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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: 2023-24

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 Semester 2 2023-24

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

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 1. 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 terms of ‘culture’, ‘communication’, and ‘intercultural communication’. We will then 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 2. Approaches to understanding culture
This session will introduce students to two major views of culture, non-essentialism and essentialism, which have been powerful in influencing people’s behaviour and communication. We will consider in particular the frameworks of cultural patterns introduced by Hofstede and E.T. Hall, while also critically reflecting on the dangers of applying these patterns in intercultural communication. We will then define Holliday’s notion of a ‘small’ culture and focus on culture as a complex, fluid, and creative process. Students will also reflect on their own views of culture and critically examine their influence on intercultural communication.

Week 3. Identity in intercultural communication
Identity deals with the way in which people bring with them their own understandings and feelings of culture and negotiate these in communication. The focus of this session is to understand how people create and negotiate their identities in the process of communicating with others and to discuss possible effects that these representations have on their intercultural communication. Students will also consider the role of power in the construction of identity and reflect on power dynamics in their own intercultural encounters and relationships.

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 and examine the various ways in which stereotypes hamper face-to-face contact with other groups. Students will also be provided with an opportunity to self-assess their own levels of ethnocentrism.

Week 5. Politeness and face systems
This session will discuss the critical role that linguistic politeness and pragmatic face systems play in intercultural communication encounters. Students will be introduced to Brown and Levinson’s (1987) model of positive and negative politeness and consider how notions of face and appropriate facework are interpreted in different contexts and may become a source of misunderstanding and communication breakdowns.

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 the 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 a particular focus on the English language teaching and learning, the discussion will centre around the challenges associated with adopting unfamiliar communication orientated pedagogies in various educational contexts.

Week 8. Written intercultural communication
This session focuses on the construction of texts in academic discourse contexts. Students will be first introduced to the key concepts such as discourse community and genre and will then discuss specific ways that the construction of texts differs in different discourse communities. In this session, students will also consider the challenges that student writers face when attempting to accommodate their tutors’ expectations for writing and their own perceptions of writing that they bring with them from their previous literacy experiences.

Week 9. Schema in text interpretation and intercultural communication
The aim of this session is to highlight the importance of schema that people use when interpreting texts and which are specific to particular cultures. Defining schema as people’s cognitive representations of reality, we will focus on the sociocultural differences in these representations and discuss how cultural preconceptions are continually adapted in the process of text interpretation, rather than imposed on texts and determine how texts are understood. We will also consider how the use of schema is used in ‘reading’ other signs (e.g., images) and analysing different cultural encounters discuss how the use of inappropriate schemata can result in false interpretations and intercultural miscommunication.

Week 10. Developing intercultural competence
By this stage of the module, it is hoped that students will be more aware of their own cultural assumptions and biases and their socially constructed identities. This knowledge will act as the foundation for this week’s session which explores some specific practical strategies that students can utilise to enhance their own intercultural competence and achieve successful intercultural communication.

Week 11. Student presentations and course conclusions
In this final session, students 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 students to revisit the key themes raised during the course.


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

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

The module will be assessed by an assignment of 3000 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:Essay/coursework: 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 as well as individual written feedback reports with follow-up tutor discussion if necessary. The feedback is returned to students in line with the university policy. Please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information.

Indicative reading

Indicative reading

Bennett, M. J. (2013). Basic concepts of intercultural communication. Paradigms, principles and practices (2nd ed.). Boston: Intercultural Press.
Byram, M., Nichols, A., & Stevens, D. (2001). Developing Intercultural Competence in Practice. Bristol, Blue Ridge Summit: Multilingual Matters.
Connor, U., Nagelhout, E., & Rozycki, W. (Eds.). (2008). Contrastive rhetoric: Reaching to intercultural rhetoric. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Holliday, A., Hyde, M., & Kullman, J. (Eds.). (2021). Intercultural Communication. An advanced resource book for students (4th ed.). London: Routledge.
Jackson, K, (2020). The Routledge handbook of language and intercultural communication (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.
Jandt, F. E. (2017). An introduction to intercultural communication: Identities in a global community (9th ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Johns, A.M. (Ed.). (2002). Genre in the classroom: Multiple perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Kanwit, M., & Solon, M. (2023). Communicative competence in a second language. Theory, method, and applications. New York: Routledge.
Martin, J. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2022). Intercultural communication in contexts (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill LLC.
Neuliep, J. W. (2017). Intercultural communication: A contextual approach (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Piller, I. (2017). Intercultural Communication: A Critical Introduction (2nd ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Porto, M., & Byram, M. (2017). New perspectives on intercultural language research and teaching. Exploring learners’ understandings of texts from other cultures. New York: Routledge.
Samovar, L. A., & Porter, R. E. (Eds.). (2014). Intercultural communication: A reader (14th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
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.