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IDR Institute

Constructivist Intercultural Communication

Applying the New Paradigm

Course Description

Intercultural communication is a young field, born into the newly relativistic mid-20th century. It addressed the then-new question, "if you have your own worldview, and I have mine, how can we understand each other?" Early interculturalists gave a powerful answer to that question: we must construct a bridge between them. The course shows how this constructivist idea generated the intercultural theory and applications that are still in use today. People doing intercultural work need to know these roots of the field so they can use the authentic intercultural perspective and not confuse it with other, less powerful approaches to cross-cultural relations.
The course will also explore instances of "paradigmatic confusion," where outcomes based on the new constructivist paradigm are pursued with methods based in earlier positivist or purely relativist paradigms. The most common of these confusions occurs when the constructivist goal of intercultural competence is sought in a positivist assembling of personal characteristics or through a relativist rendering of cultural information. By avoiding paradigmatic confusion, interculturalists can maintain the coherence of perspective that enables extraordinarily effective personal and organizational development.
The course follows and expands on Milton Bennett's text, Basic Concepts of Intercultural Communication: Paradigms, Principles, & Practices (Intercultural Press, 2013). In addition to the focus on a constructivist paradigm, the course reviews a coherent set of intercultural principles with ample illustrations, and it provides the latest updates to the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity - it's measurement and its application.

Target Group

This course is intended for both new and experienced interculturalists who wish to be more effective in their research, teaching, training, coaching, or other applications. It also would be of interest to those outside the field who wish to assess the value of an intercultural perspective in their work. This course serves as the foundation for other courses in this curriculum.


  • Understand the three major paradigms of science and the form they take in social science
  • Analyze case studies of paradigmatic confusion in intercultural applications
  • Review a brief intellectual history of intercultural communication in terms of the paradigms
  • Define and discuss the intercultural perspective and contrast it with other approaches to cross-cultural relations
  • Review the latest definitions, measurements, and applications of the DMIS
  • Apply constructivist principles to course participants' projects.

Resources related to this course

Constructivist Intercultural Communication


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