Communicating%20Across%20Cultures.athens%20docx

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Communicating Across Cultures: Service-Learning Experience Enhances Student Sensitivity to Issues of Diversity. Abstract Colleges and universities across the nation are responding in a variety of ways to the imperative of increasing students’ intercultural sensitivity in emerging diverse environments. Intercultural sensitivity is defined and conceptualized in this article as “sensitivity to the importance of cultural differences and to the points of view of people from other cultures.” It is also important to note that empirical evidence on instruments and other methods of assessing the impact of these varying experiences for developing intercultural sensitivity has been very limited to date and remains a challenge. This research examines shifts in students’ attitudes toward cultural difference while students participated in a semester long service-learning experience as a requirement of a diversity consciousness course. Communicating Across Cultures is a three credit hour course that provides an opportunity for students in the field of Agriculture to gain an understanding of their place and others in a multicultural society, the United States. It is designed to present an academic overview of multiculturalism as it has evolved to this day. This course was developed to fulfill a newly instituted multicultural understanding requirement in the College of Agriculture at Purdue University. The course is offered every semester but the data reported in this study was secured from the fall semester of 2008. Our research question: “Is there a correlation between student participation through the service- learning component of a diversity consciousness course and positive change in those students’ intercultural sensitivity?” By employing a developmental model of intercultural sensitivity and an associated survey instrument, we measured students’ degrees of sensitivity toward cultural difference and how they may have changed following intercultural exposure during a semester of service- learning experiences.
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Our preliminary results indicate that attitudes shifted on two dimensions of intercultural sensitivity in the predicted direction of greater openness to other cultures. The most notable shift was toward greater engagement with Acceptance of cultural difference. Acceptance of other cultures is one of several learning objectives for the course. The research suggest that a combination of diversity related course offerings, special cultural events on and off campus, and a campus that is welcoming and inclusive in nature can make an enormous contribution to the development of greater intercultural understanding. Our study also suggest that any campus activity aimed at promoting diversity and the understanding human differences will be more successful when they employ the pedagogy of service- learning. Our approach to service-learning ensures that human differences are viewed in their context, not in isolation or by standards of one’s own perspective, background, and experiences. Introduction
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