Diversity in the College Classroom

Intercultural PedagogyDiversity in the College Classroom: Knowing Ourselves, Our Students, Our Disciplines; Eugene Fujimoto, Fay Yokomizo Akindes and Roseann Mason (Eds.)

Diversity in the College Classroom coverDiversity in the College Classroom is a collection of first-person narratives by multi-disciplinary faculty at the most racially diverse campus in the University of Wisconsin System. It reveals the complex, interior lives of college professors: how their experiences inform their teaching, relationships with students, and experimentation with innovative pedagogical approaches. All of the writers completed the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s Summer Institute: Infusing Diversity into the Curriculum.

Table of Contents:
Foreword – Christine E. Sleeter
Introduction – Eugene Oropeza Fujimoto, Fay Yokomizo Akindes, and Roseann Mason
I-Quest: Searching for the Undivided Self – Linda K. Crafton
A Sense of Not Belonging – Damian Evans
“Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations”: How I Finally Learned to Apply Vulcan Ideology towards Teaching and Learning – Peggy James
Opening (Again) – Maria del Carmen Martinez
The Transformative Power of Cultural Autobiographies – Dean Yohnk
Constructing Landscapes of Learning – Shi Hae Kim
The Sound of a Heartbeat: Of Students and Friendship and Life – Abey Kuruvilla
When “Education is an Exotic Land”: Using Metaphors to Construct Student Academic Identities – Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz
Building Diversity in Undergraduate Research – Mary Kay Schleiter
“This is Jeopardy”: Cultural Capital, Whiteness, and the College Classroom – Adrienne Viramontes
Hearing Color and Seeing Sound: Teaching Physics with Music – Dileep Karanth
Diversity Economics: Chipping Away at the Oxymoron – Farida C. Khan
Infusion of Diversity into the Organic Chemistry Curriculum – Vera M. Kolb
Diversity and Economics: A Tale of Two Countries – Marcelo Milan
Learning from Others: Engaging Students with People Diagnosed with Mental Illness – Helen Rosenberg
Afterword: Pushing for Greater Academic Access and Equity: Reflections on Facilitating Summer Institute – Thandeka K. Chapman


Teaching EFL with a Hidden Agenda: Introducing Intercultural Awareness through a Grammar Lesson

Guest PostsGuest post by Dr. Paola GiorgisTeaching EFL with a Hidden Agenda: Introducing Intercultural Awareness through a Grammar Lesson.

Is there anything more standardized than grammar? How can it then work to dismantle the standard, favoring non-standardized and non-stereotypical readings and representations of individual and collective cultural identities, and promoting intercultural understanding?

Here’s a brief example of an actual unit of two lessons, which I conducted some years ago, on simple past during a course on English as a Foreign Language.

The context

  • a vocational high school with an art curricula in Turin, a city in the northwest of Italy
  • a class of 25 students, the majority of Italian origins, a couple of students from Morocco, another three from Romania, and two from Peru. Most of the students of Italian origin came from families who had experienced migration, belonging to the third generation of what is known in Italy as the “internal immigration”, a phenomena which, from approximately the Fifties to the Seventies, moved families and work force from the south of Italy to the industries of the north.

Read the full essay.

Multilingual Signs and Intercultural Pedagogy

When visiting Macau, I was surprised by seeing trilingual street signs (Chinese, Portuguese and English), a rare phenomenon in the US. A recent article in ELT Journal by Chiou-Ian Chern and Karen Dooley documents how such signs can serve as a resource to language teachers and learners. They conclude: “Environmental print . . . has become a useful, if politically complex, resource for learning English in contexts where language teachers once lamented the paucity of English input outside the classroom.” (p. 122).

Chern, C.-I., & Dooley, K. (2014). Learning English by walking down the street. ELT Journal, 68(2), 113-123. Available from: http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/68/2/113.full

(The full article is available to download for free as I write this, though that may temporary.)

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz, Director
Center for Intercultural Dialogue

Clothing as a Tool of Intercultural Dialogue: New Zealand and India

New Zealand fashion students recreate modern-day wear from traditional Indian silk saris

In a unique celebration joining New Zealand and Indian cultures, 15 New Zealand Fashion Tech students won Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia, covering travel to the Bannari Amman Institute of Technology in India to participate in a five week Apparel and Textile Practicum. Students earned the awards by creating garments made from traditional Indian sari fabrics. The inaugural Resene Designer Selection showcased the hand-crafted silk from Southern India made especially for their garments. Four of the NZ students were Maori. The goal was to take students outside the classroom and give them an international and applied perspective.

Further information about this project is available in a New Zealand journal article entitled “A pattern for success” published in Educator Review, and in an Indian newspaper article entitled “Indian silk, New Zealand patterns”. Continuing descriptions by the students of their experiences are also available on their university’s website.

Dorm Room Diplomacy

I just ran across an interesting example of applied intercultural dialogue that may be of particular interest either to students taking, or faculty teaching, courses on intercultural topics:

“Founded by students at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009, Dorm Room Diplomacy fosters intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding among an international group of university students. Dorm Room Diplomacy employs videoconference technology to facilitate virtual exchanges that help students to see the individuals behind reductionist cultural stereotypes.

The videoconference program occurs each academic semester, and the same set of 8 students join in a virtual dialogue with a trained facilitator each week. Dorm Room Diplomacy is entirely student-run, encouraging students to take ownership over the dialogue process, establish campus chapters, and empower themselves and their peers. As a non-partisan organization, Dorm Room Diplomacy does not engage in political activities or advocacy, other than the promotion of intercultural dialogue. “

For more information, and for the source of this quote, go to the website for Dorm Room Diplomacy.

Conquering the Cultural Barriers of Teaching in Thailand by Charles McKinney

Guest PostsConquering the Cultural Barriers of Teaching in Thailand. Guest post by Charles McKinney.

Charles McKinney with students

I moved to Bangkok, Thailand in January 2013 to earn my master’s degree as a full-time student at Webster University Thailand. I needed to find work to support myself. After two months of hunting, I landed a job at a private language school teaching English, something I was qualified to do as a TESOL-certified American with two years of previous overseas ESL expertise.

Having never taught Thai students before, I initially struggled to satisfy their learning needs. The students expected me to teach by talking; they wanted to participate as little as possible. My boss told me that, unlike American students who take an active role, Thai students are often quite passive learners.

Classes were mostly one-on-one, a new format for me. A few lessons were cancelled after students griped about my teaching methods, disliking the fact that I was following the textbook lesson plan precisely rather than teaching from my knowledge of the topics and using the book minimally. I started out teaching academic writing and grammar to adolescents who found the material dry; thus my challenge was to make it more interesting for them.

Really, I had no lessons in technique: my busy boss usually gave me the necessary resources to teach and then left me to figure out the rest on my own with minimum advice. So, after nearly a month of floundering to improve my teaching performance my boss decided to give me a two-month hiatus (although I did not know this at the time). It turned out she was right: I needed more time to adapt to the culture and the students.

A few months later, I was called back to teach a new academic writing class for a mid-career professional who wanted to return to school. This time I brought my computer with me, using the Internet as an aid to my lesson plan. I prepared PowerPoint presentations to convey the material in an engaging and orderly manner. Throughout the two-month class, we managed to build rapport and exchange cultural knowledge that helped us to understand one another as individuals.

“Here are pictures of my Buddhist monk ceremony, a rite of passage that many Thai men experience,” my student shared with me one day. In return, I showed him a student newspaper from my college days. “This is my pride and joy as former editor-in-chief of the paper; you can learn about my culture through this medium,” I told him. It was one of those cultural insight moments I cherished. As our class progressed, he gave my boss positive feedback about me – and my confidence in my new techniques improved.

I was not only the first American, but the first African-American teacher this school hired. I have now taught students from Bhutan and Russia as well as Thailand. This experience has taught me the values of patience, flexibility, humility and effective cross-cultural communication. Teachers can make a difference in students’ lives, especially in cultures that are drastically different from their own, but students also make a difference in their teachers’ lives. They learned some English, but I learned about their cultures. Creating a comfortable space for students to be themselves, and remembering that teachers also learn from their students, can foster wonderful intercultural dialogues.

Charles McKinney is a recent MA media communications graduate from Webster University Thailand. Having embarked on a rewarding career of ESL/EFL teaching as an expat in East Asia, Charles is hoping to secure an English Language Fellowship with the US Embassy for the new school year and is making plans to possibly join the Peace Corps next year. CID’s website was helpful during Charles’s master’s thesis research, and he wrote this essay as a way of giving back. Contact him through LinkedIn.

Download the entire post as a PDF.

A space of relationship for dialogue among cultures

Guest Posts

A lesson dedicated to the genocide in Burundi: An occasion of dialogue as a space of relationship among cultures
by Maria Flora Mangano.

I am happy to share with you what happened recently in my class, during a lesson dedicated to the genocide of Rwanda and Burundi. I am currently lecturing on dialogue among cultures at St. Peter’s Philosophical-Theological Institute in Viterbo, Italy.

One of the students comes from Burundi; his name is Jean. He introduced himself during the first lesson, describing his background and choice of life as a religious. One day outside of class, he mentioned the war in Burundi and the genocide of 1993. In that moment he shared with me and two Italian students what it was like to be a Tutsi. In 2 or 3 minutes he described a few images of the genocide, which he lived through when he was 12 years old; thanks to God, all his family survived. I was shocked by his words and I asked him if he would be able to share his experience with the class, proposing that the students would both listen to his story and see part of the film Hotel Rwanda together. We could organise this special and unforgettable lesson in a couple of hours.

Jean prepared a powerpoint and presented the story of his country and the story of his family and relatives during those three terrible days of the genocide. I proposed to the class not to see the entire movie (which is quite long, so we saw only the trailer) but rather to dedicate the majority of the time to Jean’s personal story. I introduced the technical vocabulary, including genocide and shoah, sharing what these terms have meant in the last century and what they mean now. The 16 students come from 9 countries; some of them did not know even where Burundi was. I asked the students to try to create a space of relationship in which they could speak without any fear of offending or to be offended.

Jean was extremely clear in explaining the historical background, presenting the political and social aspects underlying the genocide. Then he shared his story with us. I am still speechless, shocked and impressed. It was the first time that one of my students desired to share what the genocide was for him and he prepared everything in detail. One young person who survived the genocide decided to offer his experience as a gift, not in revenge. He was able to share his memories, even if these are still dramatic and negative.

Jean said that in African culture the tradition is oral, not written and for this reason it is not possible to ask to him (or others) to write about their experience. He prefers talking over writing about it, but he never did so before this, as he said that the open hurts rest open even after time and sharing.

At the end of his time, all the students were so impressed and touched they could not speak. I ask the students to take time and then to try to share with Jean their feelings, also to try to thank him in a real way. I hope it will yet happen.

I am happy to share this wonderful experience of dialogue and sharing in class. I hope to be able to publish about it in the future. As scholar, I felt that this should be our way of teaching, especially given the discipline of communication we try to teach (and learn). Let’s go ahead to try to do the best with our students and in research on this issue. I am still convinced that we may try to re-write history through dialogue.

I am sharing what happened because it is uncommon to talk about the genocide of Rwanda (and Burundi) for people who survived this. It is still too early, as Jean told me. I consider this moment an important effect of dialogue among cultures, as this student chose to share his life with the class and he prepared the lesson on his own, without any help from me. He chose what to say, also decided not to show any pictures of the genocide and he carefully chose the words to describe those days. He also chose to first present the political and historical conditions as a necessary introduction to the genocide.

Afterwards, Jean reported that he felt understood by the class, so probably he was ready to share this moment. In the days since, I have received mails from him and from the others who have expressed their appreciation for that moment. I have the feeling that we built the space for relationship as the basis of dialogue during the course, and that this moment significantly enriched this space.

Download the entire post as a PDF.

NOTE: See the response prompted by this post, by Robyn Penman.

Example of dialogue among cultures

Guest PostsAn interesting example of dialogue among cultures by Maria Flora Mangano.

I have just taught a course in a rather unique context. The course was Communication of Scientific Research, offered to students (MSc and PhD) at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute, located in Bari (in Southern Italy). The Institute is part of the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies, located in Paris.

This course was an extraordinary experience: five days, of 8 hours of lessons per day, supplemented by moments of dialogue during the meals and after dinner. All told, a very intense week, with more than 25 students from Masters and PhD courses in various agronomic disciplines. Among the group, only two were Italian, the other students coming from almost 15 countries in the Mediterranean area, from Kosovo to Morocco.

The course produced many challenges for me: first of all, the fear to propose content in a non-native language, especially topics related to dialogue as a space of relationship among, beyond and across our cultures and disciplines; then the proposal of building this space during all the week, in class and out, with students who came from countries where there are still conflicts.

We discussed in class the attack in Beirut last week, as one student had parents who lived in that zone; the same with the Egyptian students with whom we tried to talk about the 50 deaths in Cairo during the riots in the streets.

It was extremely intense to dialogue with students about the value of the other and otherness, starting from European philosophy, which risked appearing far from all their cultures. I tried to introduce the content starting from keywords, as I usually do in my teaching activities, also in Latin and ancient Greek languages, exploring the meaning of the various terms in all of their languages.

I proposed that every student introduce her or himself in 10 minutes by using whatever tools they wanted. We spent a lot of time in class analyzing their oral presentations, which were delivered by slide, oral speeches, or music (one student played some songs from his country with a guitar).

The issues around scientific research gave me the opportunity to introduce other topics related to the relationship with the other, which are different for every country. I also shared with them the notion of creating a “safe” space of dialogue.

One exercise used the short film, Twice upon a time (about bilingualism in Canada). The results were interesting: the students who came from countries close to the European tradition (if we can use this expression), like Turkey or the Balkans (in particular, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia), appreciated the movie and found it a fitting conclusion to the lesson. But the students from the Maghreb (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria) and from the Middle East (Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon) did not enjoy it as much. In fact, they found it boring and a bit excessive, as they did not fully appreciate the issues depicted.

Ramadan started during the course, which provided another wonderful opportunity for sharing and dialogue. The majority of the students in this course were Muslim, but only about half were observant. Those who were needed to fast (not only avoiding food, but also even water), throughout the day, even though in Southern Italy the summer is hot. I proposed to the students that I would participate in their evening prayer, after dinner, for almost one hour, since it was the only one of the five times dedicated to daily prayer that we might share. They were very happy and surprised, as they told me that it was uncommon for a non-Muslim to join in prayer with them.

At the end of the sessions we had ice cream in the garden (the campus is really beautiful), after dinner and after prayer. It was another occasion for interaction among the group members, including some students who were not enrolled in this course.
Course CSR_MAI 2013-rev

I asked students to send me their feedback and so I have been receiving beautiful notes. I have the feeling that we shared something new, beyond only disciplinary content, as many of them have now told me.

Download the entire post as a PDF.

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