Learning activities to develop cross-cultural competency Faculty Spark - View, reflect and apply

Last updated on 14/10/2019

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How can academics develop cross-cultural competency within students? A/Prof Karine Dupre discusses an ice-breaker activity that was used to enhance students cross-cultural competency skills and develop the integration of student group members.


In a multicultural world, students must not only be able to demonstrate an awareness of other cultures, but an appreciation and an ability to work within culturally diverse teams. In an effort to prevent any sense of cultural differentiation, an icebreaker activity was introduced which paired up culturally diverse students.


This activity is best conducted In the first week of the course, to enhance students cross-cultural competencies from the start. Within this activity, students were having a picture (relevant to your discipline) on their forehead and were facing each other. Each one takes turn to describe the picture by miming so the other student can guess it. Only body language or drawing (depending of the discipline) was to be used to describe the picture, and two rounds of this activity are included so that each student has the opportunity to mime and guess. By placing all students on an even playing field in which they had to mime, it highlighted that each member has something to contribute to group work, irrespective of their culture or ethnicity.


This activity has been successful in breaking the ice in a fun and engaging way for students. All students, irrespective of English-language skills, are made to feel equal as the spoken language is not used and students have to test their professional knowledge in a fun way. It is also a way to test the discipline knowledge of the students and to introduce some changes in the course if needs be to support them in further learning.


If you are looking to implement this approach, here are some tips:

  • Pair up students yourself to ensure that students do not work with with their friends.
  • Ensure that the picture related to your discipline is easy enough to mime or draw so that it is not overly challenging for students. The main purpose of this task is to break down those cultural stereotypes.
  • Ensure that you have a back-up plan for students who may feel uncomfortable placing pictures on their foreheads. Can they place it on their elbow or back instead? Alternatively, model the activity for them so that they have an understanding of what is entailed in the activity.
  • Support the quieter students and give them some suggestions on how they could mime the item.
  • Have two rounds of the activity so that each student has the opportunity to mime and guess.
  • Facilitate a wrap-up at the conclusion of the activity. Ask students what they knew about the picture. This will allow other students to extend their professional knowledge.

Griffith Graduate Attributes

This learning activity aligns with Graduate Attribute 6, "Effective in culturally diverse and international environments." The key outcome for this activity is to break down cultural stereotypes and develop connections between culturally diverse cohorts of students.

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Preferred Citation

Dupre, K. & Learning Futures. (2019). Learning activities to develop cross-cultural competency. Retrieved from https://app.secure.griffith.edu.au/exlnt/entry/4725/view