ICC 2016

Intercultural Competence: Traditions and Transitions

Fifth International Conference
on the
Development and Assessment of Intercultural Competence

January 21-24, 2016
Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort, Tucson, Arizona

Conference Program

The full program for the conference is available for download here.

Live presentations and digital presentations are available by following the links

Keynote Presentation: 
Fred Dervin (University of Helsinki, Finland), Intercultural Competence Beyond Orthodoxies

Plenary Presentations:
Dwight Atkinson (University of Arizona, USA), IC from the Side: Expanding the “Cultural” in Intercultural Competence

Paige Ware (Southern Methodist University), Intercultural Competence Inside Digital Contact Zones: Spaces of Reification, Negotiation, and Suspense

Invited Workshops:
Alvino E. Fantini (SIT Graduate Institute), Developing Intercultural Competencies: Common Goals for Language and Intercultural Educators

Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholl (Center for Language Study, Yale University), Stéphane Charitos (Language Resource Center, Columbia University) and Dick Feldman (Language Resource Center, Cornell University), Implementing a Shared Course Model for the LCTL

Download the flyer here.

Writing in 1997, Michael Byram describes intercultural communication as something that is historically continuous, albeit not constant, and as something that shifted importantly at the turn of the last century. In a world that is increasingly interconnected—virtually through digital technologies as well as physically through global migrations—, communicating across cultures and languages is an inevitability for many people. And yet, large-scale travel and tourism are hardly new to the Twenty-First Century and the extent to which intercultural communication is a qualitatively new human phenomenon bears examination. At the same time, intercultural competence, as a theorizable, teachable, and assessable skill or set of skills, has been developed by scholars and practitioners in a variety of fields over the past few decades and now carries its own conceptual traditions—as reflected in the presentations over the past four conferences on the Development and Assessment of Intercultural Competence in Tucson, Arizona.

Straddling tradition and transition, this Fifth International Conference organized by the Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language and Literacy (CERCLL) will take stock of the histories that this field carries with it as well as the future directions it might take. This four-day event brings together scholars and educators in order to foster a conversation about what intercultural competence might mean to scholars and educators now, and what theoretical models, best practices, and approaches are best suited to fostering this sensibility in various learners.

Conference Schedule
For a one-page PDF of the conference schedule, with room assignments and including refreshment and other breaks, click here.

Pre- and post-conference workshops take place on January 21st and 24th, running from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day (registration for these is separate). The keynote, plenaries, papers and posters will be presented on Friday, January 22nd and Saturday January 23rd. A list of presentations and preview program will be on this website in November, 2015, with the full program appearing online in January, 2016. There is a catered lunch on January 22nd and a reception on the evening of January 23rd, both intended to create opportunities for networking.

Questions? If you can’t find what you are looking for in the links above, please contact CERCLL at coh-cercll@email.arizona.edu, (520)626‐8071.

Free materials and downloads are also available for the past three Intercultural Competence (ICC) Conferences. Follow these links to go to the 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 conference pages.


This conference is organized by the

Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language and Literacy (CERCLL)

co-organized by the
Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) Program

co-sponsored by the
Center for Latin American Studies, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona, College of Humanities, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, andGlobal Initiatives at the University of Arizona;

and the
Center for Advanced Language Proficiency Education and Research (CALPER) at Pennsylvania State University; and Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) at the University of Texas at Austin

Invited Presentations

Keynote Address

Speaker: Fred Dervin, University of Helsinki (Finland)
Keynote Title: Intercultural Competence Beyond Orthodoxies

Fred Dervin is a professor of multicultural education at the University of Helsinki (Finland). Dervin also holds several professorships in Canada, Luxembourg and Malaysia. In May 2014, he was appointed Distinguished Professor at Baoji University of Arts and Sciences (China). Dervin has been widely published in international journals on identity, the intercultural and mobility/migration. He has published over 30 books in English, Finnish and French. Dervin is the series editor of Education Beyond Borders (Peter Lang), Nordic Studies on Diversity in Education (with Kulbrandstad and Ragnarsdóttir; CSP), Post-intercultural communication and education(CSP) and Palgrave Studies on Chinese Education in a Global Perspective (Palgrave). Prof. Dervin is the Director of the Education for Diversities Research Group at Helsinki. His website is: http://blogs.helsinki.fi/dervin/.


The concept of intercultural competence is a complex one, which has been defined and understood in many different ways. Because of its complexity, it can easily be used as an intellectual simplifier or as a simplistic and deterministic slogan idea, which contributes to pinning down and labeling people. The fact that it is used, overused and sometimes abused by decision-makers does not help.

Many approaches to intercultural competence rely on a deficit framework by which someone needs to learn to think and behave like ‘us’ – while missing out on the ‘inter-’ of the intercultural, the inevitable enmeshment of self and other in specific contexts. Furthermore the concept tends to rely too much on the old, tired and somewhat biased word of culture, which many fields of research have discarded. Culture has been part of the intercultural orthodoxy since intercultural competence has been discussed in research and practice. The over-reliance on culture to explain intercultural encounters leads us to concentrate on difference only and to compare and judge willy-nilly the self and the other, often leading to ethnocentrism, (explicit and/or implicit) moralistic judgments and social injustice. This orthodoxy is intolerable in our accelerated globalized times.

Work on interculturality now requires reversing the usual direction of thought that has been ‘polluted’ by (neo-)essentialist and (neo-)culturalist approaches. Like Wimmer (2013: 3), we need to find a middle ground between the Charybdis of essentialism and the Scylla of hyper-constructivism.

In my keynote I propose ways of complexifying intercultural competence by 1. Turning our intention towards the continuum of similarities-differences, 2. Opening up the identity markers that are taken into account in intercultural competence, 3. Putting the notion of power at the center of intercultural analysis, 4. Calling for an end to the obsession with success and 5. Politicizing interculturality.

Plenary Addresses

Speaker: Dwight Atkinson, University of Arizona (United States)
Plenary Title: IC from the Side: Expanding the “Cultural” in Intercultural Competence


Dwight Atkinson is an applied linguist and second language educator in the English department and the interdisciplinary Second Language Teaching and Learning (SLAT) program at the University of Arizona. He taught at the University of Southern California, Auburn University, the University of Alabama, Temple University Japan, and Purdue University before coming to U of A.

Dwight’s academic interests are wide-ranging, from scientific and medical research writing, to second language acquisition, to second language writing, to qualitative research approaches, to culture theory, to the role of English in Indian higher education. Dwight currently serves on six journal editorial boards and is the Disciplinary Dialogues editor of the Journal of Second Language Writing. Recent publications (not focusing on culture) include the edited volume Alternative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition, and articles in Applied LinguisticsApplied Linguistics ReviewJournal of Second Language Writingthe Modern Language Journal, and Language Teaching.

Dwight’s interest in culture stems from his 12 years of living and teaching in Japan. His 1997 and 1999 papers “A Critical Approach to Critical Thinking” and “Culture and TESOL” (both in TESOL Quarterly) were part of the 1990s/2000s “culture wars” debates in TESOL regarding uses and abuses of the culture concept. Since then he has urged a middle-ground approach to culture (problematizing it while trying to make it more sensitive to and descriptive of individual human experience), as well as investigating different theories of culture and the possibilities for the applied linguistic research area called “Intercultural Rhetoric.” Recent writings on culture appear/will soon appear in the Routledge Handbook of Language and Culture, the Routledge Handbook of Language and Intercultural Communication, the Handbook of Second Language Writing, and TESOL Quarterly.


Like “communicative competence, ” “intercultural competence” often seems to emphasize “competence” rather than other aspects of the concept. This is quite understandable and legitimate in those contexts in which the concept has been most widely applied and for which it was originally developed.

As a language educator and applied linguist coming from other traditions, and relying on other empirical and theoretical tools, I will try to take a kind of “other” or sideways look at intercultural competence–one that I hope may suggest new uses and discussions of the term. Instead of “competence,” I will focus on the “culture” and “intercultural” embedded in the term.

More specifically, I will try to characterize culture as a tool with a wide array of pedagogical uses. For the purposes of this presentation, I define culture within the space between two increasingly divergent conceptual traditions. The first is that of human culture–the universal, highly evolved human abilities that define us, in large part, as a distinctive species: fast (cultural) learning and more generally fast adapting, as studied by evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and anthropologists. The second conceptual tradition is that of human cultures–the more or less patterned but variable identities, institutions, dispositions, and behaviors that accrue when humans spend substantial parts of their lives performing and learning to perform social action, i.e. inter/acting, together.

I will suggest how these two conceptualizations of culture reinforce and complement each other in informing what we do and how we do it in second/foreign language teaching. In this sense, concepts like “culture,” multidimensionally understood, are both thinking and acting tools, which can be used together to enact well-grounded and effective language teaching.

Speaker: Paige Ware, Southern Methodist University (United States)
Plenary Title: Intercultural Competence Inside Digital Contact Zones: Spaces of Reification, Negotiation, and Suspense“

Paige Ware is Chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Southern Methodist University. She earned her doctorate in Education, Language, Literacy, and Culture at the University of California at Berkeley in 2003 after teaching English as a Foreign Language for many years. Her research focuses on the use of multimedia technologies for fostering language and literacy growth among adolescents, and on the use of Internet-based communication for promoting intercultural awareness through international and domestic online language and culture partnerships. Her work has been funded by a National Academy of Education/Spencer Post-Doctoral Fellowship, by the International Research Foundation for English Language Education (TIRF), and by the Department of Education Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) Professional Development grant. Her research has appeared in the Modern Language Journal, Computer-Assisted Language Learning, Pedagogies, Writing & Pedagogy, Language Learning & Technology, International Journal of Educational Research, CALICO Journal, and a number of chapters in edited volumes.


To explore how ideas about intercultural competence have developed in language education across the last two decades, this plenary discussion will draw on the notion of digital contact zones. The original concept of contact zones, forwarded 25 years ago by the literary and linguistic scholar Mary Louise Pratt, refers to spaces where people from different backgrounds, histories, languages, cultures, and strata come together in textually and physically mediated encounters. The digital turn of contact zones, as I will suggest, appears to have heightened the immediacy, reach, and intensity of these social spaces of intercultural contact. Language learners interacting in digital contact zones not only draw on a vast array of symbolic resources such as language, image, sound, and movement, but they also construct novel social spaces in which to engage with one another through synchronous and asynchronous communication tools, hypermedia options, social networking sites, and multimodal video sharing and commentating. This talk invites language scholars to re-examine several of the areas that Pratt originally outlined as foregrounded when contact zones are purposefully created for pedagogical purposes. Notions of transculturation, collaboration, linguistic variation, historical grounding, and mediation all become intensified in digital contexts where intercultural interactions take place. I will draw on examples from my own work and from that of peers across the last 25 years to demonstrate how we educators have grappled with ways to leverage these digital contact zones as social sites so that our students can experience rich learning, meaningful engagement, and dissonant discourses. I will also explore how, as we have created such digital contact zones for our students, we have also generated new spaces for ourselves where we can wrestle afresh with what we mean by intercultural competence.

Invited Workshops

Speaker: Alvino E. Fantini (United States)
Workshop Title: Developing Intercultural Competencies: Common Goals for Language and Intercultural Educators


This workshop arises from an extensive survey of the literature and two international impact studies that explored indicators of intercultural success. It becomes clear that language proficiency alone is inadequate and that other abilities are also essential. For this reason, language educators need to expand their role to promote the development of intercultural competencies (ICC) that ensure students are not only able to communicate, but also interact effectively and appropriately in other cultures, just as intercultural educators must also broaden their work to address language.

In this workshop, participants explore the role of language and culture in forming our initial worldview and how each language-culture (LC) shapes a different view of the world. Given the pervasive role of our LC1, the questions arise: can we transcend and transform that initial paradigm when seeking to enter another later in life? And what abilities are needed to be able to do so?

Participants investigate the notion of ICC and explore its multiple dimensions – definitions, characteristics, components, developmental levels, and especially the role that language plays during intercultural contact. Participants examine a curriculum model that ensures that all areas are addressed – language, interactions and behaviors – and consider applications for their own classrooms. They then consider techniques that embed small “c” cultural aspects (interactions and behaviors appropriate to the target culture) in every lesson unit. Finally, multiple strategies for measuring and monitoring their students’ ongoing ICC development are presented.

Speakers: Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholl (Director, Center for Language Study, Yale University), Stéphane Charitos (Director, Language Resource Center, Columbia University) and Dick Feldman (Director, Language Resource Center, Cornell University)
Workshop Title: Implementing a Shared Course Model for the LCTL


In 2012, Columbia, Yale, and Cornell created a shared model of instruction for the less commonly taught languages (LCTL) which has allowed us to leverage resources across our institutions to increase both the depth and breadth of instruction for languages that are increasingly difficult for universities to support. The model uses classroom-to-classroom videoconferencing technology and other state-of-the-art technological resources to share language instruction and is designed to address the specific needs of a highly interactive classroom by offering a synchronous, multimodal, learner-centered environment intended to closely emulate a regular language classroom.

One of the advantages of this model is that it supports the creation of communal spaces where students can co-construct their identities as members of a broader community of practice, form communities of practice dedicated to the fruitful exploration of knowledge, and engage in critical dialogues with both teachers and peers. For these reasons, we believe this model has the potential for significant curricular and institutional transformation beyond language instruction. Institutions can engage in the creation of collaborative curricula as well as leverage its innovative approach to sharing academic resources across institutional boundaries in order to allow students and faculty to access sources of knowledge regardless of where these are located.

This workshop will provide participants with step-by-step guidelines regarding the administrative, technological, and pedagogical challenges and solutions facing institutions wishing to replicate the model. This will involve intensive and in-depth discussions to adapt the model to specific institutional conditions and constraints (e.g. type of institution [private or public; large or small; research or teaching orientation]; financial considerations; existing curricular emphases; technological infrastructure, etc.). The workshop will offer a range of options to customize the model depending on specific institutional needs and objectives.