CULTURAL CLASHES: THE IMPORTANCE OF DEVELOPING INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCE

 

Dr. Donna T. Emmanuel

University of North Texas

demmanuel@music.unt.edu

 

This paper focuses on the complexity and multi-layeredness of the concept of culture as seen through the lens of a participant in a music education immersion internship. Her struggles and attempts at resituating her identity as a future music educator as well as an individual are evidences of the complexities of dealing with cultural diversity in the classroom. The paper is based on a study framed within the theory of intercultural competence, which is founded on the premise that in order to be more effective with their diverse students, pre-service teachers must confront and examine their personal beliefs toward students typically identified as “other,” as well as come to an understanding of their place in their own culture. The concept of intercultural competence is vitally important in the field of music teacher education because pre-service teachers’ experiences within their own cultures, as well as their personal histories that form those experiences, influence the formation of knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and values. In turn, teachers' knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and values influence their perceptions of students' behaviors and actions, and their interpretations of both verbal and non-verbal communications.

 

The immersion internship focused on developing intercultural competence among pre-service music educators. The project had two components: 1) one week of orientation on a Big Ten campus in the United States which provided an opportunity for the participants to examine their own beliefs and attitudes concerning teaching in a culturally diverse setting; and 2) two weeks of immersion internship at a variety of schools in urban Detroit, Michigan, which included observation and team-teaching at a primary site. This experience was defined as an immersion internship because during the immersion weeks of this course, the instructor and participants lived together in one apartment located in downtown Detroit.

 

Because of the unique nature of the music classroom and because of the inevitability of the increasing number of culturally diverse students, it is imperative that immersion field experiences such as this be offered in music education programs. The results of this study have shown that immersion experiences combined with coursework with opportunities for guided reflection under the supervision of an informed instructor would likely have dramatic effects on the attitudes and beliefs of pre-service music teachers.