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Teaching and Learning Centre

Intercultural communication

One of UFV’s strategic directions emphasizes the university’s goal to provide an educational environment that is:

  • inclusive, welcoming, and engaging for all;
  • embraces diversity, supports cross-cultural exchange, and promotes the respectful debate of ideas and views;
  • involves students in governance and decision-making; and
  • offers vibrant campus experiences supporting social, intellectual, and personal development.

UFV is a diverse community and instructors in a wide variety of disciplines seek to engage learners in reflection on diversity-related issues and to facilitate meaningful dialogue and genuine cross-cultural connections in the classroom.

These resources include activities to foster cross-cultural communication skills and build intercultural understanding.

References and resources


Shapiro, S., Farrelly, R. & Tomas, Z. (2014 ). Fostering International Student Success in Higher Education. Alexandria, VA: TESOL International Association Press.
UFV Library Catalogue: ABBOTSFORD LB 2375 S43 2014 STACKS

Chapter 2 overview — Academic culture and classroom culture

  • Theoretical background (individualism vs. collectivism) and the role this cultural difference might play in issues such as intellectual property and plagiarism, expectations regarding assertiveness or individual ownership, original thought and innovation, direct and indirect communication styles, and the classroom setup (teacher-fronted vs. learner-centered).
  • The issue of workload and assessment is discussed. Continuous assessment or "multipronged" assessment is not a feature of the classrooms many international students have come from. In their home countries, their final grade is often based on one final exam.
  • Suggestions for supporting international students transitioning into North American academic culture (pp. 17-27).
  • The need to contextualize pop culture and references to Canadian culture is stressed. Some common scenarios are provided (p. 24) to show why this is important as well as examples of culturally inclusive content (p. 25).

Berardo, K. & Deardorff, D. (2012). Building Cultural Competence. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Available online and in book format through UFV library
Abbotsford: HM1211 .B85 2012

This book includes a wide variety of activities to build cultural competence. As the editors put it, objectives range from "the basics of understanding core concepts of culture to the complex work of negotiating cultural identity and resolving cultural differences" (p. 1).

Sections include:

  1. Introduce core concepts
  2. Understand differences
  3. Explore cultural values
  4. Navigate identity
  5. Manage cultural transitions
  6. Communicate successfully
  7. Build global teams
  8. Resolve differences
  9. Communicate professionally

A summary and overview of all the activities in the book can be found in the table (pp. 6-11). Chapter 3 provides insights and practical guidelines for the development and assessment of an intercultural learning experience.

Stringer, D. M. & Cassiday, P. (2009) 52 Activities for Improving Cross-Cultural Communication. Boston: Intercultural Press.
Available online and in book format through UFV library
Abbotsford: HM 1211 S775 2009

This is an excellent resource that focuses on understanding communication differences and improving communication. Three great experiential activities for exploring cultural communication patterns from this resource are:

  • The Communication Continuum Exercise (pp. 1-4).  See the handout on TING (p. 4), the Chinese character for "listen."  This character encompasses the power of active listening through the ears, mind, eyes, and heart.
  • The Alpha-Beta Partnership activity (pp. 11-16) demonstrates the impact of culturally different communication styles during negotiation. 
  • The Toothpicks activity (pp. 47-49) demonstrates the power of non-verbal communication and the effects of breaking unspoken cultural rules.


  • Dealing with cultural diversity
  • This video includes background information on cultural differences, two useful frameworks used to analyze these differences, and some examples that show how this kind of information may help us better understand some of the issues that arise in diverse classrooms.‌
  • Crosstalk
  • This short video clip is taken from Crosstalk, a BBC television series first broadcast in May 1979. It is based on extensive research by anthropologist John J. Gumperz, a specialist in linguistic conventions and cross-cultural interactions. The video analyzes interactions between English speakers and immigrants from West India and South Asia in London, and shows how subtle linguistic differences can result in antagonism, miscommunication, and misunderstanding.
  • Questions for discussion or reflection before viewing the video clip:
    1. Have you ever had an interaction with a student in which you felt that there had been some kind of miscommunication or misunderstanding which had nothing to do with the actual words exchanged?
    2. What kind of feelings or reaction did you experience? What do you think caused you to experience this kind of reaction?‌
  • Questions for discussion or reflection after viewing the video clip:
    1. Do you think that you might have had a similar experience? Might you have had a similar kind of interaction with a student? 
    2. Do you think situations like this are common? Why or why not?
    3. What can we do to prevent situations like this?
  • For additional information, you can watch an interview with Gumperz on the U.C. Berkeley website in which he talks about the purpose of his research and ways in which the conventions governing English speech are confusing or irritating to others.
  • Questions for discussion or reflection after watching the interview:
    • What is the purpose of the conventions governing the way English speakers interact with others? 
    • Why are they considered "irritating" by people from other cultures? How might you explain them to your students?


  • Exploring diversity in the classroom activity
  • This PowerPoint was developed as part of a classroom activity. You can use it to explore the issue of diversity in the classroom. The activity was taken from Building Cultural Competence by Kate Berardo and Darla K. Deardorff. The PowerPoint was created for a classroom workshop on the topic of diversity. 

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