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Teaching Interculturally: A Framework for Integrating Disciplinary Knowledge and Intercultural Development

Lee, Amy
Stylus Publishing, Llc., 2017

Book Review

Tags: intercultural pedagogy   |   pedagogical practice   |   pedagogical reflection   |   pedagogical theory

Reviewed by: Joshua Canzona, Wake Forest University
Date Reviewed: September 6, 2018

Teaching Interculturally: A Framework for Integrating Disciplinary Knowledge and Intercultural Development
Amy Lee, Robert Poch, Mary Katherine O\'Brien, and Catherine Solheim
Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2017 (x + 137 pages, ISBN 978-1620363799, $27.50)

This book is “for intercultural pedagogy” and the authors are clear about their goal: “to foster a deeper knowledge and skill base of pedagogical theory/practice and, in doing so, seek to advance a critical intercultural pedagogy that is capable of supporting a profound shift in daily practice” (3). In arguing the need for this work, they critique universities for undervaluing teaching and failing to engage doctoral candidates in programmatic teacher preparation (8). The authors provide this sobering take: “Centers for ‘teaching and learning’ have closed, merged, gone ‘online,’ and become centers for ‘educational innovation,’ a discursive marker of the emphasis being on research and not on the people or process of teaching and learning” (18). This is a bold claim to leave hanging. Less controversial is their assertion that “you are teaching in and experiencing intercultural classrooms regardless of whether you want to, whether you are aware of it, and whether you think it is your responsibility or relevant to your discipline” (15). Readers will be hard pressed to leave this book with any doubt concerning the importance and relevance of intercultural pedagogy.

The authors strike an admirable and concise balance between theory and practice. They aim to “disrupt” current teaching norms with a “commitment to make intentional, informed decisions that enable our courses to engage and support diversity and inclusion” (15). In their second chapter, they emphasize three values toward this end: (1) the pursuit of equity and inclusion in classrooms, (2) pedagogical humility while recognizing the developmental nature of expertise, and (3) the importance of reflection and revision. These values are modeled through the rest of the book.

In chapter 3 authors Robert (Bob) Poch and Catherine Solheim share critical self-reflections on how their cultural identities, academic formation, and scholarship shapes their teaching. In chapters 4 and 5, Catherine and Bob provide case studies with specific examples of how thinking interculturally has changed their teaching practice. Helpful descriptions of actual classroom discussions and examples of modified learning goals, assessments, student work, and student feedback appear in abundance. Bob shows how his explanation-heavy PowerPoint slides of 2011 transition to primary source quotes, open-ended questions, and historical images by 2015. His transformed teaching “facilitated much more intercultural interaction” and “developed the capacity for each student to be an interpretive historian” (59). Catherine shows how the hard work of reflecting on the goals and outcomes for her “Global and Diverse Families” course prompted students to engage more deeply with cultures other than their own. The risks and benefits of her shift from a final exam to a synthesis-based summative assessment drawing on an ethno-narrative interview assignment are described with careful attention to detail and deep reflection.

Carrying the theme of disruption forward, this book does not shy away from challenges and pitfalls. The final chapter discusses “productive discomfort” by providing tips for facilitating difficult classroom conversations along with real-life examples. The memorable case of a teacher bringing a heated online exchange between students back to a place of respect and collegiality is examined with characteristic humility.

With numerous case studies and bracketed “Invitations for Reflection,” this slim volume practices a pedagogy of its own and is well-suited for individuals and groups seeking opportunities for practical and meaningful reflection on intercultural pedagogy.

Wabash Center