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. Details follow.
Three Learning Stages:
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.
Instructional Design of the Pilot:
We ran a pilot to test the above model in 2017. We based our instructional design on the premise that sustained, authentic, cross-cultural interaction has a powerful catalyzing effect on intercultural awareness. Current research indicates that time spent interacting with locals, and cross-cultural collaboration maximizes student learning abroad (Paige, 2009; Berg, Connor-Linton, & Paige, 2009; Berg, 2009; Berg, Paige, & Lou, 2012; Rhodes, Biscarra, Loberg, & Roller, 2012). We considered this research, along with research on the strength of the online environment for intercultural learning (Merryfield, 2003; Jung, Gunawardena, & Moore, 2014) when designing the core learning activities and assessment rubrics. We also considered the importance of job readiness, and the need students have for documented evidence of their achievements. We decided, therefore that the end result would be an e-book, Windows Into Turkish Culture that the students co-authored. This served two purposes: as a textbook for students in future classes, and as an artifact students could refer to in job interviews.
Students used the app Suitable on their phones to track their progress and we used it to give them ongoing feedback, and see a bird’s-eye view of their activities. We structured the learning around specific milestones and learning artifacts that students could keep in an e-portfolio. We created Buckeye Badges to assess and validate student achievement, while also producing a co-credential students can share online or use to back up skills claimed on their resumes. Thus the first milestone students achieved was demonstrating they could effectively participate in online cross-cultural conversations, and learn from their peers in Turkey. Once they achieved that, they were ready for the collaboration on the e-book. We encouraged students to maintain an e-portfolio of their badges and achievements from the course (and hopefully other courses and areas of achievement). The co-authoring of an e-book is a concrete piece of evidence that could be shared at an interview.
The methodology for this model centers on e-Portfolio practices. This means students reflect on their learning frequently, and take an active role in the learning. E-portfolio learning includes reflection and co-constructing knowledge as a central part of the educational process, aspects which are of particular value for intercultural learning. e-Portfolios are also a means to “to increase access to higher education for a broad and diverse population . . .and to capture and reflect the multitude of modes through which today’s students demonstrate their learning” (AACU, 2014) and have been identified as “the best way of assessing learning in the online environment” (Sangra, Porto, & Jung, 2014). Both e-portfolios and co-credentialing are gaining traction in the pursuit of internationalizing the curriculum; universities such as the University of Pittsburgh and their University Center for International Studies, who are constructing more attainable and accessible global learning pathways and credentials for all students starting freshman year and going through post-doc.