Unleashing Dormant Diversity: Insights on Video, Culture, and Teaching Diverse Student Groups

Unleashing Dormant Diversity: Insights on Video, Culture, and Teaching Diverse Student Groups

Amanda E.K. Budde-Sung (The University of Sydney, Australia) and Anthony Fee (The University of Sydney, Australia)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-800-2.ch011
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The chapter will begin with a discussion of the increasing diversity in today’s classrooms and the current pedagogies in higher education, and then move to the challenges of a diverse student audience, followed by the benefits of using video to meet these challenges, finally offering some practice-based suggestions on using video in the cross-cultural classroom.
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Diverse Learning Audiences

Diversity in the Global Classroom

The 21st century campus is a truly diverse place. International student enrollments are at record levels, especially in countries with English as the primary language of instruction. In the United States, for example, almost 650,000 international students were enrolled in university education programs in 2008 (Monaghan, 2009), a rise of more than seven percent from the previous year (Institute for International Education, 2008). Other countries have similarly impressive figures. In Australia, where international education is the third largest export earner, more than half a million international students from 199 different countries were enrolled in educational institutions in 2008, a rise of 12% over the preceding year (AEI, 2008). Canada hosted 180,000 international student enrollments in its educational institutions, a figure almost double that of a decade earlier (Monaghan, 2009), while Singapore, with a population base of under five million, educated over 100,000 international students in 2007 (Stearns, 2008). Recent data suggests that the U.K. is nearing the U.S. in numbers of international students at its universities: a 2009 report by the Higher Education Statistics Agency in the U.K. noted that there were 513,570 international students in British universities in 2008, and that at the post-graduate level, 80% of business students were international students, and 70% of social science and biological science students in the U.K. were international students.

The perceived social and actual economic benefit of this diversity1, as well as the cultural importance placed upon formal education in major source countries, notably China (Sterns, 2008), India and South Korea (Monaghan, 2009), suggests that the trend is likely to continue.

This diversity on campus, as well as in most workplaces and many communities, has contributed toward the growing recognition of the need for students to develop greater cultural awareness. As cross-cultural educators, we aim to help learners develop this cultural awareness that underpins effective cross-cultural management. This can be done in multiple ways, and as outlined in this volume (Fee & Budde-Sung). The current preference is for ‘experiential learning’ approaches which are believed to more accurately replicate real world situations. Yamazaki & Kayes (2004), in considering cross-cultural learning, assert that methods for developing cross-cultural learning skills include an individual assessment of one’s values and beliefs (Kayes, 2002); behavioral skills and emotional development (Mainemelis, Boyatzis, & Kolb, 2002), as well as immersion in different, and possibly challenging, cross-cultural situations (Mintzberg & Gosling, 2002). They note “these experiential approaches are not simply tangential to conceptual approaches; they are a primary component of cross-cultural learning” (Yamazaki & Kayes, 2004: 376). In cross-cultural education, experiential pedagogies involve students participating in meaningful interactions with people from other cultures as a way to develop cultural knowledge and understanding, and to observe and practice culturally-appropriate behaviors. These interactions can be either authentic cross-cultural experiences, in which students solve problems, discuss ideas, or share experiences, or simulated cross-cultural experiences in the form of role-plays.

The diverse cohorts that make up many university classes are tailor-made for experiential learning activities. Surrounded by cultural differences, in-class discussions and group work can provide authentic cross-cultural interactions that can be used to develop capabilities related to cultural intelligence (CQ). The presence of students from a variety of countries and cultures has the potential to make the cross-cultural lecture room a particularly potent experiential learning laboratory. However, if not managed correctly, the benefits of this diversity may remain unachieved and the opportunity to turn this diversity into a learning tool goes unrealized. There are several reasons for this missed opportunity. Some of these are pragmatic; successful cross-cultural interaction does not occur by accident (Allport, 1979) and creating an environment that is conducive to experiential learning among students from many different cultures can take time, effort, resources, and energy that are often beyond those available to instructors. More pertinent, however, are a number of characteristics embedded in the learners themselves relating to differences in values, language, communication, and learning expectations that can impede the extent to which diverse groups might engage in productive cross-cultural interaction. In a team environment, many of these impediments are called ‘process losses’ that hinder the performance potential of the team (Steiner, 1972). In a cross-cultural classroom, such process losses can result from improper or inadequate harnessing of the diversity within the classroom, and can cause a weakening of the potential learning experiences of the class. In analyzing this situation, we must first consider the challenges that diverse student cohorts bring to the classroom.

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