Course Description and Objectives

This course provides the basis for understanding potential problems of intercultural communication that arise in interactions between people from different cultures. As Samovar notes, complex nature of human behavior produces many communication problems-perhaps more than the problems addressed in this course. It is for this reason that we will explore how diverse cultural orientations influence the way we perceive and interact with an increasingly culturally diverse world. The overall purpose of this class is to understand causes of intercultural conflicts in different communication settings (interpersonal, small group, school, workplace and global) and how to manage them effectively. Specific objectives are:

  1. To learn how culture, your own and other peoples’, shapes the understanding of intercultural conflict analysis.
  2. To explore cultural awareness of ‘self’, ‘other’ cultures and the challenges encountered in interaction between people of diverse culture.
  3. To analyze cases of intercultural conflicts in diverse situations namely; interpersonal, small group, schools, workplace and global contexts, and acquire knowledge and skills that increase intercultural conflict competence.
  4. To gain a critical perspective on local and global issues by using service learning pedagogy to address problems ensuing from increasing cultural diversity in St. Cloud.

Approach to Teaching and Learning about Cultural Diversity

You will have an opportunity to gain knowledge, skills and positive attitudes that increase your intercultural communication competence. I have adopted pedagogical approaches that include lectures, simulation, reflection exercises, role plays, small groups discussions, and service-learning that allow us to acquire an attitude of valuing diversity.

Course Text & Readings

Ting-Toomey, S. & Oetzel, J. (2001). Managing Intercultural Conflict Effectively.  Thousand Oak, CA: Sage Publication Additional readings are available on e-reserve as indicated on the class schedule. Service-learning pedagogy material will be posted on D2L from time to time. You will be notified via email.

Conceptual Outline of the course

The course is developed to address the following areas of interest in understanding intercultural communication problems and how to develop intercultural communication competence and effectively manage intercultural conflicts.

1. Problems of Intercultural Communication

You will learn about factors that explain problems of intercultural communication and ways to improve intercultural interactions. Additionally, key terms in the course will be defined. We will also consider pedagogical approaches relevant to helping students to acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to become a competent intercultural communicator.

2. Theorizing Intercultural Conflict

You will learn the theories and concepts basic to the understanding of intercultural conflicts that arise when people from diverse cultures interact.

3. Service-Learning Pedagogy

The course uses service learning pedagogy to allow you an opportunity to gain a critical perspective on local and global issues and in particular, to address problems ensuing from increasing cultural diversity in St. Cloud.

4. Intercultural Conflicts in Diverse contexts

Interpersonal relationships-You will learn to understand elements that affect effective interpersonal communication between people from different cultures.

School setting- You will learn about challenges of cultural diversity as you engage in experiential learning with local High school students from diverse cultural backgrounds

Diverse work groups’ setting- You will learn about how to work effectively in a groups with people from diverse cultures

Workplace setting- You will learn about managing effective managers-employees relations in a diverse workplace

5. Becoming Competent in managing intercultural conflicts

You will have an opportunity to critically reflect on lessons learned about problems in intercultural communication and importance of service learning as a pedagogical approach that generates new knowledge and develops skills that help you to effectively communicate in diverse communication settings.


Complete guidelines for each assignment are contained in the assignments package

Summary of Assignment and Proportion of Final Grade.

  • Final Group Presentation – 100 pts
    You and your group members will do a presentation on an assigned topic to the class.
  • Research Paper – 100 pts
    You will do research on an intercultural conflict you are involved in or aware of. The analysis of this conflict will be based on the culture-based situational model developed by Ting-Toomey.
  • Journal Entries – 60 pts
    You will write a one page reflection after each S-L session. See Field notes form posted on D2L.
  • Service-Learning Sessions activities – 60 pts
    You and your group will participate in preparation of activities for each S-L session.
  • Tests – 100 pts
    Two short essay and definition of terms exams over two chapters-50pts each
  • Participation – 30 pts
    Attendance & participation in class activities
  • Attendance – 30 pts
    Attendance to SL sessions (5pts each session)
  • Guest speaker - 20 pts
    You will write a one page reaction paper to guest speakers’ lectures

Total - 500 points

Grading Scale

Letter Grade-Percentages-Letter Grade-Percentages A 100-95% A- 94-90% B+ 89-87% B 86-84% B- 83-80% C+ 79-77% C 76-73% C- 72-70% D+ 69-67% D 66-63% D- 62-60% F 59-0 % Course Policies, Procedures and Courtesies (excerpted)


Class and service-learning sessions is considered mandatory. It is five percent of your final grade. Because this is an interactive class, regular and prompt attendance is necessary. If you must miss a class/service learning session, make sure that you have documentation to verify your absence (personal family, medical emergencies only). In case this emergency requires two or more absences, we will discuss the possibility of a grade of I (Incomplete) or W (Withdraw).  Consult with your peers for material covered in class. After you have done so, feel free to ask me questions about the material covered during your absence. Also, if you are involved in a group project and encounter dire emergency, which prevents your being present for a presentation, it is your responsibility to contact one of your group members prior to class time. Do not bother to tell me about your absence (after missing class). However, you can be courteous and let me know in the first two weeks of class of important things that you think I should know e.g. medical related issues so that your absence does not jeopardize your final grade. I want all of you to succeed in this class and to do so we have to act with respect for each other. Excessive tardiness or absences will jeopardize your final grade, regardless of work completed. Missing SL sessions means 5 points off the SL attendance points and a ZERO for journal. Only one excused absence for class attendance allowed.

Written, Service-Learning (SL) activities and group project assignments.

Students will use non-racist and non-sexist language in class and in written work. All written work will meet the standards of academic and professional quality (no spelling, grammar or punctuation errors; please proof read your papers prior to turning them in). All of these factors along with the overall quality of the work (clarity of thinking, organization of text, etc.) will be considered in assigning a grade. Unless otherwise stated, all written assignments are to be typed, double-spaced, and free of spelling and grammatical errors. In-class writing assignments must be legibly hand-written. All assignments and presentations are due on the scheduled dates AT CLASS TIME. Late assignments, for whatever reasons (including computer equipment failure) will be penalized one (1) full grade for each day late. (e.g. B to C) Since you know the due dates well ahead of time, there is not good excuse except for emergencies. Group projects presentations and SL activities will be presented on the days assigned. The guidelines for attendance stipulate penalties for missed assignments/ unexcused absences. You have to be available for all group projects presentations. If your peers are going to be there to listen to you its only fair that you be there to hear them too. Likewise, absence during group presentations will affect your group grade 5points off the points awarded to your group. For example 90 points will drop to 85.

Golden Rule

Never fail to raise a question on any issue regarding the course that is not clear in your mind. I am here to work with you and ensure that we all experience a very enriching learning process. I wish you all well and look forward to a productive semester.

Class Weekly Schedule (Subject to changes)


  • Week 1 - Introduction to the course& define key terms, Reasons for studying intercultural conflict, Service-learning pedagogy in promoting intercultural/interracial relations/Ch. 1 (1-15), Ch. 1 (15-26), Handout/D2L
  • Week 2 - The Culture-based situational model, Theoretical approaches to managing conflicts, Group meetings/ Prep for SL#1 session. Read articles assigned for next week/Ch. 2/ Handout/ D2L
  • Week 3 - S-L /Civic Engagement Literature/Loeb: Soul of a Citizen:  Introduction: ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And I am only for myself, what am I. Pipher: Cultural Collisions on the Great Plains. Mutua-Kombo: Using service-learning pedagogy to promote interracial relation.
  • Week 4 - Service-Learning 1st Session: Be the Change You Wish to See In the World @ Apollo High School
  • Week 5 - Intercultural conflict in interpersonal relationships, Guest speakers, Test # 1 on chapters 1, 2 & service learning, Group meetings/ Prep for 2nd SL session/ Ch. 3
  • Week 6 - Service-Learning 2nd Session: “Many Voices One World” @ Apollo High/Session #1 Journal due
  • Week 7 - Intercultural conflict in diverse work groups, Video: Supervising differences, Group meetings/ Prep for 3rd SL session, Test#2 Take Home (chap.3&4)/Ch. 4
  • Week 8 - Service-Learning 3rd session “Understanding and Respecting Cultural Differences” @ SCSU/Session#2 Journal due
  • Week 9 - SPRING BREAK
  • Week 10 - Service-Learning 4th Session: Intercultural Communication Skills & Principles of Nonviolence Communication” @Sauk Rapids-Rice High/Handout/D2L
  • Week 11 - International conflicts/ Post-conflict peace communication, Non-Western conflict management approaches, Challenges of doing research in post-conflict settings, Discussions and group meetings to prepare for 5th session /Mutua-Kombo, E. (2008). Rwandan Women’s words, actions and meaning: a researcher’s reflection.
  • Week 12 - Service-Learning 5th session: “Bridging Differences & Managing Intercultural Conflicts Effectively” @ Tech High/Session#4 Journal due
  • Week 13 - Discussions and group meetings-prep for 6th session
  • Week 14 - Service-Learning 6th session: “Becoming an Ally” @ SCSU/Session#5 Journal due/Handout/D2L
  • Week 15 - Intercultural Conflict Competence, Reflections on lessons learned about intercultural conflicts; causes, effects and management across cultures, SL surveys & Course Evaluations, Research paper due/Ch. 6
  • Week 16 - Group Presentations, Group#1: A Campus of Difference, Group#2: A Community of Difference, Final Journal Entry 6: Assess you own learning due
  • Week 17 - Group Presentations, Group#3: A Workplace of Difference, Group#4: A Global Community of Difference

CMST 339 Communicating Common Ground

Service-Learning Sessions’ Agenda Spring 2011


The theme for CCG 2011 is “Be the change you wish to see in the world”- Mahatma Gandhi. All six service-learning (SL) sessions will emphasize on skills that support the development of this challenging civic obligation “Be the change…” among participating students. CMST 339 students will use the SL sessions to gain a greater understanding of the theory and praxis of intercultural conflict management. We will apply CMST 339 course content in ways that it informs the understanding of Gandhi’s philosophy in developing knowledge and skills to build strong intercultural and interracial relationships in our schools and communities. We seek to build capacity within high school students to become change agents in their schools. By using community based strategies to intercultural and interracial understanding, relationships will be build, conflicts managed and positive attitudes about peace, and co-existence fostered.  Specifically, the SL sessions aim to do the following:

  • Develop civic and leadership skills to empower students to bridge differences and imagine a shared vision of our community.
  • Educate students about ways to individually and collectively take leadership/responsibility in transforming their schools, communities, nation and the world into spaces of compassion, peace, and co-existence.
  • Promote dialogue as a means to chart new ways for peaceful co-existence and intercultural learning.

Session# 1 Be the Change You Wish to See In the World @ Apollo

Students will engage in activities intended to develop critical self awareness of their role in making a difference in their schools, communities and the world. Students will reflect on what it takes to be the change one wishes to see in the world. For example, what do you do to when people are mean to those who are different based on their race, culture, religion, sexual identity, disability? Do you do something or choose to sit back and do nothing?  These questions among others will be answered during this first session and set the tone for what we will be doing for the rest of the semester.

Getting started

  • Introductions (develop a fun activity to break the ice)
  • Expectations (what do you all want for your group to succeed)
  • Ground rules (ensure everyone participates in setting the ground rules)

Session’s Activity

The goal of this session is to ensure that the students understand the meaning behind the philosophy “Be the change you wish to see in the world” Perhaps you may want to start off by asking the students why they joined CCG?  After listening to their responses, transition to discuss the questions below- Feel free to develop more questions as needed.

  • What Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy mean to you?
  • Is it necessary to be the change you wish to see in the world? Why?
  • What are the benefits of embracing this philosophy?
  • What challenges come your way of fully embracing this philosophy?
  • What are some of the ways to overcome the challenges encountered?

Self-Reflection activity

It is important that we recognize that the call to “Be the change…….”is one that touches on the very core of our consciousness. In this regard, we have to reflect on the inner self- who we are –and how we perceive others. How then do our perceptions of self and others impact how we act to promote understanding across differences? Ensure that the high school students understand that embracing Gandhi’s philosophy means acting differently for the common good. You are no longer doing things for “me” but for “us”. For example, you can start the discussion on perception by asking the students this question: how often do you act in ways that bring dignity and integrity to yourself, friends, and your cultural/racial groups?


Prepare a lesson plan that includes the following:

  • Name/ title and a brief description of a “get to know you” activity
  • Highlights of what you will teach about perceptions including some questions that get the students to reflect deeply on the idea of self perception and perception of others. This should include some questions that will get H.S students to reflect deeply on perceptions.
  • Develop an assignment that you will assign H.S students at the end of the session. This assignment should require students to do something that responds to Gandhi’s philosophy. Due date is next session on 2/16.

Take Home Tips

  • The need to act in ways that bring dignity and respect to themselves, their friends and family, and the cultural and racial groups they belong to.
  • Positive perception of self and others projects the dignity in your inner self. Positive perception of self and others promotes healthy relationships and promotes understanding across our differences.

End of the session

Ask high students to write a statement of their commitment to being the change they wish to see in the world. Collect their responses and put them in the binder.  Encourage them to come back and also thank them for their participation.

Session # 2  Many Voices One World @ APOLLO

This session aims to equip students with communication skills that promote dialogue as a means to address personal challenges to dealing with cultural misunderstanding and racial prejudice. High school students will have the opportunity to express their experiences. In turn, these experiences will be used to craft a new narrative that draws from experiences of renowned peacemakers whose words and actions offer great insights to ways that we can build strong communities in our schools, neighborhoods, nation and the world. The goal is to help high school students to develop communication strategies that transcend our differences in favor of peaceful co-existence.

Session’s Activity

H.S. students will identify the challenges of dealing with cultural misunderstanding and racial prejudice. The purpose of sharing these experiences is to collectively seek solutions to promote intercultural understanding and racial harmony among the students. It is important that you manage this session with outmost sensitivity and at the same time stay focused on the task for the day. It is difficult to talk about racial prejudice and so we should all be respectful to others’ experiences.

Suggestions to holding a meaningful dialogue

  • Tell students that you be holding a dialogue about their experiences. Make it clear to them that dialogue is about “talking and listening to each other with a purpose”…it is not a debate or pointing figures at anyone but working together to collectively seek solutions to improve the circumstances detrimental to peaceful co-existence.
  • Make it clear to the students that expressing their challenges clearly, accurately, and honestly is what will allow all of you to collectively find solutions to what we can be done to improve the situation.
  • Take turns to talk and be mindful of time. Don’t take all the time others want to speak as well. Plan well so as to spend equal time on challenges and solutions.

After identifying the challenges, ask the students to consider what the following voices” teach about how to overcome the challenges identified. You may want to begin the conversation by asking students to say something about the people whose quotes are listed below. Most likely, the students will not be familiar with these peace-markers. So, it is your responsibility to make sure that you know who they are, the challenges they have encountered and still used kind words and good communication to promote understanding. Two things highly recommend: i) make sure you get to discuss at least 2-3 of the unfamiliar peace makers. This will give the students a change to connect with struggles in other parts of the world; ii) pictures of the peace makers to show the students.


It's the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees. Wangari Mathaai

Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.  Inaugural Address by John F. Kennedy - January 20th 1961

The time is always right to do what is right. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. Nelson Mandela

We will surely get to our destination if we join hands.” -Aung San Suu Kyi

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences- Audre Lorde

You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea- Benazir Bhutto


Your lesson plan must include the following:

  1. An outline of how you will meet the goals of this session
  2. Lessons learned from the quotes to share with the high school students. These lessons will be based on your group’s interpretation/ understanding of the quotes.
  3. Develop at least three Take Home Tips about how to effectively communicate frustrations, anger, hopelessness in general those things that hurt us most without (intentionally) causing more hurt to self and others.

Take Home Tips

Review the responses from the assignment given last week. Develop some thoughts of what can be done based on the students’ responses. If these responses are not adequate feel free to offer your own tips to the students.

Session #3  Understanding and Respecting Cultural Differences @ SCSU

We will use the concept of culture as an iceberg to educate about cultural differences and strategies to overcome stereotypes, ethnocentrism and prejudice. The goal of the session is to enable students to gain an understanding of and respect for cultural differences by looking deeper into what is under the iceberg rather than looking only at what is on the surface.

Session’s Activity

High school students will share cultural histories of their families-how they came to America, when and why, and experiences of adjusting in a new cultural environment? Plan your time well so that some of you can also share your histories. After, sharing your histories, begin the discussion by asking the following questions:

  • Looking at culture as an iceberg diagram what can you say most people see (at the top of the iceberg) about your culture?
  • What is under the iceberg that we do not know?

Conclude the session by highlighting the importance of seeking the “hidden” meanings in the iceberg.


Your lesson plan must include an outline of how you plan to go about meeting the goal of the session.

  • Develop a teaching module that applies what you have learned about individualistic and collectivist cultures to help students gain a deeper understanding of how our cultural differences impact how we interact and communicate. Be sure to identify specific characteristics of each of these two cultures that you want the students to understand.
  • Develop thoughtful tips to share with the students about the issues listed in the Take home tips section below.

Take Home Tips

  • Dangers of looking at the tip of the iceberg
  • Benefits of digging deeper into the iceberg

* Iceberg handout will be posted on D2L and additional worksheet provided the class period before this session.

Session# 4 Intercultural Communication Skills & Principles of Nonviolence Communication @SRRHS

This session focuses on the role of communication in connecting people from diverse backgrounds. Being a good communicator is an important prerequisite in a multicultural society and the world at large. High school student will acquire skills to enable them advocate for themselves as well as others. Acquiring these skills is important in improving every day intercultural/interracial interactions. How do people interact in a community that is culturally heterogeneous?  What intercultural communication skills are needed? How do we advocate for principles of nonviolence communication? See Non-violence handout is posted on D2L [under Communicating Common Ground Materials Module]


  • Prepare a lesson plan that highlights key skills needed in communicating across differences.
  • Define the concepts: intercultural communication, intercultural competence, non violent communication principles and identify key skills and abilities needed to successfully negotiate cultural differences and to appreciate diverse perspective.
  • Develop communication scenario/role play that illustrate effective intercultural/ non-violence communication.

Take Home Tips

Offer two tips about what you want high school students to know about communicating across differences (race, culture, class, gender, sexual identity, disabilities, religion, opinion etc)

Session # 5 Bridging Differences & Managing Intercultural Conflicts Effectively”  @TECH

Session # 3 highlighted the challenges encountered by many people based on their ‘difference’. Many a times, a lack of understanding about our differences results into conflicts. This session will equip students with knowledge and skills about cross-cultural conflict management. CMST 339 students will apply what they have learned about intercultural conflict styles and Ting-Toomey and Otzel’s Culture-based Situational Conflict Model to support H.S. students’ intercultural conflict skills development. In addition, we will recognize the purpose of peace education in empowering people with skills, attitudes and knowledge to:

  • Build, maintain and restore relationships among each other (be it at school and other public spaces
  • Develop positive approaches towards dealing with conflicts at the personal level and also understanding conflicts at other levels (that are not personal)

The goal of this session is to engage H.S. student to learn how to analyze and transform conflict. You want to be sure that they have some good understanding of the following:

  • What is conflict?
  • What are the causes and effects of the conflict?
  • What can be done to manage conflict effectively?
  • Get the students to reflect on how their experiences can be used to educate others, how these experiences can be used to transform conflicts.


Prepare a lesson plan that teaches H.S students about the following:

  • Definition of intercultural conflict
  • Intercultural conflict styles
  • Differences between Western and Non-Western conflict styles
  • Develop a role play to emphasize the concepts that you want the students to learn.
  • What do you want the students to take home?

Remember that the H.S students have not taken classes in intercultural communication. So, this means that you need to have a lesson plan that is accessible to the students. They must understand and relate to your ideas.  Simplify the concepts to be discussed and use many examples.

Take Home Tips

As stipulated in your lesson plan.

Session # 6 Becoming an Ally @ SCSU

We may not change peoples’ attitudes about prejudice, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other “isms”. However, we can strive to attract allies who will support our efforts to promote peaceful co-existence in our communities. How then do we embrace the essence of becoming an ally? What does becoming an ally mean? How do you become an ally? What does an ally do? The activities for this session will focus on engaging students to understand the notion of becoming an ally as a possibility to build, maintain and restore relationships at all levels of human interaction. Students will reflect on lessons learned in sessions 1-5 to chart ways to become the change they wish to see in the world.


  • Develop a lesson plan that helps students to understand the connection between becoming an ally and “being the change you wish to see in the world”.

  • Explore ideas that get the students to realize that becoming an ally and embracing Gandhi’s philosophy

Take Home Tips

  • Develop tips that support students quest to always seek a common ground, be each others’ ally and desire to become the