Chapter 7: Up for the Challenge? The Role of Disorientation and Dissonance in Intercultural Learning

Andrea Paras and Lynne Mitchell

Experiences of cognitive dissonance can help explain shifts in development of intercultural competence. Quality global learning experiences should embrace opportunities to encounter and be made uncomfortable by difference and encourage students to recognize dissonance when it occurs.

Discussion Questions

  1. This chapter provides a framework that explains how students use different cognitive strategies to resolve cognitive dissonance during study abroad. Can you anticipate what kinds of cognitive dissonance your students may encounter during your program? How can you use this chapter’s framework within your own program or discipline to identify different cognitive strategies and respond in ways that encourage your students’ learning?
  2. Effective intercultural learning should involve a balance of discomfort followed by reflection and effective resolution strategies in a supportive environment, although too much dissonance can lead to paralysis, confusion, or in the worst cases even trauma. How can instructors determine what is an appropriate level of cognitive dissonance and when to intervene to provide additional support?
  3. What supports can faculty put into place as students experience cognitive dissonance prior to, during, and after a study abroad program to encourage students’ learning and success?
  4. Written reflections can be a useful tool for instructors to identify instances of cognitive dissonance and make timely interventions to support students’ intercultural learning. What kinds of writing prompts would be appropriate in your discipline and cultural context that would encourage reflection and facilitate intercultural learning?
  5. Individual students may have differing levels of capacity to respond to cognitive dissonance. How can instructors tailor different forms of support to meet the needs of individual students?