Intercultural Communication in the Language Teacher Curriculum

Our program, at Sookmyung TESOL,  is an intensive TESOL graduate certificate program that combines the 12 initial credits of a TESOL MA into just 19 weeks. Students can choose to transfer those credits on to one of many qualified MA TESOL programs worldwide or stop here and begin teaching with just their certificate. Many do choose to continue on, and I believe that it is due to our unique curriculum, which includes a course on ‘Intercultural Communication for Langauge Teachers.’ This course covers the basics of Intercultural Communication (ICC) , but unlike traditional classes that focus primarily on ‘how to speak to people with different language backgrounds’, the overarching objectives are to help current and future language teachers become more comfortable with uncertainty by developing a higher tolerance for ambiguity in the communicative language classroom. ‘Culture’ is defined as the ‘beliefs,norms,values, and attitudes’ of a group of people. This is not just on a national scale(Korean, American, Japanese), but on a much more personal/local community of practice forefront. Students begin to understand that ‘culture shock’ can happen during group work in the language classroom and that shared values of education and language learning don’t necessarily guarantee shared beliefs about the best way to practice those values in a group atmosphere. Given the widespread persistence of the use of ‘Communicative Language Teaching'(CLT) in most TESOL teacher training methodology courses,we believe that what is lacking to compliment this method is instruction on how to make CLT work in the real world;especially in East Asia where CLT is widely believed to be a ‘western’ approach that may not be applicable in the East. While many ESL professionals may experience multilingual classrooms, where two or three first languages are represented, in the EFL context, it is usually a homogenous language learning environment. While the class does hit on some major key ICC points such as pragmatics, semantics, and sociolinguistic competence in English, we believe in taking this a step further. By the end of the semester, our trainees are able to define a ‘classroom’ as a “place where learning can be negotiated.” Their own beliefs about education, group work, and the intended benefits of CLT are continually reflected on in a way that, hopefully, encourages them to consider planning a classroom culture along with their course curriculum. One of the theories that we focus on throughout the semester is by Geert Hofstede. His longitudinal research on cultural dimensions has been cited multiple times in both the international education and business fields. Here is a video of some of our students doing a role play in which they are each assigned one of the 4 main cultural dimensions (Individualism, Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Masculinity), and asked to create a ‘situation’ in which each person represents one of the dimensions while trying to solve a problem. By the end of this unit, students are able to identify aspects of each dimension in themselves, and their classmates, and begin to approach culture from a contextual perspective, rather than a national one.

Visual Plans:Lesson Plans of the Future

Last year I began teaching in our 100 hours online TESOL training course using Blackboard Collaborate. I have tutored before using skype, zoom, and google hangouts, but running a full class (15-18 students) with an active whiteboard, PPT, polling, videos, breakout rooms and full student participation left me feeling like the man behind the curtain in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ My only savior during this time was the visual plans that the coordinator created for the course. A visual plan is like a lesson plan except that is has an extra column for a screenshot of what the WB should look like by the end of that topic. Dual coding is key for ESOL students, especially in content-based instruction, but aside from the obvious elements, t can be difficult to know ‘what else to put up there’ while submerged in the radio silence that can be online teaching. Having that extra visual helped me to know exactly what to scaffold and how; I t also gave me some ideas for cueing, polling, and other interactive techniques to check comprehension, push output and keep them from falling asleep. I was having so much success with the visual plans in the online world that I decided to take the idea onto dry land. This semester, I incorporated a few tidbits of visuals in to my lesson plans and next semester I plan to do it a lot more. The major difference is that in the online classroom I can quickly and conveniently take a screenshot of the WB, while in a live classroom I have to stop the class and take a picture. I have found myself mumbling everything from “It’s just so nice! I want to remember it forever,” to “I am going to use this on my blog.” One bonus about the modern times that we live in is that students often take pictures of the WB themselves, and then I can just ask them to send it to me. Since the WB is often a mixture of student as well as teacher work, it has been nice to have the visual record to refer back to and next semester I am going to create a shared google drive folder and ask student to drop all WB snapshots into it. One particular lesson that really needs a lot of WB mark-up is our lesson in week 5 about Lexis. In this week we introduce to students the idea that words are much more than isolated parts of speech, definitions and pronunciations. Using the word ‘dog’ I build a brainstorming web around it and ask students to think of every word, phrase, place, things, situation, etc. that they think of when the think about the word dog. What results a is a massive(it can cover the board if time allows) cluster of all the ways that dog is actually used, including idioms and collocations, which supports the concept that we have to teach words in use and not just words as forms. Since I didn’t yet have a picture of the WB I decided to draw up a mock WB and then take a picture of it with my smart phone. All of our lesson plans are created using google docs so it was easy to drop the photo into the current LP.

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The new SLA instructor really appreciated it-as I did my first time-and I have been building a nice collection of visuals all semester so that I can continue to transition from ‘lesson plans’ to ‘visual plans’ going forward.

Here is an example of the online visual plan that inspired me. The creator of this was Stafford Lumsden of Sookmyung Women’s University TESOL.


Online Course Visual Plan