Term Paper: Education Intercultural Sensitivity

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Intercultural Communication Within the Classroom: Personal Analysis and Focus on Middle/High School Experiences

The aim of this essay is to address the significance of intercultural sensitivity in secondary education, with particular emphasis on teaching mixed cultures. Having taught secondary education in a private school setting for more than 10 years, I have learned many things about teaching children in a multi-cultural setting, which this essay will address.

Intercultural communication and associated intercultural sensitivity, whether taught in a middle or high school may be defined as the ability to communicate with individuals of varying backgrounds, ethnicities, beliefs, morals and cultures in a manner that is meaningful and encourages knowledge sharing (Neulipe, 2003).

I have noticed that within the United States in the last decade more and more children of different cultural backgrounds, traditions, communication styles and belief systems are brought together in the classroom setting. The chances for intercultural communication are highest in the middle and high school years, where children are just beginning to form a sense of identity and relate with one another. My teaching experience has taught me that it is increasingly important that intercultural communication be supported and taught within the classroom environment during the critical middle and high school ages when children are starting to form opinions of themselves and others. Why is inter-cultural sensitivity important? Depending on the culture one is brought up in, a student's method of communication and understanding, both verbal and non-verbal will be different. Children have to learn to be sensitive to different verbal and non-verbal cues given off by others from varying cultural backgrounds so they do not jump to conclusions about the meanings of such signals.

As an experienced teacher teaching students of many different cultures, I have found that the challenges of intercultural communication include fostering an environment that is supportive and understanding despite complex differences in communication styles and understanding. I have also learned that by creating an environment that fosters intercultural communication one will build a healthier educational environment and reduce conflict in the classroom, particularly with regard to middle and high school students who are more prone to outbursts.

However it has also become apparent to me that the initial lack of understanding that results from intercultural communication differences will present a barrier to communication and understanding that needs to be broken before effective communication can occur (Neulipe, 2003). This is the primary job of the teacher, to help foster communication understanding and sensitivity.

As an experienced teacher I learned that frustration and confusion among students of varying ethnicities trying to communicate are also challenges a teacher must be willing to face, as different linguistic groups and traditions are brought into one environment and attempt to learn together (Neulipe, 2003).

There are numerous international and domestic intercultural contacts present particularly in the middle and high school setting. Students are exposed to children from multitudinous backgrounds as well as educators with varying belief systems..

Communication in and of itself is hard to define, however there are several principles associated with communication that are universal. As a teacher I have reviewed numerous definitions of communication and particularly intercultural communication, which suggest that communication is a process, for one, that is ongoing and consistently changing; it is dynamic, meaning active; communication is interactive and thus occurs between people, and requires active participation of at minimum two people sending and receiving messages; communication is also symbolic meaning it is a vehicle through which the thoughts and ideas of one person can be communicated to another; it is also intentional, meaning that it is a process centered around purpose (Neulipe, 2003).

Through my work with students I have learned that culture is an accumulated pattern of values, beliefs and behaviors that are usually defined by an individual's value and belief systems (Neulipe, 2003). Other educators have affirmed that the function of culture is to influence an individual's physical and perceptual environment and provide a framework for interpreting the world we live in (Neulipe, 2003). Culture is characterized by an identifiable group of people that share a common history including similar values, beliefs and behaviors (Neulipe, 2003).

As an experienced administrator I have witnessed the effects of verbal and non-verbal interaction in the classroom.

The primary forms of intercultural communication include verbal and non-verbal symbol systems, which members of a culture use to communicate meaning (Neulipe, 2003). Educational research suggests that two cultures can share a common verbal code but utilize different styles of verbal communication; generally non-verbal communication forms vary significantly from culture to culture (Neulipe, 2003).

Watching and interacting students at the middle and high school level has taught me that intercultural communication can occur within many different context and result in different influences on perceptual processes. Studies suggest that the primary or native culture of any individual will influence every aspect of their communicative exchange and their resulting perceptions of the world; individuals also perceive things from a micro-cultural context, meaning through the subcultures they are exposed to on a daily basis (Neulipe, 2003). I have evidenced this watching family and students interact, where familial behaviors are often shared in the classroom.

The primary cultural influences on perception in this respect include differences in ethnicity, race and language (Neulipe, 2003). Cultural influences may also relate to the environmental context in which individuals are brought up in, or the physical geography where they are raised, which might prescribe certain rules for communication and affect an individual's perception (Neulipe, 2003). The perceptual context with regard to culture is the individual interact ants of culture including a persons "cognitions, attitudes, dispositions and motivations" regarding the way they share information and communicate with one another in the world (Neulipe, 2003).

Naturally in a teaching environment when anyone interacts with someone from a different culture they are faced with uncertainty which may lead to anxious and nervous feelings. To effectively interact with someone from another culture a teacher needs to be able to some extent predict how their communication partner will behave and select appropriate verbal and nonverbal messages (Neulipe, 2003).

I have learned that for middle and high school students some settings breed more anxiety than others; a new setting and interaction with a culturally diverse student may breed more anxiety than one with a student that is culturally similar. Successful interactions with an intercultural setting requires communication competence, including an understanding of how one communicates, ones motivation for communicating and the skills one uses to communicate effectively (Neulipe, 2003).

Regardless of an individual's cultural origins the fact remains that relationships provide the 'substance of life' thus it is importance to reduce uncertainty and facility a socio-communicative style of communication that fosters understanding and comfort (Neulipe, 2003). Non-verbal and verbal communication strategies can be used to effectively reduce uncertainty from culture to culture (NEULIPE, 2003).

In the U.S. school system multicultural education is consistently being re-focused, conceptualized and in a constant state of evolution (Gorski & Covert, 2000). There are several ideals however that form the basis for an intercultural education; for inter-cultural education to succeed it must recognize diverse cultural value dimensions. Students must be prepared in an educational setting to participate in an intercultural society by becoming active participants in the classroom; thus teachers must be able to effectively facilitate learning for every individual student no matter how different culturally from the teacher or rest of the classroom; the education must also be student-centered and inclusive of other voices and experiences (Gorski & Covert, 2000).

Every child by nature will come to the classroom with a unique cultural identity whether or not they are aware of it; it is critical that children come to recognize their cultural ethnicity and learn to relate it to their classroom as well as share with other members of the class (Gorski & Covert, 2000). This requires an individual commitment to the cultural ideals representative in the American culture, which are traditional democratic ideals including human dignity, justice and equality (Groski & Covert, 2000). The focus within the U.S. educational cultural context is becoming an effective member of our democratic society, and an individual's strong national identification will subsequently help develop his/her global identity (Groski & Covert, 2000).

I have found as a dedicated and experienced teacher that the principles of a sound intercultural education include selection of subject matter that is culturally inclusive, representative of diversity and unity across groups, material that is set within a context of time and place, and selection of material that is treated as socially constructed and draws and builds upon experience and knowledge that the students bring to the classroom (Groski & Covert, 2000). Ways that this can be accomplished is through an appreciation of cultural diversity, role-playing that incorporates intercultural communication skills, analysis of personal intercultural sensitivities, and addressing different belief systems and patterns of language and communication (Groski & Covert, 2000).

Having worked with students from diverse ethnic backgrounds I learned that teachers have to work with students to set goals oriented toward improving competency in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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