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Content Type3
TitleDeveloping Intercultural Communicative Competence in the World Language Classroom and Beyond

Manuela Wagner is Associate Professor of Foreign Language Education and Director of the German Language and Culture Program at the University of Connecticut, USA. Fabiana Cardetti is Associate Professor of Mathematics and Graduate Director for Instructional Development at the University of Connecticut. Michael Byram is Professor Emeritus at the University of Durham, UK and Guest Professor at the University of Luxembourg. This is the second part of a two-part piece; Part 1 was published on May 30.

In part one of this two-part series, we examined how to develop intercultural communicative competence (Byram, 1997) in the language classroom. Our suggestions included six steps (first three described in part 1). Here we provide an example of the teaching of ICC in the classroom and beyond, and describe the next three steps:  4) co-design activities and assessments, 5) implement and document, and 6) assess and refine.

Imagine you observe a Spanish classroom. Students working in groups discuss in Spanish the living costs (e.g.: housing, transportation, education) for an immigrant family who just arrived in the United States.  In order to be able to do this they a) use knowledge (e.g., of products, perspectives, and practices in the target culture(s) and culture(s) in the USA) and b) interpret and relate their findings to their specific situation. Using critical questions and reflections throughout, students interact with each other and discover a variety of perspectives (of fellow students and invited informants and through relevant readings) and display growing critical cultural awareness of the target cultures as well as their own. Because each group received a different scenario they become aware of (and are sometimes perturbed by) the diverse challenges the families face. Students complete a survey prior and post completion of the unit.   Analyzing and comparing their responses helps them reflect on their prior knowledge as well as their pre-conceptions about immigration.

In order to come up with a good financial plan, students grapple with the meaning of each of the spending components (e.g., percents, ratios, known/unkown(s)) and think about the different mathematical ideas (e.g., operations, equations, formulas) that could help them find feasible solutions. They also discuss, still in Spanish, how to best represent their plans so that the mathematical calculations, processes, and relationships can be made clear. This exchange of ideas and collaborative exploration of representations is mutually beneficial, as it is essential for mathematics learning (NCTM, 2000) and in turn reinforces linguistic skills and ICC development.

As a final stage in their learning, students create a Spanish language blog with selected take-aways from their fictional explorations (information, challenges, materials). In this way it can be used in the factual world as a useful resource for a family/facilitator in a similar situation.

What we have seen therefore is that students take what they learn in a classroom project to address a challenge in their community (here it is local, but it could also be national, or international) and collaborate to find solutions. Combining ICC, as in the example above, with such an action component in the here and now is what Byram (2008) calls “Intercultural Citizenship”. For more information on interdisciplinary intercultural citizenship projects see Wagner, Cardetti, & Byram, 2016; Cardetti, Wagner, & Byram, 2015; and Byram, Han, Golubeva, and Wagner, 2016.

We emphasize that co-designing these activities and their assessment (step 4) is fundamental in meaningfully integrating world languages and other disciplines; in this case done by language and math educators. In addition, the importance of documenting the results of implementation (step 5) and using these to assess and refine the materials (step 6) cannot be overstated, as this will help ensure that you provide a unique learning experience that truly helps develop students’ 21st century skills.

Authors’ note:

Thanks to Wallace and Tombarello (forthcoming) for the first version of the above, which was further developed by the authors and Andrea Bohling. A description of this unit is available as today's Activity of the Week.


Byram, M. (1997) Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Byram, M. (2008) From foreign language education to education for intercultural citizenship. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Byram, M., Han, H., Golubeva, I., & Wagner, M. (in press). Education for Intercultural Citizenship – Principles in Practice. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Byram, M., Perugini, D., & Wagner, M. (forthcoming).  Teaching Intercultural Competence Across the Age Range: Theory and Practice. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Cardetti, F., Wagner, M., & Byram, M. (2015). Interdisciplinary collaboration to develop intercultural competence by integrating math, languages, and social studies. Proceedings of the 46th Annual Conference of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education. Trumbull, CT.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM] (2000). Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: Author.

Wagner, M., Cardetti, F., & Byram, M. (2016). Exploring Collaborative Work for the Creation of Interdisciplinary Units Centered on Intercultural Citizenship. Special Issue of Dimensions 2016: Focus on Intercultural Competence, 35-51. Retrieved from

Wallace, D. & Tombarello, J. (forthcoming). Implementing intercultural communication in the classroom. In Byram, M., Perugini, D., & Wagner, M. (forthcoming).  Teaching Intercultural Competence Across the Age Range: Theory and Practice. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

SourceCASLS Topic of the Week
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