Academic journal article NACTA Journal

A Model of Faculty Cultural Adaption on a Short-Term International Professional Development Experience

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

A Model of Faculty Cultural Adaption on a Short-Term International Professional Development Experience

Article excerpt

Abstract

College of agriculture graduates must be prepared to work effectively within a global workforce and to have cross-cultural experiences. Unfortunately, every student is not able to participate in study abroad programing. However, students benefit from global perspectives integrated into the curriculum. Teaching faculty must possess an understanding of culture in order to effectively educate their students. The purpose of this study was to develop a grounded theory to explain the process of cultural adaptation that occurred when one group of U.S. faculty traveled abroad for a short-term professional development experience. The following eight stages emerged from the study: preparation and planning, excitement, frustration, building relationships, cultural comparisons, cultural understanding, cultural appreciation, advancing expertise and future plans. Faculty participants uniquely experienced a variety of stages of cultural adaptation, although not in the same sequence. Facilitators of similar experiences should take these stages into account as they plan study abroad programs.

Introduction

Graduates from colleges of agriculture must be prepared to work in a global economy (National Research Council, 2009). A globalized agricultural industry requires graduates with cross-cultural experiences and an understanding of agricultural issues around the globe (Acker, 1999). A preferred way to provide international experiences for undergraduates is study abroad (Tritz & Martin, 1997). However, financial limitations and language differences are often reported as barriers to studying abroad (Briers, Shinn, & Nguyen, 2010). Faculty can avoid these barriers while simultaneously reaching more students by integrating global perspectives in courses they teach on-campus (National Research Council, 2009). However, this approach requires faculty to have an understanding of both the culture and the technical discipline as applied in a given country. This study explores how faculty adapted during a short-term international professional development experience in Trinidad and Tobago.

Conceptual Framework/Review of Literature

This study was conducted with the intent of developing grounded theory to explain the process of cultural adaptation that occurred when one group of U.S. college faculty traveled abroad for a shortterm professional development experience. As Lincoln and Guba (1985) acknowledged, "No a priori theory could anticipate the many realities that the inquirer will inevitably encounter in the field, nor encompass the many factors that make a difference at the micro (local) level'' (p. 205). However, this study was informed by two contrasting works on culture shock (Oberg, 1960) and the intercultural adaptation process (Hottola, 2004), specifically in the tourism sector. These works helped the authors to consider the phenomenon of cultural adaptation prior to exploring its existence in an academic professional development context. An overview of the relevant theories follows.

The concept of culture shock was first described by Oberg (1960) to describe the unpleasant feelings and stress a sojourner experiences in an unfamiliar culture. Oberg hypothesized that four stages exist within the process of culture shock: honeymoon, crisis, recovery and adjustment. These stages follow the "U-Curve" pattern proposed by Lysgaard (1955) to represent the emotional highs and lows associated with the process of culture shock. The honeymoon stage is characterized by the excitement and euphoria associated with being in a new environment. Sojourners are likely to overlook minor grievances and focus on the positive. The honeymoon stage gives way to the crisis stage as sojourners begin to experience frustration and anxiety as a result of the differences between the new environment and their home environment. A lack of familiarity may drive the sojourner to seek interactions with other nationals from their home country (Oberg, 1960). …

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