COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala 5

TOPICS: Identity, professional practice, workplace, contradictions


Link to my portfolio blog

Link to forum


I spoke to one of my colleagues about the questions asked for this week’s task.

She told me that things were different before she took over as one of the academic deans. The approach was pretty much from the top down, and – so she said – “teachers resented that a lot.” Today the emphasis is on student-centered education and learning, which allows for broader participation by teachers.

She also talked about the “identity negotiation” process she engaged to negotiate her role inside the college. It has not always been easy. She pointed out that a way to allow everyone’s identity to become part of a collaborative approach to education is to step back from an egotistic affirmation of one’s identity when engaging in constructive work in the workplace.


I had noticed before how teachers at this college enjoy participating in activities that are focused on expanding their teaching skills and the student-centered learning opportunities of our student population.  I feel that having allowed the institutional context to become more accepting of the identity diversity found among faculty has served well to create a learning environment that is more beneficial to the students. As a person – as pointed out elsewhere in this forum – I consider myself as someone who is not easily pinned down to currently available categories, being them related to my nationality, cultural background, professional role, academic pathway, or educational philosophy. At this particular school I do feel that my voice may count, even though I am a part –time instructor. I don’t think it would be possible for me to work there if I did not get this impression. I also believe that I can work on expanding a specific role among faculty, i.e. the role of an intercultural resource instructor. This would allow me to link my personal experience to my current professional practice.


My hot issue relates to the need for intercultural communication to be more integrated into the curriculum and the learning environment at large. In a nutshell, this can be look at in at least two ways. With regards to the students, I believe it’d be beneficial to recognize differences in their learning approaches that stem from their cultural background. That could be done by implementing curricular changes in courses (the ones specifically designed for such purpose, i.e. Intercultural Communication, and others), and by including intercultural communication competence among in the list of the institutionally recognized competencies. That could be easily linked to today’s globalized nature of the work and learning dimensions. With regards to staff/faculty, through the implementation of appropriate initiatives (e.g. professional development opportunities, task groups, department meetings) aimed at creating, fostering and promoting an understanding and awareness of the intercultural communication dimension beyond the superficial and unofficial approach that is currently followed.

I believe that it’s possible to renegotiate my role and effectiveness within the college based on my level of “expertise” in this area. That would require a shift in my own identity towards a more pro-active and solution-oriented approach on my part.


On one end, I see a work environment that, at least at the departmental level, seems to embrace a new learning paradigm as highlighted in Chappel et al. “The organization of Identity: For Cases”: “Today, epistemological discourses emphasise knowledge constructed as practical, interdisciplinary, informal, applied and contextual over knowledge constructed as theoretical, disciplinary, formal, foundational and generalisable.” (p. 2)

On the other hand, such process is not yet completed, and remains contested, both at the local and at the corporate level of management.

As for the need for a different approach to the intercultural dimension, it remains to be seen if the suggestions made in my hot case can be negotiated and will eventually stand a chance.

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