April 1994 — Volume 1, Number 1
A Different Place: The Intercultural Classroom
Wurzel, Jaime & Nancy Fischman (1993)
Intercultural Resource Corporation, Worcester, Massachusetts:
Video (2 x 20min).
A Different Place: The Intercultural Classroom is a two part video presentation which is aimed at audiences of students, teachers, counselors and administrators in higher education. The first 20-minute tape presents a vignette that takes place in an American History class where international and American students disagree on how to disagree with each others ideas. The controversy takes place on a variety of levelssocial, political, historical and economicthat the students themselves do not understand. The professor is caught in the exchange without the cultural background necessary to deal their conflicting views. He retires from the fray and leaves his students to fend for themselves. The viewers feel their frustration and resentment as they try but fail to understand each others behavior and points of view.
The second 20-minute tape presents a multicultural view of the classroom interaction by several experts of varied backgrounds. Educators and other professionals from different countries and disciplines explain how each student brings to the classroom the assumptions and expectations of his or her culture. This in turn, determines their reactions to the environment, the material, the lecture/discussion dynamics, the assignments, and teaching style of the professor. Without such an understanding, those in higher education are doomed to failure in todays colleges and universities which include members of other countries in ever-increasing numbers. Even though they may acknowledge and welcome the presence of internationals in their institutions, professors, counselors and administrators need to deepen their understanding of the issues involved in educating them in order to enable these students to take an active role, meshing with Americans and playing a meaningful part in classroom dynamics.
Wurzel and Fischman, who have had years of experience in intercultural educational, counseling and business settings, have pooled their expertise to make this videotape. A Different Place is a high-quality production effort which draws the viewer into the emotional turmoil experienced by the students and the teacher. By providing professional insight into the dynamics of the troubled class, the producers alleviate the tension experienced by the viewer and show that, indeed, there is a better way to handle such situations.
The viewer gains insight into the culture and world-view of each of the internationals by listening to the experts interpretation of his or her behavior. At the end of the second [-1-] video segment, the reasons underlying the unfriendly exchanges that took place in the first segment are revealed and elaborated upon. Further explanations, suggestions and exercises are included in a users guidebook which accompanies the tapes. All in all, A Different Place is skillfully documented and interpreted and will enable all those in higher education to take another look at the intercultural classroom and use student diversity to its best advantage. The tapes were shown at the Video Theater at TESOL 94 in Baltimore and listed in the updated TESOL Video Directory. For more information, write to Intercultural Resource Corporation, 78 Greylock Road, Newtonville, MA 02160 or call (617) 965-8651 or fax (617) 969-7347.
Carol Houser Pineiro
Carol Houser Pineiro is a Senior Lecturer in ESL at Boston University and the Chair of the TESOL Video Interest Section. She teaches ESP courses in Business in the MBA Program at Boston University and at the Sanyo Company in Kobe, Japan.
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