The course outlined here is designed to provide students with a theoretical grounding and improve their intercultural communication and mediation skills, with a view to facilitating their role as professionals in related sectors. The purpose of the course is to develop awareness of the potential complexity of communication between subjects from different cultural backgrounds, beginning with the students’ understanding of themselves and their own frame of reference.
Core concepts and learning objectives include: conceptions, assumptions and values, and intercultural communication styles and modes of negotiation and mediation. The course focuses in particular on the Critical Incident/Culture Shock technique developed by Margalit Cohen Emerique as a way of supporting social work professionals in developing an intercultural approach to their work.
Summary of course contents:
1. The multicultural global society
- Promoting inclusion and democracy: an intercultural outlook
2. An intercultural approach: the Cohen Emerique method.
- Critical incidents: a training methodology for developing an intercultural approach.
- Obstacles to understanding the other
- The other's frame of reference
- Communication styles
3. Intercultural mediation
- The concept of mediation
- Cultural vs. intercultural mediation
- Conflict resolution
- Instruments for cultural mediation
Teaching methods and learning settings
In additional to traditional lectures, the course is based on workshop-type activities, in particular:
a) showing video/film sequences, with accompanying discussion and analysis.
b) reading passages from autobiographical and narrative texts by experts in intercultural competence and/or authors from a migrant or non-Western background.
c) critical incidents, with accounts provided by social work professionals.
d) analysing interviews carried out with social work professionals who work in areas characterised by dense migrant populations.
- familiarity with the concept of competence
- familiarity with the main concepts that underpin the intercultural approach
- a grounding in the basic principles of human communication.
M. Cohen-Emerique , Per un approccio interculturale nelle professioni sociali e educative Dagli inquadramenti teorici alle modalità operative. Erickson, Trento, 2017
The content of the text used during the course and that of the lectures and class exercises will follow the programme outlined here. Additional learning materials and the template for interviews with social work professionals will be available on the course e-learning platform.
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Scope of assessment
Students will be required to demonstrate:
1) familiarity with the basic principles of the intercultural approach.
2) familiarity with the fundamental principles of intercultural communication (ICC) and mediation.
3) the ability to analyse the critical incidents and experiences recounted/collected via the interviews from an intercultural perspective, demonstrating that they have fully assimilated this form of enquiry and learning.
4) the ability to formulate lines of reasoning in a concise, academically rigorous and syntactically accurate manner, not least by identifying the essential elements that emerge in relation to the themes and issues under consideration.
Nature of the assessment and material covered:
The assessment of learning outcomes has two parts:
1) A written exam comprising 5 open questions relating to the texts on the exam reading list.
2) A written report of a modest individual or group research project, which – taking as its starting point a critical incident that has arisen during an interview conducted with a practising social work professional – should critically analyse the data collected using, as appropriate, the concepts, theoretical models and interventions covered during the course (i.e. cultural frames, relational modes, critical nodes, required competences, etc. relating to encounters between people from different cultural backgrounds).
The assessment result will be expressed as a score out of a possible thirty marks
A sore of up to 20 marks will be awarded for the written test; the project report is worth up to 10 marks. The final result, out of thirty marks, will be calculated by adding these two scores.
Marks will be awarded on the basis of the following performance criteria:
For the written test:
- extent to which the answers address the questions, the value of the theoretical material acquired;
- demonstration of personal reflection on the material studied and the ability to reconcile theory and practice;
- command of specialist terminology pertaining to the sector in question;
- correct grammar and syntax.
For the study report:
The micro-study must provide clear evidence of learning:
- by discussing the methods and processes used to administer the interviews;
- by citing the texts indicated in the bibliography and other texts identified during the research process,
- by providing a personal interpretation of, and reflection on, the lessons attended, bibliographical sources, and the analisys of collected data.
Instructions for drafting the report*
The report is an argumentative text that examines and analyses a number of the concepts presented in the texts in the reading list, the student(s) having subsequently explored these concepts in greater depth by conducting interviews with practising social work professionals (with a view to bringing to light critical incidents), in line with the template developed during the lessons. The data analysis process should be supported by references to the texts covered during the course (and to other works and studies known to the student or students). The length of the report is to be decided by the student or students themselves. The recommended minimum length, however, is 5 pages (each of 3,000 characters) plus the bibliography and appendices (which should include a complete transcription of the data collected through questionnaires, interviews, ethnographic journals etc.).
The report should include:
- a cover (with full names and matriculation numbers of the student or students, the name of the degree course, the project title, and a contact email address and telephone number;
- an abstract/brief summary of the project;
- data collected and data analysis;
- discussion of the analysis and any critical indidents identified;
- appendices: all data collected via questionnaires, ethnographic journals and interviews, and journal articles used as references in the analysis and discussion on the chosen themes.
The text should be subdivided into paragraphs and supplemented, in proper academic fashion, by footnotes and a final bibliography.
The report must be submitted by email to the course leader at least fifteen days prior to the exam date selected by the student, and a hard copy handed in on the day of the exam together with the written exam paper.