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Intercultural Communication in Education - EDU00051M

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  • Department: Education
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Irena Kuzborska
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

This interdisciplinary module draws on insights from fields such as sociolinguistics, psychology and language education to better understand the complexities behind interactions which take place between people of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

This interdisciplinary module draws on insights from fields such as sociolinguistics, psychology and language education to better understand the complexities behind interactions which take place between people of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. As our world becomes increasingly globalised and opportunities for transnational education and business opportunities grow, the resulting multicultural contexts require communication skills that acknowledge that one’s interlocutor may not necessarily hold the same beliefs and assumptions as oneself. By encouraging critical and reflective engagement with study materials, learners will gain theoretical knowledge of the key issues in intercultural communication and develop an awareness of how their own cultural practices shape their communicative behaviour. At the end of the module, learners will be better prepared to make socioculturally informed decisions regarding the pedagogical approaches they employ in their own future teaching practice.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module learners will have developed:

  • a critical understanding of the key issues and theoretical constructs surrounding intercultural communication;

  • an increased awareness of how various dimensions of culture act as barriers to successful communication;

  • an enhanced understanding of how to interact successfully in unfamiliar settings, particularly within academic contexts;

  • the ability to critically evaluate research focusing on communication between people from different cultures;

  • a critical understanding of the implications of intercultural communication for L2 educators working primarily within post-secondary contexts.

Module content

The module consists of two-hour sessions which comprise of a mixture of lectures, whole-group discussions, small-group activities and presentations. Learners will be expected to complete selected readings prior to each session and take an active role during in-class activities.

Week 2 Overview of the module: Why study intercultural communication?

This initial session will outline the main themes of the module and discuss what is meant by the term ‘intercultural communication’. We will reflect on how an increasingly globalised and connected world calls for individuals with dynamic communication skills and a non-rigid mindset. We will also consider how intercultural communication has grown to become an important subfield within applied linguistics and what implications this has for foreign language educators.

Week 3 Theoretical dimensions of cultural variability

This session will introduce learners to the most salient theoretical frameworks which have been developed to help make sense of cultural differences. We will examine in particular Hall’s (1976) conception of high and low context cultures and also Hofestede’s (2001) five value dimensions of individualism, masculinity, power distance, uncertainty avoidance and Confucian dynamism. Learners will discuss how the theoretical frameworks introduced in this session may relate to their own cultural identities and backgrounds.

Week 4 Ethnocentrism and stereotyping as barriers to intercultural communication

In this session we will focus on how the general level barriers of stereotyping and ethnocentrism impede effective intercultural communication. We will define the notion of stereotyping from a cognitive perspective and examine the various ways in which stereotypes hamper face-to-face contact with other groups. Learners will also be provided with an opportunity to self-assess their own levels of ethnocentrism using Neuliep and McCrosky’s (1997) GENE scale.

Week 5 Politeness and face systems

This session will discuss the vital role that linguistic politeness and pragmatic face systems play in shaping interaction during intercultural communication encounters. Learners will be introduced to Brown and Levinson’s (1987) model of positive and negative politeness and will consider how notions of face and appropriate facework may differ between individualistic and collectivistic societies.

Week 6 Culture shock and sojourner adaptation

Adapting to an unfamiliar cultural context is a far from straightforward undertaking, and the acculturative stress associated with this process can lead to reductions in both one’s physical and mental health. This session discusses the issue of culture shock, paying particular attention to international students’ experiences, and explores potential strategies for managing the disorientation and stress that can arise from such a condition.

Week 7 An intercultural perspective on English Language Teaching

This session examines how culture impacts upon one’s notion of what is acceptable behaviour and appropriate discourse within educational settings. With particular reference to English language learning in non-western contexts, discussion will centre around the challenges associated with adopting unfamiliar communication-orientated pedagogies in countries such as China, Japan, or Egypt.

Week 8 Written intercultural communication

This session focuses on the construction of texts in different cultural contexts, with a particular focus on their use in academic discourse communities. Students will first be introduced to the key concepts such as genre, corpus analysis, contrastive rhetoric and discourse community, and will then discuss specific ways that texts differ in different cultures. In this session, we will also consider how culture influences not only how students are expected to write in the academy but also the ways of writing they bring with them from their home environments.

Week 9 Developing intercultural competence

By this stage of the module it is hoped that learners will be more aware of their own cultural assumptions and biases. This knowledge will act as a foundation for this week’s session which explores some specific practical strategies that learners can adopt to enhance their own intercultural competence.

Week 10 Student presentations and course conclusions

In this final session, learners will work in small groups to give presentations focusing on issues associated with intercultural communication. Rather than being formal ‘speeches’, these interactive presentations will act as mini-lessons and will provide an opportunity for learners to revisit the key themes raised during the course.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

The module will be assessed by an assignment of 4000 to 5000 words reflecting the aims and learning objectives of the module.

For formative assessment, students will undertake a number of practical tasks throughout the module (e.g., writing their reflections in the Intercultural Learning Journal).


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback in a range of ways throughout this module. This will include oral feedback in class, responses to posts on the VLE discussion board and written comments on work. You will have the chance to obtain feedback on your writing during the module, and you will have a short one-to-one meeting with a module tutor to discuss assessments.

You will be provided physical written feedback on assignment report sheets as well as them being readily available on the VLE. The feedback is returned to students in line with university policy. Please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information

Indicative reading

Bhatia, V.K. (1993). Analysing genre: Language use in professional settings. London: Longman.

Bennett, M. J. (2013). Basic concepts of intercultural communication. Paradigms, principles and practices (2nd ed.). Boston: Intercultural Press.

Connor, U. (1996). Contrastive rhetoric. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Connor, U., Nagelhout, E., & Rozycki, W. (Eds.). (2008). Contrastive rhetoric: Reaching to intercultural rhetoric. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Hyland, K. (2004). Genre and second language writing. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Jandt, F. E. (2009). An introduction to intercultural communication: Identities in a global community(5th ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Johns, A.M. (Ed.).(2002). Genre in the classroom: Multiple perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Neuliep, J. W. (2014). Intercultural communication: A contextual approach (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Samovar, L. A., & Porter, R. E. (Eds.). (2003). Intercultural communication: A reader (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Swales, J. (1990). Genre analysis. Cambridge: CUP.

Swales, J. (2008). Research genres: Explorations and applications. Cambridge: CUP.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.