Managing an intercultural classroom can be a daunting task for an ESL teacher. Perceived knowledge and attitudes can temper intercultural interactions, and teachers have a better chance of success if they have been trained in intercultural communicative competence.

This research surveyed four TESOL programs in the Northeast U.S. Faculty and program administrators were interviewed and their survey responses were analyzed using Byram’s model of Intercultural Communicative Competence. The model outlines learning competencies like the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and critical cultural awareness of the student. Instead of applying the learning competencies to the student, they were applied to the TESOL program.

The research showed that each program places a different value on intercultural communicative competency. SUNY Albany and Penn State relied primarily on the interactions of the diverse cultures within the program. The University of Pennsylvania TESOL program, however, is designed to promote understanding and cultural tolerance among its students. Adelphi University had the strongest intercultural training of the four programs. Unique activities include field trips to Native American reservations and poor, urban schools, social justice readings, and exercises to promote cultural self-awareness.

The Adelphi University TESOL program could be used as a model for other universities that wish to train their TESOL students to communicate effectively with the different cultures that they will encounter in the classroom. Though the program does not account for all of Byram’s learning objectives, it certainly strives to affect the attitudes of its students, while challenging their existing knowledge, and developing skills and critical cultural awareness.


International and Intercultural Communication | Teacher Education and Professional Development