Kenneth Cushner, a professor at Kent State University and seasoned intercultural educator, has long argued that developing interculturally competent students requires interculturally competent teachers and teacher educators. Educators across the spectrum must be provided the opportunity to consider their own level of intercultural competence in order to teach these skills to students and future teachders. The Global Learning in Agricultural Conference (GLAG) at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) last week provided one such opportunity.
GLAG was a professional development opportunity that brought together nearly 50 agricultural educators from across the United States to collaborate and share global education strategies. The organizers provided every participant the opportunity to take the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) – an assessment tool designed to measure intercultural competence – and Cushner helped to interpret the scores and recommend activities to facilitate further develop participants’ intercultural competence as educators and teacher educators.
Cushner also led a series of engaging and interactive activities to illustrate the importance of intercultural competence, to define the concept (including the necessary skills, attitudes, and knowledge), and to illustrate how cultural assumptions play out in intercultural interactions. For example, he facilitated Barnga, a simulation game that demonstrates culture clashes. Participants also shared lesson plans, activities, and syllabi to brainstorm on how to best integrate global perspectives into their teaching practices.
Nicole Weaver, the PSU Global Teach Ag! Fellow, and an agriculture science educator in Pennsylvania, noted that the exercise helped her to better understand intercultural competence and put it into the context of her teaching. Because of Cushner’s presentation and the IDI, she notes, “I feel I understand not only the framework of global learning better, but also my own abilities and areas of weakness.”
Melanie Miller Foster and Daniel Foster organized GLAG with the support of the Global Teach Ag! Team at PSU. The Harbaugh Faculty Scholars Endowment, the Strategic Initiatives Fund in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and the Center for Professional Personnel Development at PSU; the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at the University of Florida; and the Innovation in Teaching Award Program from the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities funded the conference.