This week UNC Greensboro’s Global Engagement Office held its annual three-day Summer Institute. The Global Engagement Office was created as part of our Quality Enhancement Plan from 2014-2019 and has done an excellent job building up UNCG’s global profile along with our International Programs Center and others. International & Global Studies is a partner and, as the Assistant Director of IGS, I have had many opportunities to support these efforts on our campus. I haven’t written on this much in connection with the library because I’ve been busy, but the ideas and activities we learned would be helpful for library services and instruction.
A key part of this initiative has been on identifying and developing “intercultural competence” using the Intercultural Development Inventory. While the IDI approach isn’t perfect, it is useful for seeing intercultural competence as a continuum of development with actionable steps rather than a either/or stance (you are or you aren’t culturally competent). In addition to using the IDI with faculty, the continuum has been helpful for talking with students about their frameworks for thinking about cultural differences and similarities. We use it in IGS extensively and it is embedded in our study abroad program.
Our main presenter on the first day was Darla K. Deardorff, who talked about the culturally responsive classroom. She took us through some exercises in her book, Building Cultural Competence: Innovative Activities and Models, including the story circle method and an action plan for developing intercultural awareness. Both activities are helpful for identifying areas for personal intercultural competence development and are described in the book if you are interested.
The second day we watched an excellent TED Talk by Eduardo Briceño that talks about developing skills by balancing the time we spend in the Learning Zone (time for learning and deliberate practice) versus the Performance Zone (time for performance of our expertise). This video really resonated with me because as library instructors we spend entire semesters in the Performance Zone and struggle to find time for reflection and deliberate practice in between all the “performances.” A faculty panel then discussed the video and related it to their practices in developing intercultural competence in the classroom. Some of the ideas included leaving open days in the class for student-driven topics and providing ways for students to share experiences. This led into a discussion about overcoming resistance, including some strategies (scroll down to the bottom of that page).
Today, a group of international students from Niger, Sweden, Nicaragua, Iraq, China, and Libya came to talk about their personal experiences in an American classroom. They talked about differences in regards to the professor’s role (facilitators versus experts) and expectations about deference to the professor. I found most useful their discussion of classroom dynamics, such as group work expectations and classroom behavior. For example, most were surprised that American students would leave the classroom during class to go to the bathroom. Seems like a small thing, but I can definitely see how that would be a shock if a student were accustomed to a stricter environment. We closed out the day with Josephus III, a performance artist and poet. In addition to sharing his poetry, he talked about ways to help students engage with challenging concepts. Overall it was a wonderful three days of talking with an extremely diverse group of faculty and staff from all over the campus and representing almost all of the academic units, including the library.
I attended the institute for my position with IGS, but much of this content is critical for libraries. International initiatives have been discussed in the library world frequently, but the efforts seem slightly piecemeal and overwhelmingly service focused. In other words, do we have the resources to support patrons who want to learn about this topic? Or are we able to support the research needs of international students? Certainly, discussions of library anxiety, microaggressions, and diversity in the library hit at the ideas underlying global engagement and intercultural competence For example, Cynthia Mari Orozco provides some excellent suggestions for helping reduce library anxiety.
Nevertheless, I haven’t seen as many developmental approaches like the IDI being used to help library staff progress over time. Do you know of a library that has used the IDI or a similar tool in a systematic way and then followed through providing support with developing intercultural competence? Are there global engagement building approaches that are not predicated on the American experience with diversity? Just some questions I thought about during the institute. And, hey, summer has started, so time for a new research project, right?!