Building a School Culture of Intercultural Competency

Speakers: Dr. April Mattix Foster and Karen Wrightsman
Institution: George Mason University

It is the goal of this presentation to provide school leaders with practical ideas and strategies to promote intercultural competency in their schools. The ultimate aim of this workshop is to empower the attendees with a series of activities -within a professional development framework- that encourage contemplation about and engagement with the idea of intercultural competence.

Intercultural competence is “the appropriate and effective management of interaction between people who, to some degree or another, represent different or divergent affective, cognitive, and behavioral orientations to the world” (Spitzberg & Changnon, 2009, p. 7). For international schools, where the student body generally represents a wide and often diverse array of cultures and countries, intercultural competence is a vital component of a positive school culture. Research shows that intercultural competence is not an intrinsically innate ability. Rather, it is a combination of dispositions, capabilities, and a mindset –something people learn and develop (DeJaeghere, 2009). Promoting intercultural competence requires thoughtful, intentional consideration and active engagement. During this presentation, school leaders are provided with tangible concepts that help establish a school culture by which intercultural competence is strengthened. By engaging in a series of practical, hands-on activities the attendees will deepen their understanding of how to engage their school’s faculty in the enhancement of thinking and learning about intercultural competency.

Through a series of activities, participants are able to reflect on the following ideas: 

  • Culture is a complex concept and has a direct impact on how we view, perceive, and react to the world around us.
  • We all have our own values, assumptions, stereotypes and prejudices. By increasing our awareness of how all of this impacts the way we respond to others, we develop an important aspect of our intercultural competence.
  • Strengthening intercultural competence calls for the development of attitudes necessary to appreciate various cultures and differences.
  • Intercultural competence requires open mindedness and a willingness to engage with those of other cultures.

Various activities will be demonstrated, giving the participants the opportunity to actively experience multiple engagements throughout the session. They will leave with practical ways to engage in developing these ideas in their own schools to foster intercultural competence.

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