Fostering cultural competence awareness and dispositions to reach thirdness or decentering by engaging in intercultural dialogue

Maria Villalobos-Buehner


The goals of this research were twofold. First, to measure changes in cultural awareness levels between two groups of students in their third semester of a Spanish class. The trained group formed by university students from the USA collaborated with another group of university students from Colombia using Skype. The second aim was to identify attitudes of decentering or thirdness in the trained group. This group met seven times during a 13-week semester to discuss a variety of cultural topics such as college life and daily routines. The control group addressed the same issues by examining them among members of the same class and answered a pre-and post-self-awareness questionnaire. Mixed factorial analysis of variance (ANOVA) results showed a significant increase in interculturality scores in the trained group. Furthermore, the qualitative analysis of the video recordings, essays, and video chats from the trained group showed dispositions to decentering (thirdness) or to engage in an understanding process of the other (Kramsch, 1993). This group exhibited attitudes of curiosity and openness during the Skype sessions. Their essays were elaborate; the topics were varied, indicating the experience of productive social interactions. This group also avoided the use of essentialist or static cultural representations of the other in their narratives.


Decentering; cultural competence awareness; intercultural dialogue

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