Understanding Social Identity through Autoethography: Building Intercultural Communication Competencies in Higher Education Classroom

Understanding Social Identity through Autoethography: Building Intercultural Communication Competencies in Higher Education Classroom

Maria S. Plakhotnik
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1732-0.ch006
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The purpose of this chapter is to discuss how instructors could use autoethnography as a course assignment to help students understand their cultural identities and build their intercultural communication competences in higher education classroom. Autoethnography is a qualitative research method that helps people examine their relationship with a group or a culture. The chapter provides an overview of literature relevant to intercultural communication competences, social identity, and autoethnography and then describes the author's use of autoethnography in an undergraduate course “Social and Cultural Foundations of Education” taught at a large public university in the United States. In her class, the author uses this method to help students examine their cultural identity, or relationship with groups based on their religion, culture, nationality, ethnicity, or other groups relevant to the course.
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Intercultural Communication Competence

In simple terms, intercultural communication could be understood as interpersonal communication between two or more people (Gudykunst, 2002). Competencies, in turn, could be defined as a set of qualities and skills or an expertise that enables people to successfully perform in a given situation or to complete an assigned task (Hamel & Prahalad, 1990). Definitions, theories, and models of ICC vary but most include three elements:

  • Affect,

  • Behavior, and

  • Cognition (Martin, 2015).

In other words, ICC implies two or more people who are different culturally achieve the desired outcome of communication by engaging in a conversation willingly and enthusiastically and displaying necessary behaviors, emotions, and knowledge. For example, Chen and Starosta (2000) suggest, “intercultural communication competence is an umbrella concept which is comprised of cognitive, affective, and behavioral ability of interactants in the process of intercultural communication” (p. 4). The cognitive aspect of ICC refers to one’s understanding how culture affects how people think. The affective aspect includes one’s motivation to understand and accept cultural differences. The behavioral aspect refers to one’s ability to achieve the goals of communication in a given situation. Most definitions directly or indirectly imply that ICC addresses people’s effectiveness to achieve the goal of the communication exchange and appropriateness of people’s behaviors (Arasaratnam & Banerjee, 2011).

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