Brown Mak Neill 2012 Introducing cultural competence within the social psychology curricula

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Key topics in social psychology, such as self-concept formation, group identity and helping behaviour, are underpinned by cultural factors. Therefore, social psychology provides a useful platform for teaching intercultural competence within the context of its core curriculum. This paper describes changes to the curriculum that were implemented in a final year social psychology unit.

These innovations aimed to enhance intercultural awareness and competence while also highlighting the importance of cultural factors to an understanding of key topics in social psychology. Two tutorial activities are described which drew upon the first two stages of teaching cultural competency described in the EXCELL program (Mak, Westwood, Ishiyama, & Barker, 1999); namely Alliance Building (activity 1) and Cultural Mapping (activity 2). The first activity involved students in their introductory tutorial sharing the ‘story’ of their names within their tutorial groups, with an emphasis on any cultural significance attached to their names. Students also created ‘maps’ which represented their self-schemas and discussed the cultural influences on the development of their self-concept and identity. In the second activity, conducted in tutorials 4 weeks later, students engaged in cultural mapping of requesting help. Two scenarios were mapped; one involved adopting the perspective of an international student asking for help, and one where students mapped themselves requesting help in an unfamiliar culture. This was followed by a discussion of situations where help could be offered and perceived cultural barriers to offering help. Students recorded their reflections on these activities via three reflective learning journal entries, and completed a measure of cultural learning at the end of semester. We will report the findings from these measures and discuss the potential benefits of these curriculum changes and the challenges faced in teaching intercultural competence.


Brown, P. E., Mak, A. S., & Neill, J. T. (2012). Introducing cultural competence within the social psychology curriculum: A focus on self, identity, and helping behaviour. Poster presented to the National Showcase on Embedding Intercultural Skills in the Curriculum, University of Canberra, November 12, Australia.

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