Intercultural Competence in Secondary Education: An Examination of Practice



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This case study explores the experiences of graduating seniors’ perceptions of their intercultural competence (IC) and the role their schooling played in its development. The teaching of skills and knowledge related to IC, such as adaptability, flexibility, empathy, and cultural knowledge, are of increasing importance given the globalization of the world. Its importance in education is recognized in higher education, as well as in private industry and federal government bureaucracies. However, it is increasingly recognized that teaching IC to students prior to college is important for them to become more global citizens and ethnorelative in their knowledge and skill set. The study took place in Beaverton School District (BSD) in Beaverton, Oregon which is a major suburb of Portland and the third largest school district in Oregon. Data collected included participants taking Mahon and Cushner’s Inventory of Cross-Cultural Sensitivity, semi-structured interviews and document analysis to create thick descriptions of participants’ educational experiences.An iterative, open, and emic coding process of the multiple points of data collected yielded substantial themes in the learning of IC in school settings. Findings included that students come to school with a wealth of life experiences impacting their ability to grow and hone their IC skills, behaviors, and knowledge. Schools impact a student’s ability to move from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativsm through formalized lessons, informal learning opportunities, relationship building, and establishing positive and accepting learning environments. The findings of this study are significant to academics and practitioners alike, as it offers actionable items based upon participant experiences, as well as suggestions for further studies that will elucidate clear pathways towards creating IC-rich curriculum and learning opportunities in educational settings.



Case study, Cross-cultural sensitivity, Global competence, Intercultural competence, Intercultural understanding, Secondary education