Course Description

Most approaches to intercultural training have emerged from a post-modern, or relativist paradigm. In addition to making the crucial assumption of cultural relativism, a post-modern paradigm rejects claims of objectivity and criticizes the use of power in the service of dominant worldviews. Now, in an ironic turn of events, post-modernism relativism is also being used to justify “alternative facts” and the unapologetic imposition of them on others.

To avoid enabling this abuse of relativism and to adapt to current social conditions, intercultural training needs to adopt a more constructivist set of assumptions. For instance, culture should not be considered as something people have, but as something people do. Intercultural communication should not be about understanding difference so much as creating new forms of meaning. And intercultural competence should not be a set of traits; it should be the exercise of a new form of consciousness.

This course is about how to redefine the goals and methods of intercultural training in a way that preserves the ideas of cultural identity and diversity while avoiding the pitfalls of political correctness. Further, the course will show how to avoid the inconsistent idea of intercultural competence as an “acquirable trait” and how to teach it more coherently as the enactment of intercultural consciousness. And we will consider how to accomplish this innovation in a way that satisfies existing clients and wins new ones.

Since most training these days is tied to some kind of assessment, the course will also identify the paradigmatic base of assessment tools (usually positivism), consider the deleterious effects of paradigmatic inconsistency with relativist or constructivist-based programs, and explore practical alternatives.


This course is about how to redefine the goals and methods of intercultural training in a way that preserves the ideas of cultural identity and diversity while avoiding the pitfalls of political correctness.


Target Group

Intercultural educators and trainers, administrators of intercultural development programs in educational, corporate, and agency contexts, and other advanced professionals with an interest in developing new skills in this area.

Prerequisite: Facilitating Intercultural Consciousness



  1. Review the three major scientific paradigms introduced in the core course and explore how they guide intercultural training efforts
  2. Recognize the growing problems with relativist-based programs, with specific examples from faculty and participants
  3. Identify three principles of constructivist-based intercultural training and how they translate into specific topics and methods
  4. Consider alternatives to “trait-based” models of intercultural competence, including but not restricted to DMIS
  5. Analyze some current approaches to assessment in terms of paradigm and definition of competence
  6. Acquire some guidelines and examples of how to us constructivist methods for the purpose of needs analysis, assessment, and program evaluation



Dr. Milton Bennett is a senior faculty member of IDRAcadamy and an adjunct member of the Faculty of Sociology at University of Milano Bicocca. During nearly two decades at the University of Minnesota Minneapolis and Portland State University, he facilitated and administered the “Intercultural Communication Workshop” (ICW), which is one of the first, most sophisticated, and most validated intercultural training programs in the field. His well-know constructivist model of intercultural development (DMIS) is partially derived from the ICW experience, and it continues to inform training design and assessment to this day. In addition to his updated text, Basic Concepts of Intercultural Communication: Paradigms, Principles, & Practices (Intercultural Press), Dr. Bennett has recently contributed several articles to The Handbook of Intercultural Training, 3rd Edition (Sage), Multicultural America (Sage), and The International Encyclopedia of Intercultural Communication (Wiley).

One or more senior practitioners who have completed IDRAcademy courses will be invited to join Dr. Bennett and share their experiences using constructivist methods of training and assessment in various global locations and contexts.


Ida Castiglioni



Dr. Ida Castiglioni has her Ph.D. in Intercultural Communication from the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). She teaches and administers the Management of Political and Social Services program in the Faculty of Sociology at the University of Milano Bicocca (Italy), and she coordinates its Erasmus Plus program.