Communicating knowledge of a complex task



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This dissertation focuses on face-to-face communication in an intercultural teaching environment in Japan – foreign national students, few of whom speak Japanese, who master the complexities of the Japanese abacus. The dissertation seeks to account for learning that takes place despite the absence of shared language, arguing that links among concepts, language, movement, object use, and culture are resources for communicating knowledge in specific communities of practice. My project challenges the tendency for intercultural communication research to take a problem-centered view of communication. Such problems are most often attributed to cultural and linguistic differences between speakers. Such a perspective tends to undermine the point that intercultural communication is often successful. This project is proactive in that it seeks to explore elements that facilitate successful communication. My approach toward learning is different from the more traditional cognitive theories of learning characterized by a focus on abstract knowledge. Such theories may be quite restrictive in unveiling the variety of resources critical to the learning process. Finally, my dissertation challenges the traditional practice of treating language as the primary means for communication. That practice may very well hinder researchers in identifying and exploring channels that allow successful communication to transpire. I examine elements crucial to the effective transfer of knowledge, and in so doing, develop new theories of how knowledge of complex tasks is communicated. The project contributes to the understanding of teaching, training, and learning in multicultural/multilingual settings.