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Global Education

Global Competency: Intercultural Understanding

In today’s interconnected world, helping students develop intercultural understanding is more vital than ever. It’s not just about preparing them for the global workforce, but also about encouraging them to think critically about our diverse world. As you get ready to introduce intercultural understanding to your students, you may wonder how much prior knowledge they have about other cultures, not just around the world, but also in the local community. How much do students know about their own culture? Are they aware of the similarities and differences between their culture and others? 

Students who have a strong foundation of intercultural understanding will be able to confidently enter the global marketplace as adults and think critically about the world around them. The Global Leaders framework prepares students for a modern workforce by integrating global issues, current events, and global competencies into existing school priorities.

Participate Learning has identified ten global competencies that empower learners to pay attention to the world, feel connected, and take action to make it a better place. This is the sixth in a series of blog posts focusing on each global competency to give you a more detailed definition and practical resources to integrate into your teaching instruction. The sixth global competency we will look at is intercultural understanding.

Introducing intercultural understanding to your students

Students who understand that culture is a way of life that connects people, and that cultures have differences and similarities, are better equipped for careers in the modern workforce. In developing intercultural understanding, students learn about and strengthen other global competencies as well, such as valuing differences and cultural self-awareness

Fostering students’ intercultural understanding can help them become more attuned to what is happening in the world around them. They will be able to interact and communicate with people from different cultures respectfully and effectively—an important career-readiness skill. When students understand the value of intercultural understanding, it enhances their acceptance of others, encourages them to search for new information and consider other perspectives, improves their decision-making and problem-solving skills, and leads to innovation and discovery. 

Introducing intercultural understanding to your students for the first time doesn’t need to be complicated. Start small by working on basic awareness of cultural differences. As their global education continues, students will work toward having a comprehensive understanding of the impact it has on how people think and the ability to compare and contrast components of different cultures, like celebrations and stories.

Take a look at how Paola, an Ambassador Teacher at the International School at Gregory, incorporates a cultural exchange experience for her students to learn what education is like in other countries.

Using action-driven learning to develop intercultural understanding

In a Global Leaders classroom, student agency is a critical part of the learning process. Focusing on projects and activities that allow students to follow their interests and curiosities is a great way to encourage them to take ownership of their learning. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and globally focused learning provide the perfect framework for problem-based learning

Choose authentic, relevant problems to explore with your students. Pay attention to issues in your local community to keep things ultra-relevant and hyper-local, and to make sure your class is invested in the lesson. Having students reflect on their own cultural identities and share those identities with classmates and encouraging them to build cross-cultural relationships locally and globally are both ways to delve even more deeply into intercultural understanding. 

As you create a project with your class, don’t forget to be flexible! Having a plan for problem-based learning is important, but leaving room for detours your students may want to pursue is even more important. Allowing them to guide the learning will help with engagement and their sense of agency. 

Teaching global competencies helps students become career-ready

A framework like Global Leaders allows students to apply their learning to real-world situations and design thoughtful solutions. Giving them agency in their learning inspires them to consider how they might use their future careers to take action toward a vision of a better world. 

As you foster global competencies in your students, like intercultural understanding, you give them the tools they need to succeed after graduation. Connecting students to their community and the world through action-driven and student-led learning supports career readiness, student engagement, and academic rigor. 

Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts that focus on applying other global competencies! We would love to hear how you are helping your students understand global issues. With Global Leaders, students experience learning that goes beyond mastery of specific academic skills; they develop solutions and ideas to change the world. Share your lessons and activities on social media using #UnitingOurWorld.

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