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Sixth International Conference on the Development and Assessment of Intercultural Competence

Intercultural Competence and Mobility: Virtual and Physical

Invited Presentations

Keynote, Plenaries, and Workshop Presentations

Keynote Address

Speaker: Robert O’Dowd, University of León (Spain)
Keynote Title: Moving from Intercultural Contact to Intercultural Learning in Virtual Exchange

o_dowd_headshot2.jpg Robert O'Dowd is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of León, Spain. He has worked at universities in Ireland, Germany and Spain and has published widely on the application of collaborative online learning in university education. His most recent publication is the co-edited volume with Tim Lewis -Online Intercultural Exchange: Policy, Pedagogy, Practice for Routledge. He recently coordinated INTENT – an award-winning project financed by the European Commission aimed at promoting virtual exchange in European Higher Education and is currently president of the UNICollaboration academic organization for telecollaboration and virtual exchange ( He also is active in English Medium Instruction (EMI) in university education and has designed the EMI training and certification programme at his home university and has taught various EMI training programmes in universities in Spain, Italy and Austria. His publications are available here: and you can follow him on twitter @robodowd.

‘Virtual Exchange’, also referred to as telecollaboration or COIL, refers to the application of online communication tools to bring together classes of language learners in geographically distant locations with the aim of developing their foreign language skills and intercultural competence through collaborative tasks and project work. Many studies have explored the potential of this activity for supporting collaborative language learning and developing intercultural competence in learners (Dooly & O’Dowd, 2012, Guth & Helm, 2010; Kern, 2015; O’Dowd, 2011, 2013).

However, Virtual Exchange is also an activity which has received its fair share of criticism in the literature, and at times there is a clear scepticism amongst commentators as to its effectiveness in developing intercultural awareness (Kramsch, 2009; Liddicoat & Scarino, 2013) and in relation to its contribution to internationalisation processes at university level (Lawton, 2015). With this in mind, for Virtual Exchange to continue to grow and become an effective tool for university foreign language education, this presentation will explore the main criticisms and concerns which have been expressed in relation to online intercultural exchanges and will then reflect on how both practitioners and researchers can react and learn from these critiques. Critical incidents from recent exchanges will be used to illustrate the difference between merely establishing intercultural contact online and actually bringing about contexts for intercultural learning. The presentation will conclude by looking briefly at the platform which aims to support university lecturers interested in establishing and running telecollaborative exchanges.

Plenary Addresses

Speaker: Alvino E. Fantini, Professor Emeritus, SIT Graduate Institute & Federation of The Experiment in International Living (United States)
Plenary Title: Exploring Intercultural Communicative Competence: Concepts, Components & Assessment (A Multinational Perspective)

fantini.jpg Alvino E. Fantini, Ph.D., holds degrees in anthropology and applied linguistics and worked in intercultural communication and language education for 45 years. Professor Emeritus of SIT's Graduate Institute, he conducted significant research, published widely, and is past president of SIETAR International and recipient of its highest award.

In today’s world, intercultural communicative competence (ICC) is rapidly becoming a fundamental necessity for everyone, both across an ocean and around the block. Its development, however, requires the combined attention of both language educators and interculturalists. Whereas second language ability is fundamental, language educators must also give increased attention to the cultural dimensions of language education. Happily, the National Foreign Language Standards developed some time ago point us in the right direction. However, it is now more clearly recognized that intercultural competence provides the context and purpose of language instruction and that language proficiency alone is inadequate. But what exactly is ICC? Although various concepts have been advanced, the multiple components of ICC are seldom identified or inadequately addressed.

This plenary presents the findings of a multinational research effort, funded by CERCLL, conducted precisely to identify the component parts of ICC as well as to assess the impact of their development during intercultural experiences. The research began with a search of the literature spanning 50 years and conducted in seven languages. A synthesis of these findings provided a comprehensive concept of ICC and, aside from a definition, it identified its multiple components: various characteristics or attributes, three areas, four dimensions, developmental levels, plus it confirmed the importance of host language proficiency as fundamental to successful intercultural contact. This construct was also used to analyze over 140 assessment instruments designed to measure and monitor ICC development in language classrooms and beyond in order to produce a more comprehensive and more reliable tool for use in this project. The tool, translated into seven languages, was tested through two international impact studies conducted in eight countries, validating these components as indicators of intercultural success.

Speaker: Chin-Sook Pak, Ball State University (United States)
Plenary Title: Stories and Relationships that Awaken Us: Service/Community-Based Learning for Intercultural Competence

pak_headshot_sent_by_pak.jpg Chin-Sook Pak (Ph. D., Romance Linguistics, University of Michigan) is an Associate Professor of Spanish at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. For almost 20 years, she has incorporated SL/CBL components to all levels of Spanish language, content and interdisciplinary honors colloquium courses, which has lead to numerous publications, workshops and collaborations that promote diversity learning for students of Spanish, faculty, and community organizations. She is the recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award and Excellence in Teaching Award (Ball State University) and the Brian Douglas Hiltunen Faculty Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Scholarship of Engagement (Indiana Campus Compact).

The Association of American Colleges and Universities identifies Service-Learning (SL)/Community-Based Learning (CBL) as a “high impact educational practice” for student success (Kuh, 2008). The experiential learning with community partners allows students to apply their classroom learning in real-world contexts, and can prepare them for citizenship, work, and life in our multicultural, pluralistic society. While engaging in activities that address community needs, a high quality SL experience promotes critical reflection, informs us about issues and systemic challenges, brings people together, and creates collaborative power relationships. In particular, reflection and reciprocity, as the fundamental elements of SL (Jacoby, 2015), can serve as catalysts for facilitating a deeper understanding of the other, and of intercultural relationships. As such, SL can support the attitudes, knowledge, and skills goals for intercultural competence (ICC). Indeed, research offers a strong case for SL in promoting cultural awareness and empathy, reducing stereotyped thinking, increasing students’ comfort level and interest in interacting with diverse populations and target languages and cultures, and fostering the development of ICC (Bloom, 2008; Borden, 2007; Deardorff & Edwards, 2012; De Leon, 2014; Fitch, 2004; Dunhap & Webster, 2009; Eyler & Giles, 1999; Yoon, Martin & Murphy, 2012; Wilson, 2011).

This presentation examines the intersection of domestic SL/CBL, especially in places with limited racial/ethnic diversity, and development of a number of dimensions of ICC. After an overview of literature on SL/CBL for ICC and factors that affect the quality of SL experience, the presentation will share sample SL projects for students of Spanish and a pilot study on long-term effects of SL/CBL following interviews with former students. In efforts to build mutually beneficial relationships between campus and community, the paper argues that SL/CBL provides a valuable platform for all stakeholders to ask a deeper question: how are we interconnected?

Invited Workshop

Speaker: Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona (USA)
Workshop Title: Reading Globally: Critical Issues in Global Literature for Children and Adolescents


We live in a world where our lives are interconnected in complex ways across global cultures as well as fractured with tensions that divide us. Global children's literature provides one means of facilitating intercultural understanding, but issues of availability, access, authenticity, and classroom use must be addressed for this potential to be realized. In this workshop, participants will have the opportunity to explore current trends in global literature for children and adolescents, examine critical issues and approaches to analyzing these books, and experience strategies for critically engaging with global literature. We will consider how to invite readers into a critical reading of the word and the world. An additional component will be interactions that pair classic, well-known texts often used in elementary and secondary classrooms with global children's and adolescent literature to expand the curriculum and include global perspectives.

This workshop is linked to CERCLL's “Globalizing the Common Core State Standards” project.