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Teaching Interculturally: A Framework for Integrating Disciplinary Knowledge and Intercultural Development

reviewed by Christine M. Phelps-Gregory - January 08, 2018

coverTitle: Teaching Interculturally: A Framework for Integrating Disciplinary Knowledge and Intercultural Development
Author(s): Amy Lee & Peter Felten
Publisher: Stylus Publishing, LLC., Sterling
ISBN: B074QQY7TH, Pages: 199, Year: 2017
Search for book at Amazon.com

In Teaching Interculturally: A Framework for Integrating Disciplinary Knowledge and Intercultural Development, Amy Lee and her colleagues offer pedagogical techniques that support diversity, equity, and intercultural development. I believe both experienced and novice faculty members will find value in the framework and discussion questions provided by the book. I will organize this review according to the two main sections of the book: Part One, called “Intercultural Pedagogy: Framework and Praxis,” and Part Two, called “From Theory to Action.” In each section I will highlight for readers how this book could help them develop teaching techniques to ensure equity for all students.

The first part of the book focuses on the authors’ framework for intercultural pedagogy. The authors begin by introducing themselves and arguing for the importance of intercultural pedagogy. They then define intercultural pedagogy, describing the term “intercultural” as encompassing all forms of human diversity and how they interact within a classroom, and taking the view that “pedagogy” is the integration of content, classroom techniques, evaluation, and all other aspects of learning environments. They point out that taking this view implies certain beliefs, including that “intercultural pedagogy pursues equity and inclusion in classrooms,” “intercultural pedagogy recognizes that expertise is fluid and developmental,” and “intercultural pedagogy relies on and fosters reflection and revision” (pp. 21–25). Readers will probably find the questions that invite reflection helpful in connecting this framework to their practice. For example, one question asks, “Where am I ‘stuck’ in habitual ways of thinking that get in the way of creating an inclusive environment?” (p. 20). Readers can use this question to connect the intercultural pedagogical framework to their teaching, regardless of their own content, context, students, or environment. For example, one can envision a mathematics faculty member thinking about how she uses a lecture style of teaching out of habit, then considering the ways in which that might impact equity in the classroom.

The authors then turn to the importance of critical self-reflection in learning to teach interculturally, pointing out the need to embrace the discomfort that comes with learning to teach in new ways and with honoring and integrating a variety of diverse perspectives. Two of the authors, Catherine Solheim and Bob Poch, share their own self-reflections. Readers will find these reflections helpful as guides to self-reflecting on pedagogy. For example, Catherine shares that she grew up in a small, rural town in the Midwest and worked in Thailand after college. She describes how this experience helped her develop intercultural awareness, as she learned that Thais sometimes thought and behaved differently than what she would have defined as “normal.” Catherine shares how this experience helped her learn to “check” her own cultural worldviews. After Bob and Catherine reflect, readers are encouraged to self-reflect with a series of questions. The questions are well-written, and readers who take the time to ponder and answer these questions will find that they have already begun the process of self-reflection.

The second part of the book focuses on how to move from self-reflection to action. In my opinion, this is the highlight of the book, focusing on the case studies of Bob and Catherine and showing how they used their self-reflection and their commitment to teaching interculturally to change their teaching practices. These cases studies are detailed, in-depth examinations of Bob and Catherine’s practices, and the authors don’t hesitate to share their own struggles or discuss areas where they are still working to improve. For example, Bob writes how in his initial teaching he covered too much content, leading students to practice rote memorization. Bob shares his process for revising his teaching, first by cutting and editing course content, then by moving from a formal textbook to an examination of authentic problems, then by increasingly using student interests and experiences to guide his teaching, and finally by changing the assessments to match his intercultural pedagogical vision. Seeing Bob slowly revise his teaching over multiple semesters is helpful in that it allows the reader to envision the same process in their own classrooms. In addition, the case study also includes reflection questions to help the reader revise their own practice regardless of content.

The second chapter of Part Two focuses on the case of Catherine. Catherine shares that the process of changing her teaching encompassed ten years, encouraging the reader to slowly begin the process of pedagogical change. Catherine shares specific details of her teaching, including her revised learning objectives for students and her related teaching strategies and assessments. The reflection questions in this chapter are particularly helpful, including questions such as, “Thinking about the values of intercultural pedagogy, how are these demonstrably evident in your syllabus/course design?” (p. 85) and “Do your assessments focus on demonstrating concrete, acquired knowledge or do they allow for reflection and demonstration of ongoing learning?” (p. 91).

Seeing Catherine’s case is helpful because she teaches different content than Bob, and seeing both content areas helps the reader understand how intercultural pedagogy can be applied to any content. That said, one way the book could have been strengthened would have been to include additional content, perhaps from a science, engineering, or mathematics background. Bob is a history faculty member and Catherine is in social science, and their cases illuminate this type of teaching well. But readers would have benefitted from an additional case study that described teaching science, engineering, or mathematics. Bob, as a history professor, may be more free to cut content than, say, a Calculus 1 instructor who knows that the Calculus 2 instructor requires and expects certain prerequisite knowledge. That said, the reflection questions can clearly be tailored to any content area and an astute reader can apply intercultural pedagogy to any content background.

The book ends with an encouragement to pursue productive discomfort in one’s classroom in order to allow space for intercultural learning. This includes a list of practical strategies for the classroom as well as revisiting the cases of Bob and Catherine to see how they made space for productive discomfort. Overall, the reader leaves feeling encouraged and supported in changing their practice to meet the needs of a diverse range of students. I strongly recommend the book to those interested in intercultural pedagogy.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: January 08, 2018
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22228, Date Accessed: 12/4/2021 8:26:52 PM

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About the Author
  • Christine Phelps-Gregory
    Central Michigan University
    E-mail Author
    CHRISTINE M. PHELPS-GREGORY is an Associate professor at Central Michigan University. She teaches mathematics and mathematics for teacher education. She conducts research on how to systematically improve mathematics teacher education.
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