu created by students entitled 'Food brings us together'. It shows images of a bowl of food, spices and other ingredients, and a menu choices section including drinks, starters, main meals and desserts.

World Café menu created by students on the project

Why did you do it? 

We opted for synchronous interaction on Zoom to create an interactive environment where students could talk to each other in real time.

Does it work? 

Anecdotal feedback from students has been extremely positive. We are in the process of collating student feedback via an online survey. Example quotes below:

“I really enjoyed going to the break out groups to get to know our group better privately.” (IUPUC student, female)

“The conversation in my group was very enriching as we were all from diverse backgrounds, providing us with different experiences and viewpoints. I practised the role of a moderator in my group, which is exciting and potentially valuable for my future career.” (NU student, female)

Student Voice 

A quote from a participant in the project:

“This was my first experience with a Virtual Exchange program, and I had such a blast! You and your class created such a warm environment for conversations and learning opportunities!” (IUPUC student, female)

Graduate Framework

The project demonstrated the following attributes:

  • Critical thinkers
  • Curious
  • Collaborative
  • Engaged

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