This is crap | An intercultural competence activity

This activity is based on an article by Erin Meyer titled How to say “this is crap” in different cultures. Meyer recycles some material from an old Internet meme about British-Dutch cultural differences. Nevertheless, it demonstrates differences in how people convey feedback linguistically quite well.

intercultural feedback

Image attribution: Meeting by Howard Jefferson | Flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0

Objective 

Raise awareness of the cultural gap caused by direct vs. indirect approaches to giving feedback  and allow learners an opportunity to discuss ways of mitigating risks arising from these differences

Materials

Make copies of and cut up the table titled ‘Anglo-Dutch Translation Guide’ in this article. You don’t need to use the entire table as participants might take too long to unjumble it. Select four rows that your learners might find interesting.

Procedure

  • Board the phrase “this is absolute crap” and ask participants if they would ever use this phrase while giving feedback to a colleague about some work they’ve done. Ask them to discuss the reasons for their response with a partner.
  • As you take whole class feedback, you’ll find some participants articulating a softer response such as “this is sort of what I was looking for”. Board these.
  • Derive that some cultures are more explicit or direct in communicating feedback.
    • Upgraders: These direct cultures tend to use upgraders such as absolutely, strongly, or totally before negative feedback to strengthen it such as “This is absolutely inappropriate”. In these cultures, “this is absolute crap” may be perceived as acceptable.
  • Point out that other cultures are more implicit or indirect as perhaps with the utterances shared by the participants for softening the message.
    • Downgraders: These indirect cultures tend to use downgraders such as kind of, sort of, a little, a bit, maybe and slightly to soften the blow. They might also use a type of downgrader called an understatement such as “We are not quite there yet”.
  • Ask participants to categorize some national cultures based on whether they are relatively direct or indirect (bear in mind that indirect cultures like India often perceive themselves as more or less direct).
  • Board participants’ suggestions and circle the UK & the Netherlands.
  • Signpost the cutouts and state that the cutouts belong under three headers: What the British say, What the British mean, and What the Dutch understand. Ask participants to work in groups to put them in the right categories.
  • Get participants to identify the gap between what is being said/meant and what is understood and the problems this might create.

Action planning

  • Ask participants to think about the kind of culture they come from – indirect/direct – and consider their own personal orientation to giving feedback. Do they use upgraders or downgraders?
  • Have them imagine a situation where they are working with someone who has a different preference to feedback than them, what could they do to ensure that they are not misunderstood or don’t end up damaging the business relationship.

Reference: Meyer, E., How To Say “This Is Crap” In Different Cultures in the Harvard Business Review, Feb 2014.

Upcoming MOOCs for educators | Jun to Aug 2016

I haven’t done a single MOOC since the start of the year but I can dream right?! Here are some upcoming courses that might be up your alley. All free.

MOOCs.jpg

Teaching

Blended learning 

Language 

Other

Have you done any MOOCs this year? Which ones do you recommend? 

Repeat again | An evidence-based matrix activity

A matrix activity or game is an instructional strategy for getting learners to categorize, come up with solutions, or discuss points presented within a grid. This particular activity is based on research presented in the ‘Defend your research’ section of the Harvard Business Review.

communication.png

Image attribution: Phone by HanZhan | Flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0


Objective 

Redundancies (such as the one in this activity’s name) are seen as a sign of a poor communicator but a study in this area reveals that there may be a strategic purpose behind repeating yourself. The activity challenges learners to question popular perceptions about redundant communication and reflect on how they assign tasks to their team members.

Pre-work 

It might be a good idea for the T to read this HBR article – Defend Your Research: Effective Managers Say the Same Thing Twice (or More)

Materials 

You’ll need copies of the activity handout for each participant.

Procedure

  • Lead in to the activity by asking participants to discuss in pairs how they go about assigning a task to a team member. You may want to give them an example such as “You need your team member to create a report for you” – how will you go about assigning this task?

Part A

  • Distribute the activity handout and ask participants to read the two caselets individually and fill the communication matrix. You may need to signpost the example and demonstrate that they need to do two things. First, put ticks and crosses based on which modes of communication they’d use in that situation. Second, rank their ticks based on what they’d do first, second, third, etc. Point out that they don’t need to necessarily have more than one tick.

Part B

  • Ask participants compare their matrices in pairs and discuss the rationale behind the modes they’ve selected.

Part C

  • Ask participants to now read the summary of the research provided in the handout. They should compare their own ideas to the findings of the study.

Part D 

  • Get participants to discuss some reflection questions on whether they agree with the study and why managers might be increasingly using redundant communication.

Action planning

You may want to conclude the exercise by getting participants to do some action planning. In light of this research, are there any changes they would want to make to their approach to assigning work?

Reference: Neely, T. & Leonardi, P.M., Defend your Research: Effective Managers Say the Same Thing Twice (or More) in the Harvard Business Review, May 2011.

Automated group generators

Last year, I blogged about creative grouping techniques. It was a post that was specifically meant for a group of teacher trainers I’d worked with. Incidentally, I don’t use these techniques very often because I usually have an LCD projector so I prefer using a random or automated group generator, which I find a lot more efficient.

random group

How does it work? 

Select a random group generator that fits your classroom (WiFi or no WiFI) and budget ($$$ or are you kiddin me). Feed in your participant or student names, hit enter or group or whatever and voila.

Paid offline 

  • Smart Notebook: This is the one I use. Dated UI but it’s got a random group generator as well as a random word generator which can be repurposed to select a person. I learnt to use it from this Youtube video.

Paid online 

  • Triptico: This is a fab app with much more than just a random group generator but connectivity is often an issue for me so I can’t invest in something that constantly requires an Internet connect.

Free offline 

  • Random group generator in Excel: Here’s one version and here’s another.  A bit dull but they do the job.  You’ll need to do some learner training though because the grouping happens in a single list with numbers, participants are perpetually confused.

Free online 

Do you know or use any automated group generators which I haven’t included? Add ’em in comments.

Upcoming webinars for educators | June – August 2016

webinars

This post’s a long time coming but here are some upcoming webinars.

Lesson ideas & activities 

Learning management 

Technology 

Pedagogy 

Business & corporate topics

Other 

 

Upcoming webinars for ELT educators | Jan – Feb 2016

I wove a wrap for you with some webinars, using disparate threads I found across the net. I realise it’s a bit late in the month but as they say better later than never.

webinar

Here are some upcoming webinars on teaching, research, and learning related topics. An * that you need to register for the webinar.

January 

February 

Do let me know if I’ve missed any. 

Collaborative Activities in Advanced ESL Classes | Webinar summary

I was hoping for something really innovative from this webinar but it ended up being a presentation of fairly basic activities from a single coursebook using an information gap-type format. Nevertheless, there were some neat quotes and interesting variations on trusty old task types.

Collaboration

The speaker, Dennis Johnson, started off by sharing a quote about why you might want to include collaborative learning.

Cooperative learning has a dramatic positive impact on almost all of the variables critical to language acquisition.

Spencer Kagan (1995)

He then went on to specify how this might affect retention and use of lexis.

Before we ‘own’ a word, we need multiple exposures – for recognition around 20 times; for production, nearly 60 times. To provide that exposure to their Ss, Ts need a variety of activities.”

Paul Nation, Learning Vocabulary in Another Language, 2013

Finally, here’s an interesting format for expressing future skills. Johnson suggested that 1, 2, 3 & 5 directly related to collaborative work.

7 Cs: essential skills for the future workforce

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Communication
  3. Collaboration
  4. Creativity
  5. Cross-cultural understanding
  6. Computing
  7. Career self-reliance (lifelong learning)

Bernie Trilling: 21st century skills

Student interview

Johnson’s name for this activity is unfortunately not very exciting but the way he stages it make it a fairly interesting paired interactive lecture. 

Ss listen to a short lecture and then fill a form that contains 7 questions. However, they fill this form by asking a partner these questions and noting down their responses.  Ss can then rewrite these notes as sentences using academic language phrases for citing evidence and support opinion. The sample listening text he used to illustrate this activity is available here. So you could potentially use any short podcast or perhaps a TED clip.

Some phrases in the questions could be underlined to help Ss notice language that you would like them to use.

  • Questions that require citing evidence: What are the two purposes of small talk the speaker gives? Other phrases that might signal these sorts of questions include ‘how does the speaker define’ and ‘according to the speaker’.
  • Questions that support opinion: Do you agree that people should not start conversations about things that are too personal? Give a reason for your opinion. Other phrases include ‘based on your experience’.

You might also have a poster on the wall which supplies phrases for citing evidence:

According to the author …

________ pointed out that

The author states that …

In the text, ______ states that …

______ indicated that

______ emphasized that

______ concluded that

As feedback, you could call attention to register and style and get Ss to consider replacing ‘I think’ with ‘Based on my experience’ or ‘From my perspective’.

A variation: Group interview 

Ask a series of close-ended questions and tally answers; questions such as “can you tell me if you would permit your child to stay out late?” Ask Ss to then to draw a graph based on their findings. Johnson suggested that Ss would naturally ask follow-up questions such ‘why’ or ‘why not’ even though they are explicitly told to do so in the task. I’m not so sure about that. In my experience, Ss are generally focused on task completion rather than having a real conversation.

 

Partner dictation 

Ss work in pairs but are given very different worksheets. Pairs could be separated a folder or some such so they don’t see each other’s posts. The two sheets have different texts. Ss dictate the texts to each other and they take notes. Ss then check their sentences with their partners and then discuss a follow-up question which asks them to reflect on the ideas in their texts (perhaps a comparative question that bridges the two texts), relate it to their own experience, and share opinions.

Role play 

A really bland name for a not so bland activity. What I like in this format is the opportunity that Ss have to anticipate the content of the role play and plan (without realizing that they’re planning). 

Ss study a picture of a person at his cubicle and make some predictions (This is XYZ, what do you think he is doing?). They then read a short scenario written in the second person (You are XYZ … You call ABC to find out more.) The third part of the activity asks Ss to find specific details such as a deadline or requirements. Because this is essentially an information gap activity, half of the Ss will get a different worksheet but with the same staging where they make predictions about ABC, read a second person scenario which asks them to provide some information to XYZ. The twist in the third stage is when Ss who play the role of ABC need to read some information in the picture and frame sentences which they will then share with their partners.

Untitled picture

Source: Ventures Level 5 Transitions, CUP

Ventures, the coursebook that this webinar was a plug for, has a T’s resource site which may be worth checking if you like that sort of thing.