Antje Neuhoff, TU Dresden and Fionnuala Kennedy, Waterford Institute of Technology
The Dresden – Waterford E-tandem Exchange.

Abstract

This paper proposes to show how an adaptation of the Cultura e-tandem approach promoted intercultural dialogue and reflection among a group of students at TU Dresden and Waterford IT. The paper outlines the methodology used for the project, its relationship to LOLIPOP, student engagement and feedback, and the challenges that will need to be addressed for future exchanges.

The aim of Cultura is to ‘develop understanding of the values, attitudes, beliefs and concepts inherent in another culture’: http://alnombak.mit.edu/xoops/modules/news/article.php?storyid=9. This project used adapted versions of the Cultura questionnaires to engage the students in collaborative dialogue, each using their mother-tongue. Student contributions to word associations, sentence completion and reaction to situations will show similarities, differences and tendencies in how the world is viewed. Group discussions allowed the students to reflect on the cultural values influencing their own and others’ contributions. The final step gave students the opportunity to reflect on the overall project.

The paper will show evidence from student feedback that the Cultura exchange was perceived as a very positive experience, with many students reporting improved linguistic and intercultural skills. Reflection on the experience shows that some students were surprised that they had not only learned something about the other culture, but also about their own.

Challenges to the success of the process will be addressed. These were identified by students in their group discussions, and by teachers in the teachers’ forum. The problems were mainly logistical in nature, related to the differing contexts within which the project took place in Dresden and Waterford, and to the overall time-frame for the exchange.