A number of initiatives and policies have been introduced over the last decade to enhance the Oxford Brookes learning experience in terms of its global relevance. These have included strategies to internationalise the curriculum, a process which was re-defined by
Knight (2004) as
the process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of post-secondary education (p.11)
It has been argued (Ryan and Carroll, 2005) that efforts to enhance our skills with regards to teaching the international students on our campuses, such as by promoting cross-cultural awareness and (allowing for a range of previous experiences of teaching, learning and assessment methods), will ultimately improve learning for all students by creating a more positive learning environment. It is now widely accepted that the cross-cultural knowledge and experience cultural the capital that exists in our student population, rather than being a deficit, presents a valuable resource to the learning environment (Ryan and Hellmundt, 2005). At Oxford Brookes. Global Citizenship, as one of the five core Graduate Attributes (SESE 2010-2015), is now viewed as a necessary employability and life skill for all students and is currently being embedded in all Brookes programmes.
This short article focuses on what it means to prepare students for Global Citizenship in practice, both inside the classroom and beyond. It reports on a small number of snapshots described and shared by students and staff in a research workshop held at the University’s ’s Learning and Teaching Conference 2012, which aimed to use the method of appreciative enquiry (Stowell & West, 1991), by considering what is working well, and draw on both student and staff reflections on factors that have enabled us to achieve a degree of success in promoting Global Citizenship. Through informal discussions in small groups, which each all contained a mix of staff both and students, the workshop prompted participants to: consider the University’s definition of Global Citizenship; and to reflect on and share what they had experienced, as learners, tutors and support staff, and what to consider they thought was working well. They were also asked to identify more precisely what made the activities they described successful.
Three key activity areas emerged from the group discussions:
Early socialisation seems to help
Student participants stressed the need for pre-course socialisation activities that offer learners an opportunity to engage with peers, with whom they will be expected to co-operate in group work, before a learning programme begins. This is supported by Osmond and Roed (2010), who note that facilitating effective cross-cultural group work may well involve more work initially and that its benefits may need to be made explicit. Examples of pre-course activities at Brookes to support open and engaged in harmonious intercultural interactions among students include the use of social media, in the form of a designated Facebook page, which is made available to course participants on a module in the Department of Sports and Health Sciences as soon as they are registered. This aims to facilitate immediate inclusion and provides an early opportunity to break down potential barriers to communication among students from different parts of the world.
A number of participants also mentioned the benefits of the Academic and Cultural Orientation Programme (ACOP) and the Global Buddies Scheme, led run free of charge by the International Student Advisory Service (ISAS), in helping them adapt to the norms expectations of the Brookes experience. It was also noted that attendance by ‘home’ students at these events appeared to help all attendees develop a deeper awareness of their own cultures cultural perspectives and to co-operate more effectively in the authentic global context in which they now needed to operate.
Engagement with international experience
Le Roux (2001, p286) notes that:
Intercultural relations in the classroom may be a source of knowledge and mutual enrichment if managed proactively by teachers, or a source of frustration, misapprehension and intercultural conflict if not dealt with appropriately.
Some participants at the workshop felt that dealing with potential misunderstandings among cultures cultural perspectives head on could sometimes help to reduce stereotyping and discrimination. For example, learners on the University English module at Oxford Brookes International are given guided analysis exercises in which contrasting views on news events, both past and present, and historical events are unpacked in groups. It was suggested that this type of open and& frank discussion can help promote awareness of how information and prominent issues, such as religious conflicts, are sometimes mediated and understood within different cultural contexts.
Further examples of engaging global experience and cross-cultural capital include a regular event on the MA TESOL programme in which participants are offered an opportunity to attend and teach one-hour language sharing events. Additionally, a number of programmes, including ones in Health and Social Care, encourage learners to compare UK and international practice in face-to-face and online group work activities and to draw on this diversity in their assignments.
Designated cross-culturally themed modules
Both the International Foundation Diploma and English Language and Communication Programme (Oxford Brookes International) offer modules in Intercultural Communication, in which students practise cross-cultural communication, consider the reasons why ways in which their own cultural perspectives prompt such misunderstandings occur and examine both verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Students who had completed the former module stated that learning activities had encouraged them to analyse some of the ‘cultural baggage’ and stereotypes they had encountered and develop meta-cultural sensitivity (Louie, 2005) towards others, as well as inculcate a deeper appreciation of diversity issues related to diversity.
Conclusions and further ideas
Overall, it appears that a wide and creative range of good practice in developing the graduate attribute of Global Citizenship exists on the ground across the University. A and that a number of staff and students are would appear to be responding positively to the opportunities its definition offers. Although the examples that emerged from the workshop discussions capture only the experience of the participants, who were possibly drawn to attend the session by an interest in the theme, and the activities described may not have been formally evaluated prior to the workshop, they offer an insight into ways in which our international practice may be improving. Further examples of Global Citizenship in context can be found on the Graduate Attributes in Action case study wiki (Oxford Brookes University, 2011).
Ideas documented here were recorded at a workshop, ‘International Student 2012’, which took place at Oxford Brookes Learning and Teaching Conference (2011), and were described, shared and evaluated by groups of students and staff. Thank you very much to all those who took part and shared their ideas and experiences.
Knight, J. (2004) Internationalization Remodelled: Definition, Approaches, and Rationales, in Journal of Studies in International Education 8 (1), pp 5-31 [Online] (Accessed on 23 November 2012)
Le Roux, J. (2001) Social Dynamics in the multicultural classroom. Intercultural Education, 12 (3), p.286
Louie, K. (2005) Discarding cultural baggage and gathering meta-cultural sensitivity, in Carroll, J. and Ryan, J. (eds) Teaching International Students, Improving Learning for All, Routledge
Osmond, J. and Roed, J. (2010) Sometimes it means more work…Student Perceptions of Group Work in a Mixed Cultural Setting, in Jones, E. (ed) Internationalisation and the Student Voice, Routledge
Oxford Brookes University (2010) Strategy for Enhancing the Student Experience. [Online] (Retrieved on 25 Novemeber 2012)
Oxford Brookes University (2011) Graduate Attributes in Action.
Ryan, J. and Carroll, J. (2005) ‘Canaries in the coalmine’ International students in Western universities, in Carroll, J. and Ryan, J. (eds) Teaching International Students, Improving Learning for All, Routledge
Ryan, J. and Hellmundt, S. (2005) Maximising international students’ ‘cultural capital’, in in Carroll, J. and Ryan, J. (eds) Teaching International Students, Improving Learning for All, Routledge
Stowell. F.A., and West. D., (1991) The Appreciative Inquiry Method, A Systems
Based Method of Knowledge Elicitation, in Jackson, M.C., Mansell, G.J., Flood, R. L.,
Blackham, R. B., and Probert, S.V.E., Systems Thinking in Europe, , Plenum, New York pp 493-497