Inspire - a Teaching Fellows' newsletter

Promoting excellence in Learning and Teaching, driven by Middlesex Senior Fellows of HEA with contributions welcomed from all Middlesex staff.

Intercultural learning in the Internet

One of the outputs of the Intercultural learning on the Internet (IntCultNet) project, which was an EU-funded project under the MINERVA stream included a target group analysis for learners. The aim of the target group analysis in the IntCultNet context was to investigate the existence of and target potential users of the deliverables of the project in the partner countries in the duration of the project and after the end of the two-year period. Among the major intended outcomes of IntCultNet was to increase the cultural competence of teachers, tutors and diversified special user groups like personnel of enterprises, minorities, people with special needs, immigrants etc, and promote access to educational resources. 

The Middlesex contribution in the development of the course materials helped to achieve the following benefits:
• To develop an awareness and respect for cultural diversity, and individual differences and strengths, in order to work effectively with others.
• To examine the different styles and approaches required for communicating with people and groups in dispersed environments, and to select an appropriate style for any given situation.
• To create an inclusive, responsive and flexible environment, which allows everyone to be involved in a meaningful way.

The scope of the core deliverable (inter-cultural learning course resources) aimed to facilitate university and college teachers, assistants and personnel of adult training centres by better understanding learning needs of various student groups. 

To facilitate learning, teachers need to accommodate students' background knowledge and skills. All students bring to the classroom out-of-school knowledge that influences school-based learning. When this individual knowledge includes another language and a different culture, it must be taken into account so as not to become a barrier in the communication process between teachers and students. In a global learning environment the students’ cultural heritage must not be dismissed but instead utilised to enhance their learning. It is also important to identify potential areas of cultural interference where two cultures may come into conflict or overlap.

Effective instruction of culturally diverse students requires teachers to be sensitive to students' unique cultural background and learning styles. To achieve the intended outcomes, learning goals must be clearly communicated, reflect cultural awareness and be relevant to the students' experiences. Content will be meaningful only if it takes into account the students' prior knowledge and their world view. If global education is to be a successful and enriching experience for all students, teachers must acquire multicultural awareness and foster an acceptance and respect of different cultures to facilitate students in learning the modes of a new culture, while maintaining an appreciation of their own cultural heritage.

Dr Georgios Dafoulas