What intercultural skills do you need as a trainer?

What intercultural skills do you need as a trainer?

EAIE training courses have many particularities, one of them being that they always take place in an intercultural, multi-lingual environment. This is of course part of what makes them so interesting, and also at times so challenging. After being a trainer in such an environment for almost two decades, I realise that I will never finish learning what needs to be learned in such a context – and thank goodness! 

For me, one of the extraordinary advantages of being a trainer is that I learn something new about one culture or another every single time I undertake such a course. I suppose that is what makes the experience so rich. Do you also share this feeling?

At the recent EAIE ‘Train the Trainers’ event hosted by Maastricht University Campus Brussels, Phil Conroy had a lot of tips about assessment and evaluation and Barbara Boldt had some very helpful ideas about the use of visual aids.

Assessment and evaluation

One of the areas I see as particularly challenging is evaluating how course participants are doing. People from certain cultures will not hesitate in answering if you ask the question ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘Is that clear to everyone’? but there are cultures where this might be difficult to do. There may also be cultural mixes where one might answer a question in front of people from one’s own culture but feels less comfortable about doing so in front of people from elsewhere for a variety of reasons. Phil Conroy’s ideas on building an assessment plan for international training courses were very interesting. The assessment plan might include exercises which show whether the learning point has been understood or not, one-on-one discussions, monitored group work etc. This is certainly an area that needs careful thought. Do you have other examples of successful evaluation methods?

Visual aids

Another area of particular interest is the use of visual aids. Again, in the types of classrooms we train in, intercultural means multi-lingual and here, correctly used visual aids play a really strong role. They can be used next to words or expressions that might be difficult to explain or understand. Pictures can be used very effectively to get a whole concept across. Barbara Boldt had a lot to say about this – even when there are no language difficulties, pictures can really help to ensure understanding when exhaustion from a full day’s work in a non-native language sets in.

Cultural sensitivity

Finally, even though we all pride ourselves on cultural sensitivity (and usually rightly so) there are still times when things can go wrong. Certainly in my case I’ve seen it happen in a classroom situation where a debate has become difficult between participants because of a conflict in value systems or even because history has raised its head… Do you have any examples of such situations and how you dealt with these types of issues? Please post your comments below!

Chantal Barry is an EAIE Trainer and International Communications Manager at the Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po (CEVIPOF), Paris.