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Listening with the heart : learner and facilitator perspectives on intercultural training Margolis, Rhonda L.

Abstract

This study explores the effects of intercultural training from the perspectives of learners and facilitators. Three central questions are addressed: How does participation in an intercultural studies program affect the way learners approach intercultural interactions? How do learners engage learning between the educational and practice contexts? What are the implications for program planning? In-depth interviews were conducted with eleven learners and eight facilitators from a certificate program in intercultural studies at a Canadian university. The program is delivered through a combined on-site and online format. With its emphasis on practice-based learning, this program offered a unique opportunity to explore learner change and the application of learning in the workplace. This study was undertaken to inform program planning for intercultural training. The conceptual resources that guided the study are frameworks for program planning and transfer of learning. Perceived learner change as a result of training is explored through multiple lenses of transfer, including application (engaging and creating knowledge in practice) and diffusion (sharing ideas with others formally and informally in the workplace). Factors that contribute to engagement of learning between the practice and training contexts include the integration of theory and practice and the building of an online learning community. The study explores the concept of emotional safety, the impact of identity and representation on intercultural interactions within the training context, and the challenges of facilitating difficult dialogues related to race, power and identity. This study is situated within the larger context of the field of intercultural training. This is contested terrain comprised of two major streams: international and domestic training. Domestic training is represented by three frameworks: diversity, multicultural and anti-racism training. The study indicates that learning is influenced by the degree to which analyzing power or respecting differences is emphasized in the exploration of intercultural interactions. The study concludes with suggested reflective questions for planners of intercultural programs.

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