«ACTA ACTA U N N IIVR SRS IIT AT IIS O L U E N NIS IIS U IN EVE RI S ATAT S U U L U E S S S U V E T T IS O OULUEN E E Katri Jokikokko Katri Jokikokko ...»
As pointed out earlier in this summary, the lifelong aspect of intercultural learning has been studied relatively little. It is evident that intercultural learning has to be a lifelong process, as intercultural situations are different and cultures and the world are rapidly changing. However, this does not necessarily take place ‘automatically’, through fortunate co-incidents, but requires the willingness to learn and develop one’s intercultural competence. Furthermore, if we expand the concept of cultural diversity beyond the ethnic dimension, people already meet diversity in childhood and the process of developing intercultural awareness, attitudes and skills has already begun by then. From that perspective, the inadequacy of transformative theory to describe all the aspects of intercultural learning is that it mostly describes adults’ processes and is based on a single strong experience making the change.
Because lifelong learning is often informal and incidental and is closely related to various life situations, learning often takes place in ‘ordinary’ daily situations and is not systematically guided or supported. Marsick and Watkins (2001) actually argue that most of our learning grows out of everyday encounters while working and living in a given context.
Most often informal, non-formal and formal learning are intertwined. In literature informal and non-formal learning usually refer to skills and competences acquired outside formal education (Colardyn & Bjornavold, 2004, p. 69). However, it can be argued that all learning includes the characteristics of informal learning. In the context of this study, formal learning often refers to learning that takes place within teacher education. This deﬁnition, however, is indeﬁnite. For example, exchange studies are part of curriculum of ITE-programme and can thus be considered to be institutional, formal learning. However, as pointed out in this research, during the exchange studies a lot of intercultural learning takes place informally. Non-formal learning usually refers to learning that is embedded in planned activities that are not necessarily explicitly designated as learning, but which contain an important learning element. From the learner’s point of view non-formal learning is intentional (Ibid., p. 71). In this research, non-formal intercultural learning appears most of all as teachers’ willingness to participate in voluntary work in various organisation and to accept e.g. work challenges in multicultural settings in the ﬁeld of education.
To summarise the nature of teachers’ intercultural learning, it seems to be a process in which formal non-formal and informal learning are combined. Learning can be intentional but it is often coincidental. Intercultural learning can be a gradual process affected, little by little, by various experiences, but sometimes it occurs rather suddenly through crises and turning points as assumed in transformative theory. The signiﬁcant roles of the environment and other people in intercultural learning are obvious, although individual self-reﬂection is needed as well. It seems to be especially important to understand otherness as part of oneself (Kristeva, 1992). Intercultural learning is clearly a lifelong process: it may start during our childhood and last an entire lifetime. When reading my data, I was looking for similarities, but what I found were differences in teachers’ learning processes. At the same time, some similar characteristics could also be recognized from all the teachers’ stories.
This research also supported my assumption of the interconnected nature of intercultural learning and intercultural competence. Both are processes, and intercultural competence is not only an aim but also a condition for intercultural learning. Some sort of intercultural competence (e.g., interest and openness towards diversity) are needed for intercultural learning to occur. The ﬁgure 3 summarises the nature of teachers’ intercultural competence and learning on the basis of this study.
Figure 5. Dimensions of Teachers’ intercultural competence and learning (see also Jokikokko, 2010).
This study clearly shows that intercultural learning processes differ, depending on the person’s background, living environment and other experiences. There does not seem to be one theory that could comprehensively describe this varied and dynamic process. This study also shows that intercultural learning and the development of intercultural competence is possible. It is possible, at least to a certain extend, even if a person does not have a multicultural background or experiences of living abroad for an extended period of time. This argument can also be questioned. ’Internationalisation at home’ is a concept that is especially used in higher education to refer to “internationally related activity with the exception of outbound student mobility” (Nilsson, 2003, p. 31). According to Otten (2003) this type of home internationalisation can only initiate the cultural learning process.
Bennett (1993, p. 21) claims that intercultural sensitivity is not natural and that education and training serve as an approach to changing our ‘natural’ behaviour. On the basis of my study, intercultural learning can also be informal; in other words, we learn a lot outside of formal education or training. In order for intercultural learning to take place informally, fortunate incidents, inﬂuential others, openness, courage and sensitivity are needed. However, it can also be argued that education and pedagogical means are necessary to ensuring the conditions and support for intercultural learning because people may tend to choose familiar options and experiences and interact with similar people and feel no need to expose themselves to new experiences.
6.2 Teachers’ intercultural learning and competence from the perspective of critical pedagogy In this chapter, I will discuss the above described results of this doctoral thesis, particularly from the perspective of critical pedagogy. From that perspective, it is important to ask to what degree critical voices and structural questions are involved in teachers’ discussions on their intercultural competence and learning. This part of the summary also aims at elaborating what was absent in teachers’ stories or what issues and ideas were given only minor attention.
As teachers’ intercultural competence was primarily seen as an ethical philosophy, it is relevant to ask what ethics in teachers’ conceptions and stories means and how extensive it is. How much does it extend to structural equality and social justice? As Nieto (2000, p. 4) points out, unless cultural issues are approached through a critical lens based on equity and social justice, they are unlikely to have a lasting impact in promoting real change.
According to Nieto (2000, p. 339), becoming a multicultural teacher means making a dramatic shift in our world view that also affects practices. Understanding intercultural competence mostly as a holistic ethical orientation could be close to Nieto’s ideas. Many of the teachers in my data emphasized that once you have a certain (intercultural) perspective and values, it inevitably affects everything you do and say in the classroom (article II, p. 79). It is another question, of course, what this means in practice. It can be assumed that intercultural orientation, if it really has been internalised, affects also peoples’ practices, but individuals may have very different ideas of intercultural perspectives and values. On the other hand, even though people have ideals, it is possible that there are distractions and other factors that affect situations and make it very difﬁcult or impossible to obtain the ideals.
From a critical point of view, intercultural education should be about reworking existing power arrangements and not just about the presentation and celebration of cultural diversity. Teachers in my study discussed the questions of power, mainly at the level of the teacher-student relationship. They emphasized the importance of learning from their students, the dialogical relationship as well as caring for their students. This is important in critical pedagogy as well. Gay (1995, p.170) argues that the process of cultural afﬁrmation should include giving a voice to students and allowing them to help shape the content, processes, style and language of the classroom. The ideal is a shift from a monological relationship, in which the teacher has all the power to deﬁne curriculum and instruction, to a dialogical relationship in which teacher and student co-construct curriculum and instruction.
However, from the perspective of critical pedagogy, my research subjects’ ideas on intercultural competence are rather limited to the area of teacher-student relationship. According to Sleeter and Montecinos (1999, p. 114), the prevailing conception of multiculturalism focuses on struggle for the recognition of diversity within existing social structures, while critical multiculturalism stresses the importance of linking the struggle for recognition to a broader struggle for social justice. In my data there are some (Jokikokko, 2005c, p. 197), but not many, discussions on power issues at a structural level or how teachers themselves have tried to affect change regarding those structures. They do not really deeply analyse, for instance, why schools fail to meet their mission to provide their students with an equal and high-quality education (compare Nieto, 2000, p. 10). Except for some single voices, they do not question the content of the curriculum or teaching contents. There are also very few critical discussions about those groups and people who have the power to deﬁne the goals, norms and practices of education and whether or not this process is democratic.
On the basis of this research, it seems that teachers are aware of some of the unequal structures and practices of schools and are even aware of the need for change (Jokikokko, 2005c, p. 197), but in practice, it often turns out to be too difﬁcult to affect such issues as an individual teacher. Some of the newly graduated teachers pointed out the factor of the low status of young, newly graduated teachers. Some expressed that as a newly graduated teacher, they have to concentrate on ‘survival’ during the ﬁrst years and that later on it would, hopefully, become possible to really start to develop their competence and view the curriculum and teaching contents, for example, from a broader intercultural perspective (Jokikokko, 2005b, p. 79).
The lack of deeper reﬂections on societal and structural inequalities of education in my data is a surprising result given the curriculum and content of the ITE programme: there are relatively quite a few studies on global education, human rights etc., which deal with the issues of social justice. As a teacher of this programme, I have noticed that students are usually fascinated by these issues and they seem to become aware of societal and global aspects of education and learn a lot about social justice in these courses. Moreover, teachers in my data discussed the ‘intercultural orientation’, ‘hope’ and ‘spirit’ that developed in teacher education.
This leads us to an interesting question: what happens to intercultural competence and societal awareness in an institution? In open-minded, transformative institutions, these can naturally develop and strengthen, but what about in an institution, which has strong traditions, a lot of performance pressures and resistance to change? Is it even possible that in those kinds of institutions intercultural competence ﬁrst narrows down and eventually disappears?
It is still important to discuss one critical aspect of teachers’ intercultural competence, which is their understanding of diversity. As clearly pointed out, teachers generally emphasized the appreciation of diversity as a central value of their work. Many of the teachers actually mentioned that they would not like to work in too homogenous an environment, because work could then become routine and unsurprising. This is an interesting result, as in some of the earlier studies related to teaching immigrants, diversity and differences are often seen as deﬁciency, problem, challenge or burden (Miettinen, 2001; Talib, 1999). According to Talib (2005, p. 113), having multicultural competence seems to prevent teacher burnout. It seems logical that teachers who see diversity as a resource do not get tired due to working in a multicultural classroom as easily as those who primarily see diversity as a burden. This is also pointed out by Bennett (1993, pp. 46–47), who argues that in ethnocentric stages, difference is experienced as threatening, either explicitly or implicitly, while in ethnorelative stages cultural difference is more likely to be enjoyable.
However, although diversity was clearly appreciated, the deeper analysis of the relationship between differences and discrimination was missing from the data. According to Nieto (2000, p. 47), there is a complex relationship between students’ race, culture, native language, social class, (as well as sexual orientation and gender, see e.g., Bedford, 2009; Lehtonen, 2005, Vuorikoski, 2005) and other differences with institutional discrimination, school practices and teachers’ expectations. Although in theory education is no longer meant to replicate societal inequalities but rather to reﬂect the ideals of democracy, such is not the reality (Nieto, 2000, p. 48).
Critical pedagogists (e.g., Freire, 1994, 1998) emphasize that teachers should teach students the ability to critically look at the society and provide them with tools to affect and change societies. These types of discussions were also marginal in my data.
6.3 Conclusions for supporting teachers’ professional learning for intercultural contexts In this chapter of the summary, I will now turn to drawing some conclusions, on the basis of the results of the study, regarding how teachers’ intercultural learning can best be supported, especially within the context of teacher education. I want to emphasize that I am not only referring to Intercultural Teacher Education (ITE) in Oulu. One specialized teacher education programme concentrating on multicultural issues is not enough. This type of education should not take place in the margins.
Rather, intercultural contents should be a natural part of mainstream teacher education as well.