Developing the intercultural competence of emerging adults in higher education
Lyons, Linda Marie
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The purpose of this study was to explore an action research approach to program planning when used by a leadership team working to enhance the intercultural competence of emerging adults in higher education. The three primary research questions that guided this study were: (1) how do emerging adults learn in response to programs and interventions aimed at developing intercultural competence?, (2) what learning takes place when a leadership team uses a collaborative approach to developing and executing programs that broaden cultural knowledge for emerging adults?, and (3) what elements contributed to a diverse team's group development when using an action research approach with the intent to enhance emerging adults' intercultural competence? The theoretical and empirical frameworks were used based on transformative learning, intercultural development and group dynamics. Through action research methodology, the primary investigator collaborated with stakeholders in a public institution of higher learning to develop and execute programs and interventions with the intent to enhance intercultural competence. Data for this project were collected through qualitative design strategies and the use of an assessment instrument for diagnostic purposes. The study’s findings recognized that group development was established through short term programs and interventions which introduced and exposed participants to a learning process that facilitated the beginning stages of change in cognitive, skill development and attitude to enhance intercultural competence. The study’s use of practice and theory provided a basis for further research on systemic changes in a group approach to program development that focused on building cultural awareness. The conclusions from this study indicate that: action research methodology leverages the use of individual diversity and expertise that contributes to and supports group work, team development, and the benefits of evaluating group intercultural competence; introducing multicultural education garnered responses in participants to increase cultural awareness; and creating effective conditions for multicultural education does not assure transformative learning. Recommendations for future research are shared along with implications for theories and best practices.