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Module: AIC
Syllabus Content
Diary & Portfolio 
Introduction to Cultural Identity
Stereotypes & Intercultural Incidents
Sociolinguistic Awareness & Competence
Expectations, motivation, objectives


Module: Acquiring Intercultural Competence


Syllabus Content Area 2

3 sessions, 6 hours

Introduction to Cultural Identity

This area consists of 2 topics:


Topic One

The Self. Issues of Conformity. Norms of Behaviour.
(2 workshops led by Student Services Counsellor)


Aims and objectives:

  • to review meanings and definitions of "culture"

  • to define "home culture"

  • to enable the students to recognise the origins of their own cultural values, assumptions and attitudes and the way in which their values affect their perceptions of others

  • to enable students to understand the concept of intercultural awareness

  • to enable students to identify causes of intercultural misunderstandings

  • to enable students to explore how their perception of their own character, attitudes and behaviour might influence their cultural learning


Overview of learning activities:

  • discussion on the meaning of "home" or "own" culture

  • unpacking one’s assumptions

  • (example of activities: two people draw a house, jointly holding a pen but without communicating; observe the (lack of) tension in the pen)

  • looking at the self (what does it mean to be "me")

  • reflecting on non-verbal behaviour

  • attitudinal issues (what conditions my attitude? how easy / difficult is it for me to accept people who swear / are excessively polite / who talk non-stop / who take drugs etc.)

  • looking at self-awareness (how relaxed / constrained am I when going into another place / culture?)

  • reflecting on judgmentalism

  • assessing one’s ethnocentrism

  • reflecting on norms of behaviour and issues about conformity


Additional tasks, suggested as preparation activities in students' own time

Go out and observe:

  • think about: what is OK, what we ignore, why is x acceptable / not acceptable at different times (behaviour, attitudes, clothes, food)

  • observe self and others (e.g. is it comfortable to see two people arguing? is it more / less acceptable if they are men / women etc.)

  • go into local community or neighbourhood where you are distinctly different from the residents; discuss in depth what you felt


  • What have you learnt from these workshops?


Topic two

Subcultures and Micro-communities. Personal Sociogram

Aims and objectives:

  • to challenge the idea of a "macro-culture", i.e. a "French", "German", "Spanish" culture by demonstrating that many cultures exist under the umbrella of one "culture"

  • to give students the opportunity to reflect upon their own social "make-up" and their adherence to diverse social circles

  • to enable students to develop attitudes and strategies which will help them adapt to life in a foreign country and operate autonomously in that country


Options for learning activities:

Guided discussion about British culture:

  • how do you define British culture?

  • can particular values be attributed to the British? what are they?

  • are values shared by all inhabitants of Britain?

  • give examples of values and beliefs which may / may not be shared by the entire British population?

  • what are the reasons for those differences? (ethnic origin, religious beliefs, gender, age etc...


  • What is meant by micro-communities and subcultures?

(suggested as preparation tasks in students' own time)

  • observe, wherever possible, groups and gatherings of people (e.g. young clubbers, sports club, horticultural society, language club, science fiction club, car club etc.)

  • what expectations, aspirations, forms of behaviour seem to be shared by participants? to what extent do they overlap with those expressed in other groups, in other settings?


  • make a list of the social groups to which you belong and draw your personal sociogram (for full details of "sociogram" activity see Coleman, J.A. 1999 )

Reflect on your sociogram (1):
(suggested as preparation task in students' own time)

  • to what extent do you share values, beliefs, forms of behaviour with parents, brothers and sisters, friends?

  • what social circles do you share with them?

  • which social groupings overlap?

  • do you adopt the same form of behaviour (language, dress) in all the circles

  • to which you belong? provide examples of similarity and difference and explain them

  • how was your "membership" of certain groupings arrived at? through the influence of family and friends? personal choice or decision?

  • what kind(s) of people do you define as your peers?

  • what are the differences between circles to which you belong and others which you might aspire to belong to?

Reflection on your sociogram (2):
(suggested as preparation task in students' own time)

  • how do you expect your sociogram to change during your residence abroad?

  • which circles will be removed? temporarily? perhaps permanently?

  • which circles will remain part of your daily life?

  • do you intend to take action to reconstruct or replicate your sociogram while you are abroad?

  • which parts would you wish to reconstruct or replicate?

  • how will you go about it?

  • what will you need to know before or at the beginning of your time abroad?

  • what would you do if you were unsuccessful ?

  • how would you measure success in reconstructing your sociogram?

  • can you think of opportunities that might arise and help you (re)shape your sociogram?

  • how do you expect the nature of your placement to determine your "YA sociogram"?

Search SARA database for opportunities used by students to reconstruct their sociogram
(suggested as preparation task in students' own time)

  • in which areas were they most successful? least successful?

  • how were results arrived at? good fortune? grit and determination?

  • how well had they prepared their integration into the foreign community?

Game : 

(suggested as preparation task in students' own time)

  • Find out as much as possible about the conditions surrounding your placement (geography, accommodation, clubs, societies); to what extent does this knowledge help anticipate a "YA sociogram"?


  • What have you learnt from these workshops?