International and Multicultural Competence

Moving to the next task that deals with Multicultural communication in vocational institutes and university of applied sciences. In my opinion, this is one of the most important issues in the vocational institutes and universities of applied sciences, considering the rate of globalization especially in Finland. Now more and more students are traveling to educational institutes abroad, this is making the educational environment more multicultural and versatile. In this task, I focused on the understanding and application of international and multicultural knowledge and know-how in the teaching and guiding. Cultures are different by history, educational and social backgrounds, ethnicity, religion, ecology, and technology.  Studying in the University of Applied Science in Finland is my first multicultural experience where students are from around the world. Initially, I was hesitant in asking or discussing with others, but with the passage of time things started getting better and I learned how to survive in a multicultural educational environment. Intercultural communication (International-mindedness) is a process in which people from different cultures create shared meanings. It defines a situation of communication that has occurred between two or more people with a difference in cultural backgrounds.

Multicultural communication:

  • How people from different cultures communicate among themselves
  • How diverse peoples endeavor to communicate across cultures
  • How communication differs among cultures
  • How communication is similar among cultures

William B. Gudykunst’s Theory:

The theory assumes that the reduction of anxiety and uncertainty plays an important role in successful intercultural communication. It tried to find out whether individuals vary in their strategies for reducing uncertainty on the first encounter. Gudykunst uses the term effective communication to refer to the process of minimizing misunderstanding. Anxiety and uncertainty are the basic causes of communication failure in different intergroup situations. Anxiety is defined as the feeling of being uneasy, tense or worried. Anxiety and uncertainty motivate strangers to make communication better.

Strangers are individuals who belong to a particular group that follows different cultural behaviors and traditions than the dominant or majority group. People become anxious when encountering strangers and do not know how to react.  Uncertainty arises because we do not know how strangers will behave or react, it occurs because we are unable to explain strangers’ behavior or reactions. Uncertainty leads to nervousness and anxiety during initial interactions with strangers. High anxiety will influence us to avoid interactions or to be indifferent to these interactions.

James A. Banks Theory (2010):

James A. Banks mentioned five key dimensions of a multicultural education system.

The first dimension focuses on content integration, which refers to the extent to which educators will use examples and different sources from a variety of cultures in their curriculum when teaching students with diversity. Teachers might include different generalizations, principles, key concepts, and theories in their subject area or discipline. It makes diverse students feel that they are able to understand better, how society adapts to the changes and how it is addressed in different ways (Banks & Banks, 2010). Thus, teachers need to reflect students’ different cultures in curriculum materials when teaching diverse students. For instance, teachers might link a classroom discussion to students’ cultural practices and lifestyles in language arts or social studies classes by integrating multicultural stories in reading classes and ask students to share their voices when addressing such discussions. These strategies will create an environment of appreciation and respect among diverse students.

Key Dimensions:

  • Content integration: deals with the extent to which teachers use examples and content from a variety of cultures and groups to illustrate key concepts, generalizations, and issues within their subject areas or disciplines.
  • Knowledge construction: describes how teachers help students to understand, investigate and determine how the biases, frames of reference and perspectives within a discipline influence the ways in which knowledge is constructed.
  • Equity Pedagogy: exists when teachers modify their ways that facilitate the academic achievement of students from diverse racial, cultural and social-class groups.
  • Prejudice reduction: describes lessons and activities by teachers to help students to achieve a positive attitude towards various cultural groups.
  • Empowering school culture and social structure: students from diverse backgrounds to experience equality and equal status.

Multicultural Competencies or Multicultural Competency Skills:

In modern era, multicultural competencies are important in managing different situations.

  • Understanding, appreciating, and responding to diverse political, cultural, and economic issues across and within nations.
  • Cultural knowledge and understanding of events in at least a few other cultures.
  • Cultural openness and sensitivity to others’ situations – how they think, feel and behave.
  • Respectful of social etiquette variations.
  • Acceptance of different linguistic expressions and language varieties.

When applied in teaching:

From the teachers’ perspective, it is important to understand how multicultural competencies can help themselves and to students to develop their different skills, e.g

  • Intercultural skills
    • Critical thinking
    • An ability to develop a tolerance for other opinions
    • Understand multiple perspectives on an issue
    • Prepare students to compete in a multicultural & global workplace
    • Foster an inclusive environment & address difficult issues regarding race & ethnicity

Teaching in a Multicultural Classroom:

In a multicultural classroom, students from various ethnic, linguistic and social backgrounds study together from the same curriculum. Student’s mother languages, expressions, and attitudes are different, and students learn how to manage these language barriers. Different cultural behaviors may also cause misunderstandings. Teachers of multicultural classes may be at a disadvantage when it comes to communicating with their students’ parents, sometimes parents do not understand the environment and expecting some different results, but the teacher needs to handle such situation professionally.  Given that students from different cultures have different values, assumptions, expectations, and behavioral patterns, teachers in multicultural classrooms must be prepared to handle the conflicts and miscommunications that can stem from this.



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