The learning framework is content-independent, functioning in tandem with formal curriculum. A set of learning activity templates which could be articulated with any area of the curriculum at faculty discretion, are provided. This experiential approach to learning is similar to the way service learning functions. Indeed, as in service learning and education abroad, and perhaps lab work in the sciences, one of the premises of these activities is that it is essential for learning to go beyond classroom for students to achieve true competency. For this project, these competencies include:
- “Soft skills” of cross-cultural communication, active listening and online communication, soft skills that are gaining more cache in the job market.
- “Hard skills” of media production aspects provide hands-on training for technical skills used in media production.
- Research skills, as students work as curators who analyze raw data in the form of images, and learn how to consider accounts from their conversation partners as qualitative data.
The theoretic framework we embrace approaches learning with the premise that there are different forms of knowledge and a spectrum of how information is processed. Students will enter conversations with different experiential backgrounds and various levels of ability to integrate information which contradicts their worldview. Students with very limited histories of interaction across socio-cultural differences will be stem from a more ethnocentric, often chauvinist, framework of understanding. At the same time, many participants will likely have a perspective that negates differences, and insists on universals of human experience. Conversations are therefore organized around these different levels of ability to grapple with “difficult knowledge” (Britzman,1998). To make the organization more manageable, we outline three major stages of conversation. The stages of learning are grounded in theories on intercultural awareness development, cross-cultural communication, online global education and engaged pedagogy.
Stages of Learning
There are three main stages in our program: 1) an “intercultural icebreaker” stage in which participants build trust, 2) a sharing stage in which their learn about their conversation partner’s cultural context, and, 3) a cross-cultural collaboration stage in which they work together to achieve a common aim. The icebreaker stage is followed by opportunities to share daily life experiences from each culture. These two stages are assessed via the Global Community Building Buckeye Badge. The culminating project is team-based, requiring students to demonstrate their ability to work in cross-cultural situations. This collaborative stage requires effective cross-cultural communicators and develops teamwork skills, which we assess via the Global Media Project Buckeye Badge.
We designed the learning to take place in three stages: the “icebreaker stage,” the “community-building stage,” and the “collaboration stage.” The first stage, the “icebreaker stage,” is needed in order to build the trust required for cultural sharing. This is the community stage, and is where students practice online cross-cultural communication and begin sharing and learning about how their cultural experiences have shaped them.
The second stage, “the community-building stage,” is the substantive cultural learning stage and is where students gain academic knowledge about each other’s countries – it is recommended, if possible, that they be assigned a partner from the partner institution for each topic. We also recommend that students exchange some of what they learned from their partner with the whole group through a final group conversation on each topic.
The third stage, “the collaboration stage,” is the stage which requires students to take responsibility for the completion of a group project. Students form a cross-cultural team to co-author a text or media item, such as an e-book, website, video, or other type of media. They must take on a particular role to work primarily on one essential aspect of the final product – this creates interdependence to motivate students and holds them accountable to the group as a whole. We award Buckeye Badges for successful completion of stages two and three; namely, the Global Community Building Badge and the Global Media Project Badge.
Intercultural Icebreaker Stage
In this stage students become acquainted, build trust and trade brief stories about their lives. In learning from “the other” students also become aware of themselves as cultural beings (Gay, 2010, p.69). We recommend starting with cultural autobiographies (Merryfield,n.d.), personal geographies (Schoon and McClimans, 2018) and other ways of sharing lived experiences. This concept differs from a typical icebreaker activity in that it focuses on cultural awareness and requires reflection and active listening. The ultimate goal is for students to both acknowledge cultural difference and see that the self/Other concept of cultural difference can’t encompass human universals that they and their conversation partner share.
Substantive Culture Learning and Perceptual Knowledge Stage
Students learn about a foreign culture from an open-minded, yet critical standpoint. Students accept the cultural differences between themselves and the community they are learning about, and seek to understand the historical background and circumstances of the practices. The learn academic knowledge which is at the same time transformative of their approach to learning about the community. The develop new perceptual lenses from which to build new knowledge about the world and distant places.
Advanced Conversations Stage
This stage corresponds to the Global Community Building Buckeye Badge. Students have demonstrated perspective-taking skills, and are able to gain an understanding of their conversation partner’s views whether or not they agree with them (Appiah, 2006). They are able to engage with difficult topics, such as politicized debates, and recognized their cultural situatedness. The are able to learn about traumatic histories (Britzman, 1998) and controversial cultural practices from multiple perspectives, and listen actively when their conversation partner challenges their opinions.