Cross-Cultural Learning and Intercultural Competence

Cross-Cultural Learning and Intercultural Competence

Pi-Chi Han (University of Missouri-St. Louis, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch018
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Globalization has increased the need to understand the nature of work-related adult learning and development across national boundaries. It is driving the demand for the workforce that possesses knowledge of other countries and cultures and affecting those who are responsible for developing international learning activities. The author of this chapter calls for adult education and Human Resource Development (HRD) professionals to learn how to apply adult learning theories in cross-cultural learning to help individuals with different cultural backgrounds. This would help these professionals acquire intercultural competence and become successful in international assignments.
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Globalization has increased the need to understand the work-related adult education programs across national and cultural boundaries (Chang, 2004). Most importantly, it is crucial to understand how adult learners function and learn across cultural boundaries. The cross-cultural learning and experience of adult learners can occur in many forms. One of the most dominant cross-cultural learning and experiences comes from the expatriation experience, which is the work-related adult learning (Yamazaki & Kayes, 2004). Without formal training or education in the cross-cultural interactions, the notion of cross-cultural learning has become the key for the expatriates to obtain intercultural competencies (Yamazaki & Kayes, 2004). A growing research enhances the notion that successful expatriate adaptation and cross-cultural learning depend on how well an expatriate can learn from experience in the international assignments (Porter & Tansky, 1999). Many studies have applied and utilized adult learning theories such as experiential learning and transformative learning to be the research theoretical framework to investigate the work-related cross-cultural learning (Chang, 2004; Chang, 2007; Yamazaki & Kayes, 2004). Therefore, it is necessary for adult educators and HRD professionals to understand the nature of work-related adult learning programs in the intercultural settings and the need of developing intercultural competencies (Chang, 2004).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cultural Intelligence (CQ): Cultural intelligence as a person’s capacity to adapt to new culture based on multiple facets including cognitive, motivational and behavioral features (Earley, 2002).

Intercultural Competence: It, as a concept, has been explored and studied under different terms, such as cross-cultural effectiveness, cross-cultural adjustment, cross-cultural competence, intercultural effectiveness, intercultural competence, and intercultural communication competence. In the literature, the definition was theoretically and empirically inconsistent.

Experiential Learning: Kolb (1984) asserted that “Learning is a continuous process grounded in experience. Knowledge is continuously derived and tested out in the experience of the learner” (p. 27).

Intercultural Communication Competence: It is located in perception rather than behavior. “competent communication requires attention to the factors of context, locus, and abstraction” (Spitzberg, 2000, p. 111).

Intercultural Effectiveness (ICE) Competencies: It has included five measurable variables as following: (1) the ability to handle psychological stress, (2) the ability to effectively communicate, (3) the ability to establish interpersonal relationships, (4) the ability to have cross-cultural awareness, and (5) the ability to have cultural empathy (Han, 1997, 2008).

Transformative Learning: In literature, transformative or transformational learning is interchangeable. It is about change in the way that the learners see themselves and the world in which they live. Mezirow (1994) has defined “The social process of constructing and appropriating a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of one’s experience as a guide to action” (p. 222-3).

Cross-Cultural Learning: It is the process of adaptation to a new environment and its requirements through obtaining necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes (Hannigan, 1990). Bartel-Radic (2006) has established a definition for the intercultural learning as “the acquisition or modification of the representations of intercultural situations” (p. 652).

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