Cross-Cultural Contact Assignments

This instructional task can be adapted for any discipline; an arrangement between an ESL class and a non-ESL class is one alternative that I have found successful.


In addition, for non-native English speakers:


Minimally: Asking questions, listening to replies, responding with comments and further questions, taking notes, sharing findings. Additionally: writing analyses, giving oral presentations, transcribing speech.


The contact assignment gives students license to ask questions that they may not otherwise bring themselves to ask an acquaintance, much less a stranger. This permits students to learn about the views of an individual on at least one topic of interest. If conducted with someone from another culture, the contact assignment gives students insight into their own culture as well as others'. It thus provides grounds for a comparison of cross-cultural behavior and values. Furthermore, because some topics are universal (such as the topic of family and relationships, friendship), the contact assignment can promote an understanding of the commonality of human needs and the diverse practices by which these needs are met. In a culturally diverse environment, this task can promote culturally pluralistic perspectives rather than ethnocentric viewpoints.


For contact assignments conducted outside of class:

  1. Choose a suitable topic and develop a set of questions for students to ask contact persons.
  2. Demonstrate and have students practice interview techniques in class.
  3. Instruct students to conduct an interview with one or more contact persons or survey a given number of people. When possible, have students tape record the interview.
  4. Give students adequate time to make the contact and complete their interviews.
  5. Instruct students to take notes after the interview (from the tape recording or from memory) and, from their notes, to discuss their findings in small groups in class.
  6. If interaction and/or language skills are important, collect the tape recorded interviews and evaluate them for fluency, accuracy and appropriateness. Alternatively, have them transcribe the interview.
  7. Have students follow informal report with a written report and/or a prepared speech to the whole class, for example, a summary of the interview, an analysis of similarities and differences, a personal reaction.

For contact assignments conducted during class time:

  1. Contact another instructor at your college, preferably from a different discipline, whose class meets as the same time as yours. Arrange a meeting date, time and place. I've done this successfully with students from each class being responsible for half of the interview time on a topic assigned by their own instructors.
  2. Proceed with any of the steps 2-7 above as appropriate.

Marsha Chan's Presentations