Getting to know me, getting to know you: Developing materials to enhance intercultural conversations based on a non-essentialist model of culture 

Project funded by BALEAP 2019-20 


This website disseminates and seeks to further develop teaching and learning materials which stimulate intercultural communication between staff and students in higher education, underpinned by a non-essentialist model of culture, influenced by the work Adrian Holliday (2016;2018), as well as other scholars in our bibliography, in Useful Links and Resources. Our materials were developed as an outcome of the above project, which brought together a team of academics and student support professionals from Northumbria and Nottingham Universities with expertise in healthcare, tourism, Modern Languages and English for Academic Purposes (EAP). They are free, downloadable materials for use with a range of discipline areas and contexts, i.e.  small/large groups, online/face-to-face which are research-informed, underpinned by a shared theoretical perspective and have been evaluated by students and staff. We invite you to download them for free, adapt them to your context if necessary, and let us know how they worked for you and your students. What is more, we hope that you will be inspired to submit materials to this resource bank to keep these conversations going! 

Why teach intercultural communication across the disciplines? 

Intercultural communication is essential for success at university and beyond (Jones, 2013). Students must relate to one another socially to feel a sense of belonging to the community, while participation in multicultural teamwork is often part of teaching, learning and assessment practices. Employers also emphasise the need for intercultural competence (British Council, 2013; CIHE, 2011). Yet, as the literature above indicates, divides between students of different national and ethnic groups persist and employers continue to see a skills deficit in this area. 

What is meant by a non-essentialist model of culture? 

Intercultural communication too often hinges on outdated, simplistic models of culture, which emphasise national identity and cultural difference. This can lead to stereotyping and division and does not produce the communication skills employers require (Kassis-Henderson, Cohen and McCulloch, 2018). This project aims to leverage cutting-edge theory in intercultural communication, where culture is conceived as fluid, dynamic, contested and ambiguous, where the complexity of identity is explored and celebrated to build bridges between self and other and improve teamwork (Holliday, 2016; 2018). A need for dialogue in the curriculum where staff and students can learn from and with each other has been identified (Burns, 2018). The materials here aim to support this approach. 

Intercultural communication is taught by different educators, including EAP practitioners, student support services and discipline specialists, but rarely do they work together as we do here. Find out more about us in Meet the Team. 

References: see bibliography