Edev_501 Response wk 1_Intercultural Learning

Mindfulness against the lone wolf

In this essay, I will describe a single challenge[1] that I anticipate facing over the coming months and a method of how I propose to gain from that challenge.

The very term intercultural embodies a range of potential ontologies that have at their core the notion that human interaction is possible across boundaries of nation, culture, and other. Successful learning within an intercultural environment requires a sensitivity to other that may not be present at the onset of the study. Stone places sensitivity in a list of ‘intercultural effectiveness’ (ICE[2]) constructs and operationally defines its application narrowly to the ability to be responsive to ‘cues [in the message] that are often subtle or unfamiliar’ (Stone, 2006). While this definition recognises the role of the message receiver, its limitation fails to acknowledge the multivariate states that receivers may be in. Including mindfulness–the degree to which individuals are aware of their environment and are able to respond to cues of all kinds–allows the notion of sensitivity a fuller place in ICE, for surely the type of cue is irrelevant and the key concern is the that the receiver is in a frame of mind to recognise all sorts of messages?

Developing as praxis this mindfulness will be a major yet important challenge. Its benefits include the personal growth associated with the improvement of cultural sensitivities (Stone, 2006). This aids actualise a deeper understanding of the reading of others. Elder & Paul (n.d.) characterise the advantages of mindfulness/ sensitivity as an ability to clarify a fuller comprehension of the text of the other:

‘If I realize that I am unsympathetic to an author’s viewpoint, I suspend judgment about the text’s meaning until I have verified that I truly understand what the author is saying.’ (italics mine)(Elder & Paul, n.d.)

Craig cautions against any complacency is believing that full understanding is possible (Craig, 1999). Participants in communication engage ‘in a process of discursive reflection’, but any final comprehension goal must remain elusive: rather it is ‘the reflective process itself [that] is progressively emancipatory’ (p.147). In other words, through the cumulative and iterative processes of questions, theory, and observation (Littlejohn & Foss, 2008), Stone’s proposition for the inclusion of ICE in education may be realised in my own personal development’s ‘gradual outcome’ in this intercultural setting (Stone, 2006).

The vehicle for the transmission of ideas is the BlackBoard forum discussion board. Asynchronous, non-auditory, non-visual modalities potentially lose many features of real-time communication. We are left with the bare text and a deep irony with which to proceed. The goal is to develop into sensitive, intercultural correspondents, yet the primary technique has the individual alone in front of a computer screen. There are dangers. Elder and Paul instruct against hurried or ‘impressionistic’ reading (n.d.) as surface messages can be interpreted variously. As we cannot engage in active spoken communication with our interlocutor, we must ‘engage in a self-constructed dialogue with the author’ (Elder & Paul, n.d.) while acknowledging other potential meanings. Taking over 240 separate theories of communication, Craig demonstrates the existence of seven distinct and non-overlapping ‘traditions of communication theory’ (Craig, 1999). Without due mindfulness, we run the risk of having discussions at cross-purposes and personal anti-growth into solitary and separated individuals.

References

Craig, R. T. (1999). Communication Theory as a Field. Communication Theory 9, 119–61.

Elder, L., & Paul, R. (n.d.) Foundation for Critical Thinking. The art of close reading, parts 1– 3. Retrieved April 9, 2015, from http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/the-art-of-close-reading-part-one/509

Littlejohn, S. W., & Foss, K. A. (2008). Theories of Human Communication. 9th Edition. Belmont, U.S.A.: Thomson Higher Education.

Stone, N. (2006). Conceptualising intercultural effectiveness for university teaching. Journal of Studies in International Education, 10(4), 334– 356.

[1] Responding to all of the questions in the mandate would result in extreme superficiality in this response. Therefore, I limited my answer to a single topic.

[2] ‘IE’, arguably, would have been a better acronym. The ultimate goal of intercultural effectiveness runs contrary to the coldness implied by ‘ice’!

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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