Curiosity is at the heart of intercultural competence. It’s when we view difference as a learning opportunity. It’s when we seek out those who are different from us. This strong desire to discover and engage with the unknown is something we have to inspire in our participants as facilitators. Curiosity is also one of the key attitudes AFS sparks in our program participants, which inspired our two skilled facilitators, Marcela Lapertosa and Sarah Collins, to lead an interactive workshop at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) called Inspiring Curiosity: Fostering Intercultural and Global Competence for Students, Host Families, Faculty, and Staff.

The room was filled with intercultural trainers united by the desire to overcome a common challenge: standing in front of a packed room filled with students, faculty or staff who are required to be at an intercultural competence training when they’d rather be doing something else.

The “Inspiring curiosity” workshop helped the participants explore the key elements of intercultural competence, and gave them hands-on insights into different kinds of experiential learning activities to foster curiosity – an attitude central to intercultural competence.

Here’s an example of such an activity. A very well known one that AFS uses is the Describe, Interpret, Verify, Evaluate (D.I.V.E.) exercise. The goal of this exercise is to help people consider multiple perspectives when confronted with unfamiliar intercultural situations or ambiguous circumstances. Trainers can take advantage of this exercise by showing a controversial picture, stopping a video before an unexpected final or even taking participants on a field trip to hone their observation skills and spark their curiosity. While this might start in a training room, it will be part of anyone’s tool box for every future intercultural encounter.

The importance of properly debriefing intercultural experiences to support meaningful learning was also explored in depth.  After exploring the easy-to-adapt activities, the participants facilitated their own mini-sessions to practice debriefing and hear constructive feedback about what worked and what others’ would change.

What are participants saying about the workshop?

I learned a lot — many new resources and ideas, what the role of debriefing is, new activities, tips for facilitating and a lot about my style as a facilitator.”

“What were the most satisfying things about the workshop? Having the facilitators model facilitation and providing us with many experiential learning activities that we can use and adapt, along with emphasis on the learning process. I became aware of how central the debrief time is and will change accordingly. I feel more confident that I know what to do to lead others in this process.”

“I feel like I came away with some good tools and resources to use. The meta-moments were helpful in stepping out of the role of participant to see how we would use the exercises as trainers. I enjoyed seeing the variations of some exercises.”

Workshop participants now have an expanded toolkit and are more confident to foster curiosity in their students, faculty and staff!

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