Creating Non-Traditional Multicultural Learning Environments through Cultural Exchange
Didactic teaching strategies confined to the university setting have traditionally been used to impart knowledge to learners. Experiential approaches provide opportunities for learners to have direct exposure to and active involvement in learning. Optimal learning environments for acquiring personal competence occur in settings where both didactic and experiential strategies are used.. Cognitive, affective and behavioral domains of learning have been associated with the development of critical thinking skills that foster personal and professional competence (Toporek & Reza, 2001). In addition, exposure to a variety of learning experiences provides continual opportunities for self-reflection and growth aimed toward the development of personal and multicultural competencies.
This paper describes an experiential model for developing and implementing a rich experience of cultural exchange between learners in the United States and learners in South Africa. Learners are viewed as graduate students and educational practitioners in the K-12 community. The major goal of the cultural exchange is to create learning environments in which learners experience on-going opportunities to directly experience society from a different socio-cultural context. Through lived experiences, learners challenge beliefs and assumptions, and develop critical thinking skills as part of their development of personal and professional competence. This research-focused paper will present examples of how learners participating in the cultural exchange between the United States and South Africa demonstrate greater personal and professional competencies in their lives and workplace.
Keywords: Personal Competence, Professional Competence, Multicultural Competence, Multicultural Learning Environment, Cultural Exchange
Dr. Darren Clarke
Executive Director, Rutgers Graduate School of Education, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Dr. Saundra Tomlinson-Clarke
Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey