During the first course meeting, we were asked to reflect on what successful interpersonal communication is in the classroom together with how we see our and the students’ roles in this process. I will structure my first blog post around these questions. For the first question, my team concluded that the personal in the interpersonal makes interpersonal communication successful. That is, the ability to see the person behind stereotypical assumptions we all tend to have about different cultures. The lecture material and the discussion together with Ingrid Piller’s article “Intercultural Communication: An Overview” (2012) challenged us to see beyond stereotypical characterizations related to nationality, ethnicity, gender and class, etc.
These are often expressed through, for example, banal nationalism. Banal nationalism means the way a nation and its members flag the national territory and group belonging in everyday contexts, for example, the use of flags, name-dropping and other symbols. For me, the level of banal nationalism is quite week in Finland compared to other countries, such as the USA that has a high level of banal nationalism. It will be interesting to see if my hypothesis holds true after I have completed the first course assignment, in which I will record my encounters with banal nationalism during one day,
Furthermore, Lecturer Malgorzata Lahti highlighted that while cultural stereotypes fill a purpose and can be good starting points in new student meetings, they also create otherness in the form of boundaries and differences, as well as disempower the students.
Next, I want to reflect on how I approach cultural stereotypes. As a teacher, I strive for openness, to meet my students as individuals and to adapt my teaching according to what I pick up in the classroom. In this way, I believe that I avoid most assumptions. However, after learning about how easy it is to slip into stereotypical cultural assumptions, from now on, I will be more self-critical and sensitive to these.
Second, when it comes to the the instructor’s role, two-way communication and openness are important elements in the classroom. It is also important in international classroom settings to set a common goal in order to create “sameness” and togetherness and to give very clear instructions regarding the course format and rules together with the instructor’s expectations on the students. By this, the instructor assimilates international students into the local academic working climate, which is natural to local students. Moreover, the instructor can also accommodate for students with limited English proficiency by repeating the most important information in different registers of English, such as academic and colloquial.
Third, during the first session, we did not discuss the students’ role very much. However, as instructors, we do hope that they will participate in the two-way communication and follow the guidelines. Finally, if there are misunderstandings or problems, we hope that we have created an environment that feels “safe” enough to bring them up.