Interculturalizing the curriculum is an iterative process that involves consideration of course objectives, course content, learning activities, and ways of assessment. Interculturalization can happen at the level of individual courses, but may be more effective when conducted as a team or department. Shared interculturalization initatives can support student intercultural development throughout their learning journey in a program.
Leask (2013, 2015) designed a model for interculturalizing the curriculum. The model includes five steps, which are cyclical, and allow for continual negotiation and refinement as the process continues.
Review and Reflect
The review and reflect stage of the interculturalization process involves an assessment of the current curriculum. This can include identifying the rationale for interculturalizing the curriculum. What has motivated you to come to this point? What are the benefits of interculturalization for students? What intercultural learning outcomes are already present?
Tangney (2017) provides a reflective tool for faculty and other stakeholders to use for reflection on the present realities of internationalization in their context. The ten questions in Tangney’s tool are:
- Does the programme promote a global perspective by, for example, international case studies or comparative studies, articles or texts?
- Does the delivery and content of the programme acknowledge the existence and validity of a range of international perspectives, values and ontologies?
- Does the programme content include critical reflection on students’ own cultural values, the cultural values of others, and the cultural values underlying the discipline discourse?
- Does the programme content avoid inappropriate ethnocentric language and cultural assumptions?
- Is intercultural student interaction encouraged, for example, through sensitively but explicitly directed collaborative learning opportunities?
- Does the programme offer opportunities for face-to-face interaction with people from different cultures, for example, through guest presenters, use of internet technology or international placements/projects?
- Do the programme descriptions and publicity clearly explicate the nature and extent of the international context?
- Does the programme learning environment foster the development of intercultural competence of all students?
- Are intercultural skills explicitly developed in Personal Development Planning (PDP) activities?
- Are staff teaching on the programme encouraged to develop their own intercultural awareness and skills, for example, through international exchanges? (pp. 642-643)
Tangney’s (2017) framework depicts interculturalization of the curriculum as a process that involves more than just course content. While interculturalization requires investigating the cultural and epistemic perspectives present in the texts, articles, and assignments offered in a course, the process also includes the development of interculturality in students and faculty.
Other areas for review at this stage in the process might be:
- An assessment of how interculturalization develops throughout the course of students’ movement through each year of the program. What intercultural skills are taught in each course? How do these build and combine towards greater complexity as students progress?
- An assessment of international and domestic student experiences in the program, identifying areas of discrepancy in student experiences.
- An assessment of stakeholder views on interculturalization (for example, what intercultural skills are valuable to employers in local and global contexts where graduates may work in the future) (Leask, 2015).
Another possible framework for review is to consider “blockers” and “enablers” to more fully interculturalizing the curriculum (Leask, 2013). For example, a “blocker” may be local or national professional licensing guidelines that do not yet consider the intercultural dimension. An “enabler” may be institutional or Faculty student learning outcomes that promote intercultural learning.
While the review process will likely identify areas for ongoing growth and development, the process will also likely identify areas of strength that are unique to your context. Consider these strengths as the foundation for ongoing building and development.
Leask (2015) emphasizes that the imagine stage of of the cycle is one that is often not found in many curriculum transformation processes. The imagine stage supports interculturalization by creating space to reconsider what is often taken for granted within a particular field or course of study. The norms that are taken for granted likely reflect the dominant culture. The key question at this stage of the process is “what other ways of thinking and doing are possible?” (Leask, 2013, p. 108). To answer this question, critical reflection on the nature of one’s discipline, and the ways of knowing that are accepted and centred is necessary.
The imagine step includes questions like:
- Whose knowledge is currently reflected in the curriculum?
- Which knowledge perspectives and traditions present in the local/national context are not included?
- Which global perspectives and traditions are not reflected in the curriculum?
- What options and possibilities can be added to the course or program?
Like the review and reflect process, the imagine stage is often done in a small group of like-minded colleagues. The questions asked at this stage are designed to move thinking from “what is” to “what is possible”.
Revise and Plan
At this stage in the process, the interculturalization team works to make changes to existing curricular structures. As the name suggests, this stage may involve revision to learning outcomes and content at both the course and program levels. Leask (2015) suggests that activities at this stage may include:
- Setting program-level learning objectives for interculturalization of the curriculum.
- Mapping out how program-level intercultural learning objectives are achieved throughout students’ learning journey.
- Identifying subject matter experts who can facilitate and support curriculum revisions.
- Creating a plan of action for the proposed revisions, including identifying those responsible for specific tasks.
- Developing an evaluation strategy to assess the impact of the proposed changes.
Dimitrov and Haque (2016) suggest five primary competencies for faculty to develop that enable interculturalization of the curriculum. The first competency is the ability to identify and include global learning outcomes at the course and program levels. The second competency is incorporating content and learning resources that include a diverse range of perspectives and approaches to learning within a discipline. As Dimitrov and Haque note, this content can include Indigenous perspectives and approaches. Thirdly, curriculum redesign competency requires considering the design of assignments and other assessments, ensuring that students with a variety of strengths, ways of knowing, and ways of communicating are able to successfully demonstrate their learning in a course.
Dimitrov and Haque’s final two competencies focus on student intercultural development. Their fourth competency suggests incorporating learning activities that allow students to reflect on differences and to practice perspective taking. The final curricular competency in the framework involves facilitating students’ exploration of their own identities. These include personal, cultural, and disciplinary identities.
Formal, informal, and hidden curriculum
The internationalization of the curriculum cycle invites restructuring of formal academic curricula. In addition, Leask (2015) emphasizes that curriculum does not only exist on the formal level; the informal and hidden curricula in a course or program also shape the learning experience. The hidden curriculum reflects the ways in which the structure of the educational experience socializes students into certain norms, expectations, ways of working, and ways of being with others (Thornton, 2014). Therefore, the revision and planning stage of the interculturalization process should extend beyond revision of the formal curriculum. It is important for educators to consider the ways in which students are socialized into their discipline and how these conventions may uphold the dominant culture and/or create barriers for students.
Leask (2013) suggests that the key question at this stage is “how will we know if we have achieved our [interculturalization] goals?” (p. 110). This stage requires the implementation of the previously developed plans, which might include:
- Professional development workshops for faculty (including those not involved in the initial stages of the interculturalization planning process).
- Introducing intercultural development workshops for students (e.g., a workshop on working in diverse teams offered before students embark on a group assignment).
- Adding new content to existing courses.
- Adding new courses (core or elective) to a program.
- Collecting evidence that can support evaluation (e.g., assessments of student intercultural growth, intercultural learning portfolios) (Leask 2015).
As the interculturalization plan is implemented, the next step in the cycle is to evaluate the impact of the process. This can include analyzing evidence, reflection, and more formal scholarship of teaching and learning. As the cyclical model indicates, the process does not reach an end point, but rather, the evaluation at this stage serves to inform the next level of review and reflection as the process continues.
Leask (2015) offers five suggestions to support the effectiveness of the process:
- Interculturalization occurs within disciplinary communities of practice.
- The process involves careful reflection on dominant and non-dominant ways of knowing and doing within a discipline.
- The interculturalization process considers the program as a whole, rather than as separate, discrete course units.
- The process generates interdisciplinary conversations and scholarly reflection in a supportive community.
- The interculturalization process is afforded a long-term commitment with multiple cycles of action and reflection.
Other Strategies for Curriculum Interculturalization
The process outlined above is likely to be most successful when undertaken with a team of faculty within the same program or department. What other strategies for interculturalizing the curriculum might be possible for faculty when working individually or in a more multidisciplinary community of practice?
One possibility for moving forward in the journey of interculturalization is to participate in a faculty learning community devoted to this purpose (Lee et al., 2018). A faculty learning community can create a supportive environment for individuals from different disciplines and with different experiences of interculturalization to come together and support intercultural teaching at the course level. Activities in an intercultural teaching community of practice can include discussion of inclusive pedagogies, a workshop space to create and provide feedback on revised assignments and learning activities, or an opportunity to provide supportive peer feedback on teaching. Such a learning community may be the best path toward interculturalization when the process has not yet been firmly established at the program level, creating a supportive space to implement Leask’s (2013, 2015) process at the course level.
Examples of Interculturalization Processes
Interculturalization of an Accounting Program: Leask (2015) describes a departmental process of internationalizing the accounting program at an Australian university. Often, programs such as accounting, with their connections to local regulating bodies, may appear to be more challenging candidates for internationalization. While the local context plays a significant role in shaping the curriculum, an interculturalized curriculum can also be grounded in graduate attributes related to global perspectives and the interpersonal competencies needed to work in culturally diverse local and global workplaces. In this case study, knowledge domains of the curriculum were augmented to include application of principles learned within both local and international contexts. Communication outcomes included a focus on communicating across linguistic and cultural difference, and social responsibility outcomes included considering the impact of business decisions on different local or global populations.
The accounting case study demonstrates that even when accountability to local professional standards shapes much of the content of a program’s curriculum, space for interculturalization can be found in the interpersonal and social professional competencies that graduates require in preparation for their future practice.
Interculturalization in Criminology: Howes (2019) describes a process of interculturalization in a Criminology program by incorporating non-dominant perspectives (labelled “southern” perspectives). Curricular shifts included presenting content from global contexts in course lectures, adding supplemental reasons to a primary text to expand the national contexts from which course content is based. An analytical written assignment was also adapted to ask students to address the personal and contextual factors that shape the viewpoints and analytical frames used. This case study demonstrates the integration of international content perspectives and student intercultural awareness in the interculturalization process.
Interculturalizing the curriculum can be understood as a cyclical process that begins with assessment of “what is”, imagination of what might be when global, Indigenous, and non-dominant cultural perspectives are incorporated into the curriculum, practical implementation of revised curricula, and ongoing evaluation. While this process can be particularly effective when undertaking at the program level, communities of practice can provide space for faculty to develop their own interculturalization practice. Interculturalization processes unfold differently depending on disciplinary contexts, particularly in disciplines that require attention to local/national professional standards; however, case studies demonstrate that interculturalization has been effectively practiced in a wide variety of disciplinary contexts.
Dimitrov, N., & Haque, A. (2016). Intercultural teaching competence: a multi-disciplinary model for instructor reflection. Intercultural Education, 27(5), 437–456. https://doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2016.1240502
Howes, L. M. (2019). Internationalisation of the higher education curriculum in criminology: a role for the southern criminology project. Teaching in Higher Education, 24(4), 527–544. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2018.1494565
Leask, B. (2013). Internationalizing the curriculum in the disciplines—Imagining new possibilities. Journal of Studies in International Education, 17(2), 103–118. https://doi.org/10.1177/1028315312475090
Leask, B. (2015). Internationalizing the curriculum. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
Lee, A., Poch, R., Smith, A., Delehanty Kelly, M., & Leopold, H. (2018). Intercultural pedagogy: A faculty learning cohort. Education Sciences, 8(4), 177. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci8040177
Tangney, S. (2017). The development of a reflective tool for internationalisation of the curriculum. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2017.1386118