Intercultural Zoomery (online IC simulation)

Newsletter article.

Intercultural Zoomery in a Time of COVID-19

Karenne Sylvester, Richard Fay, Susan Dawson & Zhuo Min Huang

The University of Manchester, United Kingdom

This article outlines our support for the changing academic acculturation needs of MA TESOL students as their programme moved online in response to the pandemic. In particular, we look at the development of an intercultural experience in Zoom, equivalent to the onsite intercultural simulation we had previously provided for them.

The Manchester Institute of Education (at The University of Manchester, UK) welcomes several hundred new Masters-level students each year. The MA programmes they join are unfamiliar academic cultures which they need to become acclimated to if their studies are to prosper. Recognising this imperative, for the last 20 or so years, we have repurposed the intercultural simulation Barnga (Thiagarajan, 1990) to prepare students for: the process of academic acculturation; the unexpected and expected differences in ‘the rules of the academic game’; and their role as ethnographers of their own developing academic practices. In brief, the simulation involves a simple card game, played by groups who do not realise that the rules for the game vary slightly between groups. Having learned the rules, students play a tournament which increasingly involves intergroup movement. The tournament takes place without any verbal communication so that a) the rule variation remains hidden, and b) the experience of coping with rule differences is not mediated through language. The current global pandemic has forced us to rethink. …..