Thursday 14 May 2020
When we think of the term ‘culture’, it can be easy to focus on concrete elements such as art, music, clothing or food. However, these visible aspects are only the tip of the cultural iceberg (Ting-Toomey & Chung, 2011). Deeper cultural assumptions are hidden from view and are not as easy to identify. These can include our beliefs about learning and teaching, expectations of politeness, values, social norms or unspoken conversational ‘taboos’. Misunderstandings can easily occur across cultures in these areas. A deeper understanding of the ways in which culture and language influence our views of the world and how we communicate is needed (DeCapua & Wintergerst, 2016). Drawing on DeCapua’s (2018) Culture Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching, this session offered teachers an opportunity to consider and ‘unpack’ some commonly held ‘myths’ about culture which affect learning and teaching in the adult EAL classroom.
Skye Playsted is an educator with over 20 years of teaching experience as a second language and music teacher in Australian schools. She has taught English to adult students as a volunteer in community refugee support groups, and has been teaching in vocational colleges and university academic English programs in the Refugee Welcome Zone of Toowoomba, Queensland. Skye completed her M Ed (TESOL) via distance through the University of Wollongong, NSW, and has recently moved to Brisbane with her family. She has been awarded a PhD scholarship through the Australian government research training program, to research reflective practice, teacher cognition and oral communication pedagogy in beginner adult English language teaching.
Session summary by David Kezilas (VicTESOL Professional Learning Coordinator):
Structured around Andrea DeCapua’s ‘Culture Myths: Applying Second Language Research in Classroom Teaching’, Skye set about explaining a lot of the myths and misunderstandings which can commonly occur in cross-cultural communication.
Thoroughly researched and drawing on a wide variety of sources, the presentation covered many helpful concepts including big ‘C’ and little ‘C’ culture, the cultural iceberg, cultural lenses, high and low context communication, and collectivism vs individualism.
We thank Skye for all her work and for volunteering her time to present. We also thank participants for attending and sharing their reflections and questions on intercultural communication throughout the session.