Teaching intercultural communication in a service technical writing course: alternative ways of presenting intercultural issues in technical writing textbooks and in real classrooms
Presenting intercultural materials in a service technical writing course has been a challenge for instructors as well as textbook writers. The traditional predominant method of teaching is the information acquisition approach, which presupposes collecting information about cultures and labeling or characterizing cultures using various dimensions and typologies. In textbooks, such an approach leads to the prevalence of factual information about other cultures' communication practices and stereotypes. An alternative method is the dialogic/paralogic approach that sees intercultural communication as interpersonal communication, re-emphasizes the dialogic nature of communication, and focuses on developing in students a better understanding of culture through discussions of their own culture.
However, in order to accept any approach, one must explore the current contexts of teaching and reveal any potential constraints with intercultural teaching that instructors may face in real classrooms. This dissertation is the first in-depth study that examines the teaching contexts and textbooks, using survey, discourse analysis, and quasi-experiment as methodologies, and discusses the problems and constraints that teachers face with intercultural teaching. Such examination allows for better understanding of instructors' needs and helps create an alternative intercultural sub-curriculum for a service technical writing course.
Based on the analysis of teaching and textbook discourses and further theoretical inquiry, I articulate and justify the dialogic pedagogical perspective for intercultural teaching in a service technical writing course. Such a perspective is a compilation of theories and methods offered by philosophy (pragmatism), sociology (symbolic interactionism), applied linguistics (communicative teaching), rhetoric (paralogic hermeneutics), technical communication (Weiss’s dialogic approach) and intercultural training (experiential learning). The combination of those ideas and techniques allows for more complex, thoughtful, and ethical intercultural teaching that relies on developing in students a better understanding of culture as a concept, experiencing cultures, treating intercultural communication as interpersonal communication, and avoiding stereotyping. Such perspective and the results of my research help me develop an alternative preliminary intercultural sub-curriculum for a service technical writing course that can be adapted by instructors for their classes.