Comfort Zones Challenged: Using Diversity to Create Synergy in the Multi-cultural Classroom
The workshop will focus on a module which has been developed in response to the needs of our diverse body of students, recognising the need for developing intercultural competence in the global market. Our students come from every continent and almost every country in the world and despite their differences, they have one common desire to succeed in a new environment and leave with a qualification and a set of skills equipping them for a future life in our truly intercultural societies. The emphasis is on providing opportunities for celebrating differences, reflecting on their experiences, allowing students to gain an understanding self and 'the other'. This learning process is challenging and lengthy and exposes students to unfamiliar situations, often causing distress and leading to a positive disintegration, which is a necessary step towards achieving personal integrity and a reconstruction of a new multicultural self. From our experience, those students who face conflict and culture shock, and work in multicultural groups, are better equipped to reconcile and make sense of a complex world. Therefore we take every opportunity to cherish intercultural learning opportunities, exposing students to a variety of tasks, situations and tools, fuelling their curiosity and directing them towards life long learning. There have been substantial research driven innovations introduced to the module which help students get accustomed with modern technology and working in a virtual, rapidly changing world (concept maps; blogs; e-portfolios; discussion boards and pdp). The constant search for better understanding of the complex issues fuels our intercultural curiosity as researchers and teachers. With every new intake, this module gives us the opportunity to investigate different concepts, challenging our knowledge and driving us even further.
Keywords: Diverse Classroom, Intercultural Competence, Innovations, Research and Teaching, Comfort Zones, Celebrating Differences, Global Market
Senior Lecturer, Business School
Researcher, Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, University of Bedfordshire