JII (Virtual) Learning Circle – Sharing Informed Practice

Join JII members who regularly get together (originally in person but now virtually) to share their research and informed practice. Each meeting we discuss a theme, research or educational activity focused on nurturing deeper forms of intercultural understanding. A great chance to broaden your horizons and stay on the cutting edge of research and practice. The LC is open to members of JII. For information about joining the JII community see here. For schedule info see below.

Upcoming Schedule

May 23th, July 25th and September 26th 2024

Unlocking the Deep Culture Podcasts

This series will explore the themes in the Deep Culture Podcasts, including how to use them in education and training. We will choose one episode for each session, reflect on the theme and share ideas about putting them into practice. We will develop materials (e.g. episode summary, comprehension or discussion questions, expansion activities) to be used with key episodes/themes.

Previous Learning Circle Meetings

March 28th

Intercultural Education in India: Contexts, Needs and Challenges

Dolon Gupta and Ishita Ray – Business Communication Facilitators of India

In this Learning Circle, we will discuss a survey conducted with educators and trainers in the field of language learning, communication, social studies, and related fields, in India. It will report on:
(a) Who teaches intercultural education in India?
(b) What are the contexts where it is taught?
(c) Who needs it?
(d) What challenges do educators’ face?

We will dig into the the gaps between what educators think their audience needs and what intercultural education in India currently offers, challenges they face in incorporating intercultural education, and limitations to applying existing intercultural theory in the field.

July-November 2023 Learning Circle Series:

Worth debating! – Intercultural Assumptions We Disagree On

In a recent survey of intercultural professionals, there was significant disagreement about basic questions such as: 1) What is the cause of ethnocentrism? 2) Is the right attitude enough to overcome intercultural misunderstanding? 3) Should social justice be a primary goal of intercultural education? In this Learning Circle series, we will use a structured discussion format to uncover the differing assumptions that lead to these divergent views. This is not a debate and participants will not need to “take sides” about which answer is “correct”. The goal is to deepen our understanding of different ways to look at these foundational questions, and to reach shared understandings with our intercultural colleagues.

Thur. Jul 27, 2023 (19:30-21:00 JST) – Ethnocentrism! Where does it come from and what can we do about it? More than half of intercultural professionals surveyed felt that ethnocentrism is learned, and thus can be overcome by education. The other half felt that ethnocentrism is a natural part of how our mind works, so it can never be fully overcome. This raises a fundamental question for interculturalists: What is ethnocentrism and what can we do to overcome it? In this session we will discussion the differing assumptions that lead to these divergent views. This is not a debate and participants will not need to “take sides” about which answer is “correct”. The goal is to deepen our understanding of different ways to look at these foundational questions.

Thur. Sep 28, 2023 (19:30-21:00 JST) – Attitude! Is the right attitude enough to avoid cultural misunderstanding? 60% of intercultural professionals surveyed felt that with the right attitude, cultural misunderstanding can be largely avoided. Is attitude enough? If so, then what is the “right” attitude. If not, then what stands in the way of intercultural understanding? In this session we will discussion the differing assumptions that lead to these divergent views. This is not a debate and participants will not need to “take sides” about which answer is “correct”. The goal is to deepen our understanding of different ways to look at these foundational questions.

Thur. Nov 23, 2023 (19:30-21:00) – Diversity & Inclusion vs. Intercultural Education! Is social justice the goal of intercultural education? About half of intercultural professionals surveyed fee that greater awareness of issues of social justice is the primary goal of intercultural education. The other half felt that social justice issues are largely a separate domain from intercultural education. How can we make sense of this? In this session we will discussion the differing assumptions that lead to these divergent views. This is not a debate and participants will not need to “take sides” about which answer is “correct”. The goal is to deepen our understanding of different ways to look at these foundational questions.

Jan-May 2023 Learning Circle Series: What are “the basics”?

Many people are interested to learn about the field of intercultural education and training. Understandably, they often would like to know “the basics” – the key insights / ideas / models that serve as a starting point for understanding this field. Unfortunately, there is often little consensus on just what those “basics” are. This includes uncertainty about things such as: how to define culture; the core concepts/models/theories that one should know about; how to talk about cultural difference; what learning goals should be. With this in mind, we will explore this question over three Learning Circle meetings. We hope to see whether a consensus will emerge or whether there are contrasting approaches.

Thur. Jan 26, 2023 (19:30-21:00 JST) Discussion: Talking about cultural difference – A fundamental challenge for cultural bridge people is finding an effective way to understand and talk about cultural difference. How much should difference be focused on? How can we avoid stereotypes? How do we discuss or explain cultural difference? Participants will discuss their experiences in these areas. They are encouraged to listen to Deep Culture Podcast Episode 26 – The Trouble with Cultural Difference – before the Learning Circle.

Thur. Mar 23, 2023 (19:30-21:00 JST) Discussion: The Goals of Cultural Learning – It’s obvious that certain people are more “international” or culturally aware than others. There is no agreement, however, on just what constitutes “success” in intercultural education and training. There are many competing – and often highly abstract – conceptualizations (intercultural competence; intercultural intelligence; intercultural awareness; intercultural sensitivity; global mindset, etc.). What then, is a basic understanding of the outcomes that intercultural educators and trainers are trying to achieve? We will have a structured discussion of these issues.

Thur. May 25, 2023 (19:30-21:00 JST) Discussion: Cultural Learning Processes – Defining the goals of cultural learning is important, but we also need to understand the learning process itself – how does one progress from more simplistic to more sophisticated understanding. In this Learning Circle, participants will discuss their understanding of cultural learning processes. Ideally, this should help them choose or develop learning activities, and understand the various levels of sophistication that learners have. Ultimately, what constitutes a “basic”  understanding of cultural learning processes?

Jul-Nov 2022 Learning Circle Series: What’s wrong with intercultural theory?

The goals of intercultural education and training are admirable — cross-cultural understanding, global perspective, intercultural competence. At the same time, the theories and concepts in this field can be hard to apply. We sometimes struggle to define basic terms (e.g. culture) or disagree about basic topics (cultural difference). Terminology can be highly abstract or complex (e.g. intercultural competence, intercultural intelligence, critical awareness),  or sound vague, idealistic, or even politicized (e.g. global citizenship, diversity). Over a period of three Learning Circle sessions, we will explore the strengths and limitations of these core concepts. There will be a focus on sharing the challenges of applying such concepts in a variety of intercultural education contexts.  

Thur. Jul 28, 2022 (19:30-21:00 JST) Discussion: Intercultural concepts – What’s useful? Participants will share their experiences attempting to understand and apply common key intercultural concepts in their work (e.g. culture, intercultural competence, intercultural sensitivity). Which are useful for you? Which are hard to understand or apply? What makes them easy/hard to apply? Participants will take a brief survey which asks them their opinions regarding a set of key concepts. We will discuss the results of the survey together.

Thur. Sep 22, 2022 (19:30-21:00 JST) – Panel discussion: Beyond WEIRD intercultural theory. The field of intercultural education and training has developed largely in the context of the US and Europe. This raises an important question: Do theoretical approaches match the needs of other, highly diverse societies around the world? We will hold a panel discussion with intercultural educators who have experience working in non-WEIRD societies. We will discuss how intercultural theory can better match the actual needs of different contexts.

Thur. Nov 24, 2022 (19:30-21:00 JST) – Discussion: The future of intercultural education theory. While much intercultural theory has changed little in recent years, there are many new insights from a variety of fields that relate closely to intercultural understanding. This includes insights from social psychology (e.g. moral intuitions, empathy), cognitive psychology (e.g. bias, the unconscious mind), cultural psychology (e.g. new approaches to understanding and measuring cultural difference). We will discuss which of these insights can contribute to developing intercultural theory which is grounded in an empirical understanding of the psychology of intercultural experiences and how the mind works. 

Jan-May 2022 Learning Circle Series – Bias and intercultural understanding

Bias is a critical topic for intercultural bridge people. It is a complex topic, however, and can be difficult to discuss. We will focus on Bias and Intercultural Understanding in a series of 3 Learning Circle sessions. We will learn about  cognitive biases—the ways that the biases are “built in” to our cognitive processes. There will be materials that participants will be expected to look a before each Learning Circle so that they can actively contribute to the discussion.

Thu Jan 27, 2022 (19:30-21:00 JST) What is bias? (Materials: The Deep Culture Podcast – Episode 9 – Bias is not Bias) A brief introduction to cognitive biases—the ways that the biases are “built in” to our cognitive processes. We will clarify key terms (e.g. bias-prejudice-stereotypes-discrimination). We will discuss how a brain-mind approach can be used to discuss bias in the context of intercultural education and training.

Thu Mar 24, 2022 (19:30-21:00 JST) What types of bias are there? (Materials: The Cognitive Bias Codex and individual research) A discussion of the four types of cognitive bias as presented in the Cognitive Bias Codex. We will see that its 180 biases relate to: 1) A limited ability to remember; 2) A need to filter information and identify what’s important; 3) The need to make judgments or interpretations based on limited information: 4)The need to act quickly in the face of so much uncertainty. We will discuss which biases are important in the context of intercultural education and training.

Thur. May 26, 2022 (19:30-21:00 JST) May 26th – How to talk about bias? (Materials: Bias slide set and participant experiences) We will discuss ways that the brain-mind perspective can be applied in different educational and training contexts. We will discuss the similarities and differences between intercultural communication education and education for diversity and inclusion. Participants will contribute their experiences in different contexts.

November 2021 Learning Circle
Title:The C Factor: The Overlooked Dynamic of the Social Brain
When: Thur. Nov 25, 2021 (19:30-21:00 JST)
Presenter: Curtis Kelly (EdD), Kansai University
Description: Whether it be education, psychology, medicine, or any other study of human behavior, we acknowledge the role of human connection, but may not appreciate its importance. Every educator knows that some groups click and some don’t, and that usually depends on how well the learners are connected. When they are, they help each other more, learn better, and even behave better.  The C factor is rarely mentioned in the literature, but is extremely important in aiding learning, and safeguarding mental health.  In neuroscience and psychology, we are re-evaluating the importance of connection due to Lieberman’s work in defining the mentalizing network (the social brain), and Cozolino’s work in promoting tribal thinking and attachment theory. Let’s examine these emerging theories about the human brain and explore ways we can incorporate them in our teaching.

Curtis Kelly (EdD) is a professor at Kansai University and a brain nerd.  He produces the MindBrainEd Think Tanks, a magazine that connects language teaching and brain sciences.  His life mission is to “relieve the suffering of the classroom.”

September 2021 Learning Circle
Title: Transformative learning: Investigating perspective changes during a virtual exchange project
When: Thur. Sept 30, 2021 (19:30-21:00 JST)
Presenter: Robinson Fritz (Nagasaki University, Japan); Małgorzata Marchewka (Cracow University of Economics, Poland)
Description: Description: Virtual exchange projects (VEP) are known in bringing learners together from all over the globe to develop skills and attitudes through online collaborative tasks. However, the present understanding of learners’ perspective transformation during the process of a VEP remains limited. The presenters introduce how transformative learning theory can provide a useful theoretical framework to understanding learners’ developmental experience during a VEP. The purpose of this learning circle is to focus on the pedagogical implications for educators (and learners) to apply transformative learning theory for such online collaborations.

Robinson Fritz is an assistant professor at Nagasaki university. His academic interests include intercultural education and linguaculture resistance.
Bio: Małgorzata Marchewka is an assistant professor at Cracow University of Economics. Her background is in applied psychology and she is interested in cross-cultural communication and international virtual team management.

July 2021 Learning Circle
Title: Translating Deep Culture – Expanding Intercultural Education  in Turkey
When: Thur. July 29, 2021 (19:30-21:00 JST)
Presenter: Emre Seven (Sivas Cumhuriet University, Turkey); Soyhan Egitim (Toyo University, Japan)
Description: Emre Seven and Soyhan Egitim will share with the Learning Circle the work being done in Turkey to promote deep forms of cultural learning. Soyhan will provide an overview of intercultural education in Turkey—a country with a long history of intercultural exchange. Emre will discuss his work as an intercultural educator there, and the challenges and rewards of one of his current projects: translating Beneath the Surface: The Beginner’s Guide to Deep Culture Learning (Shaules, Intercultural Press) into Turkish. The larger theme will be the challenges of developing localized forms of intercultural education. LC participants will discuss: What are the challenges (and rewards) of developing localized approaches to intercultural education? Is intercultural education overly influenced by the European/North American perspectives?
Bio: Emre Seven is a lecturer at Sivas Cumhuriyet University, Turkey. He works at the International Relations Office and teaches at the Department of Translation and Interpreting. He studies cognitive anthropology focusing on the cognitive side of culture shock experiences. He is married to Elvina, who is a pianist and has a daughter named Elmira.  
Bio: Soyhan Egitim is a full-time lecturer at Toyo University, Japan. He completed his Doctor of Education degree concentrating on collaborative leadership in Japanese university EFL contexts. His research interests include collaborative leadership, diversity and inclusion, inclusive education, teacher leadership, leadership identities, and language teacher development

June 2021 Learning Circle

Title: Hanako’s Story – A Deep Culture Difference Activity 
When: Thur. June 10, 2021 (19:30-21:00 JST)
Presenter: Joseph Shaules, SA Professor, Keio University, GIC Center
Description: How do we create activities about cultural difference without falling into stereotypes and overgeneralizations? Joseph Shaules will share “Hanako’s Story” a case-study activity that shows how deep culture influences our interpretation of events. The approach is grounded in dilemma theory and a deep culture approach to intercultural education.
Bio: Joseph Shaules is an author and intercultural educator. He is the Director of the Japan Intercultural Institute.

Globalization and Deep Culture Learning – July-October 2020

Each month, we will discuss a different chapter of Joseph’s new book:Language, Culture and the Embodied Mind: A Developmental Model of Linguaculture Learning. We will learn the theory and practice of an integrated understanding of language and culture learning. For more information on the book content see here. The first three meetings (January-March) will focus on theory, while later meetings (April-June) will focus on practice. We will have active discussion of key ideas. Joseph will make electronic versions of each chapter available to attendees for free. A hard copy of the book may also be bought at a discount. Please note:

  • Free for JII members
  • Space limited. The maximum number of attendees is 12 people.
  • Participants are expected to commit themselves to regular attendance.
  • Participants are expected to read that month’s chapter before each session.
  • Recommended for educators interested going deeper into learning theory and reflecting on practice.
Dates and time: 
Friday, July 24, 2020 – 19:30-21:00
Friday, August 28, 2020 – 15:00-16:30
Friday, September 25, 2020 – 19:30-21:00
Friday, October 30, 2020 – 19:30-21:00
Location: Virtual meeting
To join or for more info: Hanna at hanna(at)chouchane.com or Joseph at events(at)japanintercultural.org

January-June 2020
Title: Academic Study Group – Language, Culture, and the Embodied Mind
September 20 (FRI), 2019
Title: Creating a Cross-Cultural Understanding Course: Insights and Challenges
Presenters: Valerie Hansford, Soka University
Description:This presentation will talk about the challenges and insights gained from creating a program-wide content course in cross-cultural understanding at Soka University. The course focused on helping students both prepare for studying abroad, and gain intercultural insights related to their personal experiences. Challenges included going beyond abstract cultural concepts, and helping students see that culture is not just related to national culture. Making course content accessible for students of different levels was a also a challenge. The speaker will introduce the course, and invite participants to share their perspectives about meeting these challenges.
June 29 (SAT), 2019
Half-day workshop–Engaging students with the Linguaculture Motivation Profiler
Joseph Shaules, Sumiko Miyafusa, Robinson Fritz, Gabriela Schmidt
This half-day workshop will introduce the Linguaculture Motivation Profiler (LMP). This validated 36-item online instrument creates a learning profile of students. It measures attitudes towards learning: resistance, engagement, and mixed states. Teachers can create student learning profiles as an in-class reflection tool, and to help class planning. The LMP is made available free of charge thanks to JSPS Grant-in-Aid research funding, and the support of JII. This is a chance to learn about new approaches to motivating students, and share ideas and best practices with other teachers.

May 24 (FRI), 2019
Language and Culture in the Lower-level Classroom—Best Practices
Gabriela Schmidt (German-Nihon University); Sumiko Miyafusa (English-Toyo Gakuen University); Chloe Viatte (French-Juntendo University); Bruno Jactat (French-Tsukuba University)
Joseph Shaules (Juntendo University)
During May’s Learning Circle, we will focus on how to encourage cultural learning with lower-level students. Some teachers may think that culture-oriented teaching and activities are abstract or too difficult. Our four presenters will, however, share their experience and best practices working with beginner students. There will be a multilingual focus. Presenters will share ideas for teaching French, German and English. There will be discussion and a chance for others to share your favourite activity or best practice. Please join us!

April 19 (FRI), 2019
Culture, Cognition and Intercultural Learning for a Global Age
Joseph Shaules
This talk will introduce a “deep culture” approach to intercultural education that is grounded in recent insights into culture and cognition. It will argue that globalization and communication technology can lead to shallow intercultural experiences as sojourners are protected in a cocoon of convenience.
How can educators encourage deeper culture learning? Research in cognitive and cultural neuroscience is providing valuable insights into how to do so. This presentation will argue that cultural learning is a “two-mind process” that involves both attentive (conscious) and intuitive (unconscious) forms of cognition. It will discuss the difference between surface and deep cultural learning, and the process by which we gain deeper intercultural insight. Joseph will also report on what he learned at A Blank Slate? Brain Science and Cultures, a conference held in Florence Italy, from April 4-6. Joseph will be holding a workshop on deep culture learning there, and will bring back his insights about intercultural education in Europe.

February 8 (FRI), 2019
‘Caught in the loop’: The engagement-resistance cycle in intercultural encounters
Facilitator: Roxana Sandu
There is no doubt that intercultural interactions can cause either engagement or/and resistance in any party involved. Shaules (2017: 69-70) explains that “an encounter with foreignness imposes adaptive demands on learners, which they respond to with more or less acceptance of change, which generates engagement and/or resistance.” In the hope that intercultural communication will be viewed in a more positive way, freshman students at a Japanese university were asked to participate in an online exchange over a period of eight weeks. This exchange offered them the opportunity to connect with English learners from other countries via Internet using English as a lingua franca. The results of pre- and post-questionnaires administered to all Japanese students participating in the exchange, along with the data collected from seven follow-up interviews indicate students’ engagement, as in an overall more positive image towards intercultural communication. On the other hand, some students appeared to be caught in an engagement-resistance loop, showing both engagement and resistance towards this type of interaction either due to anxiety towards foreignness or intolerance to unpredictability and their own lack of communication skills. Participants will be encouraged to share their own experiences and analyze them from an engagement-resistance cycle point of view.
Facilitator Bio: Roxana Sandu (PhD, Tohoku University, Japan) is currently an assistant professor of English at University of Tsukuba. Her main publications are in the field of pragmatics and discourse analysis, but recently her research interests also include raising intercultural awareness in an EFL setting, as well as teaching 21st century skills, such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

January 12, 2019
Welcome to the Pelican family! Simulating an intercultural encounter in your classroom
Bruno Jactat
In this JII Learning Circle, hands-on activities and praxis related to intercultural education will be our prime focus. During the first part, participants are invited to immerse themselves in a brief welcoming ceremony held by a family from a unique cultural heritage. The debriefing will allow for much discussion about what was experienced and how this simulation can relate to real world intercultural contacts. And once you have experienced this activity, you will be able to reproduce it in your teaching environment.
In the second part we will show how we are implementing such simulation activities during the Intercultural Sessions held at the University of Tsukuba, activities in which both Japanese and foreign students participate together. Finally, we will showcase some of the work done recently to provide teachers with downloadable ready-made material and activities to be used in your intercultural class through the JALT ICLE SIG (Intercultural Communication in Language Education Special Interest Group).
Facilitator Bio: 
After his return to France from a one-year exchange program in Wisconsin, USA, Bruno served as regional president of the Loire Valley AFS (American Field Service) association from 1986 to 1991, coordinating the departure of numerous young French teenagers abroad and the hosting in the region of as many foreign youngsters. In 2003, he received a prize from UNESCO Japan for implementing online exchange programs during the previous 7 years between primary school kids from Japan and 7 other countries. Today he continues to raise university students’ awareness to intercultural issues through various events such as the Intercultural Sessions at the University of Tsukuba where he currently teaches French.

November 2, 2018
Culture in Language Teaching—Ideas and Activity Sharing
Joseph Shaules
Many language teachers are interested in intercultural issues, but may be unsure of what activities are effective. In November’s Learning Circle, we invite you to share and discuss the culture-related activities you use. We will start with an overview of some basic questions about culture in language education: How are language and culture connected? What are the goals of cultural learning? How can we talk about cultural difference? What about low-level learners? Participants will then share their activities, ideas and experience. The emphasis is on being inspired by each other’s creativity! You can introduce what you do, or simply learn from other members.

September 7, 2018
Culture (Shocking) your Students : Pedagogical Considerations for Intercultural Communication Education
Javier Salazar, Ph.D.
A lot has been written about Intercultural Communication Competence (ICC) models for language education, but little has been done in terms of how to translate this seemingly complex topic into the classroom. In the Japanese EFL education context, this gap between theory and practice is further expressed in the relative (and alarming) lack of available IC textbooks that approach the teaching of this subject in a way that takes into account the particularities of Japanese students ( i.e their general communicative skills and overall attitudes towards EFL education). In this presentation, I will tackle this difficulty by explaining a three-pronged IC teaching approach that is based on: a) A communicative approach where students’ strategic and discursive competence development is paramount for scaffolding the next two prongs ; b) A view of IC education that is concentrated on praxis as opposed to theory and c) The combination of Active Learning, Transformative Learning Theory and Embodiment Theory in order to develop a sense of an Intercultural Self in the EFL student. As a means for illustrating this approach, specific IC lesson plans that take into consideration the abovementioned will be described. As a result, participants will be able to see and judge by themselves how this approach facilitates the emergence of resistance ( by first “culture shocking” the students) and subsequent engagement (by also “culturing” the students).
Speaker bio: Javier Salazar is currently a lecturer in at the Kanda Institute of Foreign Languages and Tohoku University. His academic background is in Social Psychology, Cultural Anthropology and Human Informatics and his research interests gravitate towards Intercultural Communication Pedagogy, Communicative Competences Teaching, Gamification in EFL education, Humor in the EFL Classroom, EMI and CLIL.

July 6, 2018
Title: Incorporating Culture in ELT to Enhance Japanese College Students’ L2 vision as intercultural speakers
Speaker: Harumi Ogawa, Ph.D
Description: Harumi will present an exploratory practice (EP) project conducted at a two-year college situated in the area severely affected by the March 2011 earthquake. An EFL course was specifically designed to enhance the students’ future visions of themselves as L2 users (Dörnyei & Kubanyiova, 2014). Harumi will discuss the findings by 1) tracing the trajectories of L2 learning and intercultural experiences of selected interview participants, 2) examining group dynamics and pedagogy adopted for the course, and 3) piecing together an understanding of the role that the teacher played in mobilising one focal participant’s future vision.

June 1, 2018 
Title: Motivated Empathy and the Willingness to Change: Implications for Intercultural Adaptation
Speaker: Hanna Chouchane
Description: When talking about expatriate adaptation, the bulk of the literature is centered around a sojourners ability to efficiently function in a different environment. In particular, authors are generally guided by the concept that cultural empathy (an increase in which facilitates adaptation) is an ability that one possesses or lacks. However, adaptation defined by Shaules (2007) as “allowing for change in oneself as a response to adaptive demands from a different cultural environment” is “limited by one’s ability or desire for change”; a point not often talked about. This study examines the role of motivated empathy in a sojourners willingness to adapt.