Bridging cultural gaps between instructors and their international students was the focus of two September workshops delivered by Kendra Carpenter. The workshops drew on Kendra’s decade of experience in coaching employees in Argentina, India, and the United States to increase their intercultural competence.
Per Kendra, in the last decade, the enrollment of international students in U.S. educational institutions increased by 32%. Bellevue College enrolls about 1,700 international students annually from more than 65 countries each year, and 21% of these are enrolled in continuing education, basic skills, and ESL courses.
The workshop aimed to help instructors adapt to these changing demographics by
• Gaining an awareness of students’ values and motivations,
• Learning the impact of cultural differences, and
• Practicing a method for understanding each interaction.
Gaps in communication and understanding that stem from cultural differences typically appear as
• Limited understanding of how a U.S. classroom works,
• Not speaking during class discussions,
• Lackluster class presentations, and
• Different time orientations.
The keys to competence are
1) Separating observed behavior from your perceptions of that behavior and
2) Understanding the values and motivations that the other person may have.
Workshop participants were invited to share their strategies for improving intercultural interactions in the classroom. These included
• Setting expectations for the class early in the quarter and helping students understand them,
• Asking questions to assess student comprehension,
• Reducing fear by reassuring students that it’s OK to give the wrong answer, and
• Acknowledging your learners and respecting the expertise they bring to the class.
Training in cultural competence for businesspeople is available in Kendra’s new course, Cultural Competence for Business Success.