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Vasso Vydelingum

Page history last edited by sceptrept 11 years, 4 months ago

Cultural Academy: An innovative approach to developing culturally aware professionals    

Vasso Vydelingum, Faculty Health and MedicalSciences, University of Surrey
Norman Jackson, SCEPTrE, University of Surrey
Lori Riley and Sarah Campbell, students involved in CulturalAcademy
Osama Khan, Faculty of Management and Law, University of Surrey
Winston Yearwood, Procurement, University of Surrey

 

Identities of self have traditionally been defined through structured domains such as professional knowledge. What makes a good professional can be determined by the personal qualities and level of personal agency a learner brings to the professional action. Much of this agency is bound up in acts of communication and relationship and culture is an important factor in this activity. Students who are developing themselves to one day take on a professional role rarely explicitly engage with the issue of culture, communication and relationship in their study programmes.

 

Cultural Academy is an emergent collaborative project involving four members of staff from diverse educational, cultural backgrounds and organisational settings. It provides a co-curriculum (outside the formal curriculum) opportunity for students and staff to interact and share their experiences and understandings of culture and its effects on their lives as part of their professional journey. During the process participants are encouraged to think about their own cultural identity and enquire into the multicultural campus society they are living in to help them appreciate the cultural dimensions of learning for the complex world of the ‘professional’.  Teaching and learning approaches include: the exchange of cultural gifts, conversation, creating rich pictures, use of voting systems to test propositions, student-organised events/shows, reflecting on action and in action, concept maps, enquiry, wiki building, use of film/video to document activity and aid reflection.

 

Cultural Academy comprises two connected processes: 1) a multi- cultural welcome workshop designed to help students coming from a culture that is very different to our own to share their sense of bewilderment and help each other make sense of their new environment 2) a series of four workshops and two or three enterprises. The later begin in October and are completed in March during the University’s International Festival. A description of the CulturalAcademy with illustrative film and student commentary can be found at  http://surreyculturalacademy.pbwiki.com  see also this short youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zD_bsyctLg

 

Participants discover that ‘knowing more about other cultures’, ‘finding new things about other cultures’, and ‘the diversity of everybody’s culture’ as fascinating. Planning and organising the multicultural party: the “Big Cultural Bash’ and creating a Guide to the Multi-Cultural Campus were found to be successful and worthwhile cultural enterprises.

 

The paper will consider the importance of being culturally aware in the make-up of a successful professional in a world that is culturally complex and reflect on the ways in which CulturalAcademy is helping to develop this aspect of participants’ personal agency.

 

Key words: Co-curriculum, culture, diversity, professionalism, communication, enquiry, reflection

 

Presentation

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