Constructivist Intercultural Training: Theory & Practice

This course uses the Constructivist paradigm to reorient intercultural training from acquiring skills to developing an intercultural consciousness. That consciousness allows us to exercise intercultural capacity across global and domestic contexts, reducing both ethnocentrism and racism.  More than specific or even general cross-cultural skills, intercultural consciousness creates the potential for adapting to unknown future social conditions that may emerge from conditions such as unprecedented population mobility, bio technical advances, and increased awareness of racial and social inequalities. This kind of adaptation is what is now being demanded by global business, diversity and inclusion programs, and international/multicultural education.


Learning Objectives

  • Learn a brief history of traditional and scientific knowledge paradigms, enabling an understanding of both the lure of traditional approaches to “otherness” and the necessity of using a new paradigm to address that issue in the future.
  • Identify three principles of constructivist-based intercultural training and how they translate into more effective and coherent program design and implementation.
  • Recognize the limitations of “trait-based” models of intercultural competence and explore the alternative approach of conscious perceptual development
  • Understand the dilemma resolutions that fuel movement through the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity and practice training applications
  • Consider how intercultural consciousness can be applied to issues of multicultural diversity, racism, equity, and inclusion.


Target Group

Intercultural educators and trainers that are facing an increasingly knowledgeable clientele who are looking for new approaches to dealing with otherness.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion consultants who want to explore how self-reflexive consciousness can compliment traditional approaches to approaching “otherness” in organizations and society.

IDI Qualified Administrators (and other users of DMIS-based measurements) who want to acquire new ways of thinking about “what to do next” for facilitating intercultural development.

Administrators of intercultural development programs in educational, corporate, and agency contexts who want to go beyond standard knowledge, attitudes, and skills for developing individual and organizational adaptive potential.

Other advanced professionals with an interest in developing new skills in this area.

Pre-course reading is available for prospective participants unfamiliar with intercultural constructivism.



Most approaches to intercultural training have emerged from a post-modern, or relativist paradigm. In addition to making the crucial assumption of cultural relativity, 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 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.




Milton J. Bennett, Ph.D.

Milton Bennett Ph.D. is a senior faculty member of IDRAcademy 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-known 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 the following two decades Dr. Bennett designed and conducted intercultural training for global business and international/multicultural education in the USA, Western and Central Europe, and Asia. He has been on the executive development faculties of the Stockholm School of Business, Tuck/Dartmouth School of Business, Motorola University, Boeing Leadership Center, Eni University, and currently, the Global Leadership Program.

In addition to his updated text, Basic Concepts of Intercultural Communication: Paradigms, Principles, & Practices (Intercultural Press), Dr. Bennett has contributed several articles to The Handbook of Intercultural Training, 3rd Edition (Sage) and 4th Edition (Cambridge), Multicultural America (Sage), The International Encyclopedia of Intercultural Communication (Wiley), and the Cambridge Handbook of Intercultural Communication. He also has recently authored chapters on the topics of Hate (The Psychology of Hate Crimes and Domestic Terrorism: Praeger) and Suppression of Consciousness (Indoctrination to Hate: Praeger). His educational background includes studies in physics and literature for a BA from Stanford University, an MA in psycholinguistics from San Francisco State University, and a Ph.D. in Intercultural Communication and Sociology from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.