Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Moral Economies of Creative Labour Conference

Last week, I helped out with another conference in ICS. When I signed up to help out, I thought I would be done with my upgrade document before the conference...that was overly optimistic, as usual. Still, I attended most of the talks and worked on my PhD before and after sessions.
Since the topic of the conference isn't related to my field, I didn't expect it to really help my research. But just talking about my work with other academics was surprisingly helpful, and I even got some interesting points out of the presentations that could be applied to my work. Discussions of methodology were useful, too--it's always good to hear about research techniques, regardless of the topic.
I had a chat with Dr. Sabina Siebert from the University of Glasgow about my research project, and she recommended that I look at Kirkpatrick's model of learning evaluation. Now that I've read up on it, I can't see why it hasn't been used in evaluations of the Fulbright Program. How have I never seen this before?
This model provides a systematic process for assessing programme outcomes, regardless of whether it's business training or something like the Fulbright Program. For my research, business language can be replaced with "culture learning" language. The objective for Level 2--Knowledge, for example, can be changed to "Measure changes in cultural knowledge, cross-cultural communication skills, and attitudes towards the host nation".
Getting such a useful new tool for my project makes me feel a bit better about spending time mingling with academics instead of working on the upgrade...

Friday, 8 July 2011

4th of July Abroad

It goes without saying really, but the 4th of July abroad is just the 4th of July--the day between the 3rd and the 5th. This year, it landed on a Monday so I chose not to even try to host a party. On my very first 4th of July in the UK, I had a BBQ in the park near campus with a very mixed international group of friends (but no other Americans--my American coursemates all happened to be back in the States at the time). It was great--I baked chocolate chip cookies and we had hot dogs, corn-on-the-cob, etc. I never drink it, but I bought some Budweiser just for the occasion. I wore my Bruce Springsteen t-shirt with the "Born in the U.S.A." album cover on it. That day, surrounded by friends from India, China, Venezuela, Libya and Britain, all wishing me a happy Independence Day--well, it was awesome.
It was a perfect example of cultural mediation in educational exchange, too: sharing your cultural traditions with other international students. They asked me questions about typical Independence Day celebrations and I learned about their national days. It's all about the 2-way exchange, communicating and working towards mutual understanding--getting some empathy established between people of different cultural backgrounds.
This year, being a Monday, we just went to T.G.I.Friday's for an American dinner. I didn't feel nearly as patriotic as I usually do on the 4th, but it was nice to have a taste of home. Spending Independence Day in Britain always feels a bit like I'm fraternising with the enemy, though...What would our founding fathers think?