Cultural learning in education abroad: takeaways from the EAIE Academy in The Hague

Cultural learning in education abroad: takeaways from the EAIE Academy in The Hague

The 2014 EAIE Spring Academy, our largest Academy to date, is now abuzz at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. More than 150 participants from over 20 countries joined the training, full of energy and motivated to expand their knowledge, develop action plans for their departments and make new connections. Here, we are providing you with a series of takeaways from one of the 10 courses, ‘Cultural Learning in Education Abroad’, delivered by Karin Klitgaard Møller from EDU, Denmark and Michael Paige from the University of Minnesota, US.

The importance of learning outcomes in education abroad

Increasingly, education abroad professionals are being asked to articulate their learning outcomes, design their programmes to realise those outcomes and provide evidence that these learning outcomes are being achieved by their students. One of the most frequently mentioned outcomes is cultural learning, which can take the form of culture specific and cultural general knowledge, cultural self-awareness, culture learning skills and intercultural development. Based on advances in theory, research and programme design over the past 10-15 years, we now have a much better understanding of how cultural learning in education abroad can be successfully facilitated.

Intercultural development

The concept of intercultural development (ICD) (M. Bennett, 1993) is fundamental in intercultural education and training. ICD is defined as the increasing ability to shift perspective, cognitively and behaviorally, to another culture. Being able to do this enables a person to better understand, adapt to, and effectively work with people and groups that are culturally different. Intercultural development includes acquiring new communication and interaction skills, new cultural knowledge, culture learning skills, and ultimately, competences in working effectively across cultures.

Facilitating intercultural development: effective programme design

Education abroad experiences provide the opportunity for ICD. Theory and research over the past 15 years have questioned some of the earlier assumptions about how and why students learn about the culture while abroad. The key assumption that deep immersion in another language and culture, in and of itself, is sufficient to bring about learning is being shown to be inadequate. Rather, cognitive learning theory and empirical research show that systematic reflection on intercultural experiences combined with cultural mentoring from an interculturally knowledgeable instructor, the provision of core cultural concepts and immersion learning opportunities, is a model of programming that can bring about significantly greater intercultural development. The recently published volume, Student Learning Abroad, edited by Michael Vande Berg, Michael Paige and Kris Hemming Lou, presents relevant theory, recent research, and programme examples that illustrate how the facilitation model on cultural learning works.

These are some of the concepts discussed in the course, next to lots of roles plays, case studies and exercises aimed at providing participants with a holistic understanding of what cultural learning is.

For tips and takeaways from the other courses, make sure you follow the #EAIEAcademy on Twitter and check out our blog at the end of the week. You can also view photos from the event on our Facebook page. If you are at the Academy, remember to use the #EAIEAcademy hashtag when tweeting and join the EAIE Academy Alumni LinkedIn group to continue learning and networking after the event.

Sign up for the upcoming EAIE Academy to learn more about the topic.