Prof. Hyangsuk Bu
Center for Multicultural Education and Research
Hanyang University,
South Korea.

Prof. Kyunghye Kim
Center for Creative Convergence Education
Hanyang University,
South Korea.

Action Research on a Global Training Program of Intercultural Communication Model


This study aims to present an action research on the 28-day-long global training program which was organized and practiced as an intercultural communication model. The objective of the program was to introduce the model of Korean higher education system to other countries.

Action Research on a Global Training Program of Intercultural Communication Model

Bu, Hyangsuk * Kim, Kyunghye
Hanyang University, Seoul, Korea


This study aims to present an action research on a 28-day-long global training program Higher Education Policy Design and Development. The training program was organized and practiced as an intercultural communication model and was evaluated highly effective. The objective of the program was to introduce the model of Korean higher education system to 12 government officials serving in the Ministry of Education of 7 other countries. As the final products of the program, the participants designed action plans that would be applicable in their home countries. This study developed an intercultural communication model to ground the training process, which ultimately enabled trust building and sustainable relationship through authentic experiences. The intercultural communication model of this study had three aspects: 1) understanding the participants; 2) curriculum design; and 3) administration. At the end of the program, a survey was conducted asking the participant trainees to evaluate the areas of preparation, curriculum, achievement, sustainability and overall quality of the program. The result revealed that the program was highly satisfactory by scoring 89 on preparation, 93.57 on curriculum, 95.56 on achievement, 94.52 on sustainability and 93.33 on the overall quality of the program, the average of which marked 93.40.

I. Introduction

A training program aims to provide the participants with the professional knowledge and technologies that are required in their workplaces. A global training plays a significant role not only to fulfill such fundamental objectives of a training but also to build trust in the relationship between the trainers and the trainees by establishing sustainable communication channels. The trust building among the participating countries becomes a critical element for success in case of global training particularly when it is offered by a government-led organization. Therefore, developing a curriculum that is carefully designed not only to provide professional training but also to nurture intercultural communication and understanding for trust-building is crucial for a successful global training.

Without a well-designed curriculum with the dual objectives mentioned above, the participants will face numerous obstacles. One of the most frequently reported obstacles in a global training is the language barrier (Fantini, 1995). Since the majority of the global training programs are conducted in English while the participants’ native languages are diverse, frequent miscommunication is inevitable. Apart from the language barrier, a single objective only to deliver professional knowledge can be problematic since the development model of the host country cannot be always applicable to the setting of the participating countries (Byram, 1997). The irrelevancy of the curriculum will eventually demotivate the participants from learning. The last disturbance of the global training program is the culture differences between the host and participating countries (Kupla, 2008). If there is no cultural understanding, some of the behaviors that are natural to one culture may be offensive to the other.

The language, knowledge and culture barriers that so far have been illustrated as the major obstacles for successful global training can be summarized as the issues of intercultural communication. In other words, the global training programs without intercultural communication training cannot bring positive effects. Such programs would rather result in the opposite no matter how excellent the contents are.

However, few studies are conducted to develop a well-designed curriculum to achieve the true objectives of the global training for various reasons. First, a training program is not considered to be sustainable since it generally targets a short-period of training for a specific purpose, therefore does not need a curriculum with consistent criteria. Another reason is that there is the strong assumption that consistency in the global training curriculum is not possible or practical due to the diverse cultural backgrounds of the participants. Unfortunately, if there are any interests in global training program development, they are only focused on the delivery of professional knowledge failing to consider the symbolic role of the global training for trust-building.

As mentioned earlier in this section, the major objective of a global training is to establish communication channel to build sustainable rapport between the trainers and the trainees. From this perspective, it is required to develop a curriculum that is grounded in intercultural communication model so that it is applicable to any circumstances which require multilateral understanding and collaboration. This insinuates that it will be valuable to investigate crucial factors for successful global training of intercultural communication model by studying an authentic action model.

This study aims to describe an action model of a global training that is designed by the principles of intercultural communication model. The global training program of this study was organized by the south Korean government office Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). The Center for Multicultural Education and Research at Hanyang university located in Seoul, South Korea developed a 28-day long training program to offer professional training to the government officials serving in the Ministry of Education of 7 other countries. This paper will describe how a global training program of intercultural communication model was organized, practiced and evaluated by the action research method.

II. Theoretical Background for the Study

1. Action Research

Action research is a systematic and reflective approach for a person to seek for solutions to the problems they face (Stringer, 2007). An action research typically follows the routine of three levels; look, think, and act. The outcome of this set of activities is reflected in the following action research to go through another set of look, think, and act process in a recycling manner.

“Look” in the action research is to collect all the relevant sources to clearly illustrate the objective subject of the study. “Think” is to analyze the facts to figure out what the current phenomena indicate about the subject. “Act” is to make a plan, put the plan into practice and evaluate the result. (Kemmis & McTaggart 1999).

A number of researchers point out that the major characteristics of the action research are most applicable in the field of education. Holly, Arthar, and Kasten (2004) explain how action research can be used for curriculum purposes in classroom contexts. Mills (2006) considers action research as a fundamental component of teaching in parallel with the curriculum development, assessment and classroom management. Stringer (2004) applies action research more broadly to classroom teaching, which encompasses the student research and work with their families and communities.

Global training is also suitable for a subject of action research. A set of global training program should be run by a new scope each time because the participants and training contents are always changing. For this reason, a case study on an action research is valuable as the crucial sources to draw the critical factors for successful global training. In this sense, the action research approach is the most suitable method that practitioners of global training have to acquire to apply to their own circumstances.

2. Intercultural Communication Model

The intercultural communication models can be categorized as; compositional models (Howard Hamilton et al., 1998; Deardorff, 2006), developmental models (Bennett, 1986; Gullahorn and Gullahorn, 1962), adaptational models (Kim, 1988; Navas et al, 2005), causal path models (Arasaratnam, 2008; Griffith and Harvey, 2000), and co-orientational models (Byram, 1997; Fantini, 1995, 2001). The compositional models concentrate on components required intercultural communication. They focus on the traits, characteristics, and skills that are required for the intercultural interaction. The developmental models seek to trace the changes stage by stage through a period of time. The adaptational models illustrate the process of mutual adjustment and emphasize the mutual dependence of the multiple interactants, who affect the process of intercultural communication. The casual path models strive to find explicit correlation among the components of intercultural communication. Finally, the co-orientational models highlight the role of cognition in the process of intercultural communication dealing with the concepts of understanding, common prospects, accuracy, immediacy, and clarity. They also pay attention to what motivate the interactants to pursue the common goals when they reach a threshold level of mutual understanding. The co-oreintataional model is considered as the most compatible intercultural communication model to a short-term global training.

Kupla (2008), a representative scholar of co-oreintational model, explains that impression management plays a significant role in intercultural communication for the interactants to interrelate effectively and cordially. In other words, the impression of the others performs an important function in pursuit of shared goals beyond one’s identity and world views. The positive impression in this process is delivered by one’s values, attitudes, and behaviors that enable trust-building among the participants.

Figure1. Intercultural communication model for a global training based on Kupla model

As Kupla (2008) asserted, the positive impression management makes it possible through the interaction of the individual perceptual worlds to see the inter-culture as the interesting and mutual understanding of the shared symbol systems. This is why the co-orientational models are most appropriate for a global training program because the ultimate goal of a global training is the image sharing of the shared symbol systems for trust-building.

The diagram of Figure 1 illustrates the intercultural communication model that the global training program of this study applied. This communication model was developed based on the Intercultural Communication Skills Model of Kupla (2008). Figure 1 indicates that the effectiveness of a global training program of intercultural communication model parallels with the intercultural competencies of the organization who provides the global training. The intercultural communication models categorize five aspects of evaluation on the effectiveness of the training programs of this model.

First is the aspect of understanding. It means how clearly and accurately the contents of the global training program are delivered to the participants so that both the trainers and the trainees share the common objectives and interpretations. The second aspect is the development of relationship that reflects intimacy among the participants. It evaluates how well the relationship is established among the participants through a global training program. Third is the satisfaction of communication in a program. The feeling of satisfaction can help the trainers and trainees build trust, and can be one of the criteria to assess the level of the participants’ intention hoping to build a deeper relationship with the trainers after training. The fourth aspect is related to the goal achievement. It assesses whether the program is well organized to reach the goal of the program. The last aspect is the program evaluation by the participants. For example, the participants are asked whether they would recommend the training program to their colleagues in the future.

To sum up, a global training can promote intercultural communication only if the training program is effectively managed to satisfy clear knowledge transfer, the development of relationship, and sense of accomplishment of the participants. Based upon these theoretical backgrounds, this study utilizes the pre-existing questionnaire developed by KOICA with the items of the program contents, overall satisfaction, sustainability, and sense of accomplishment to evaluate the effectiveness of the global training program it investigates. An item of preparation process is added to the questionnaire to assess the accessibility of the training program since the participants come from numerous other countries.

3. The Context of the Study

The global training program of this study was commissioned by KOICA to offer a professional training on Higher Education Policy Design and Development as one of the KOICA’s global-aid programs called the Capacity Improvement and Advancement for Tomorrow (CIAT). KOICA is a government organization which was established in 1991 to carry out its mission to reduce poverty, promote living standards and help realize sustainable, equitable and inclusive development in the countries in need for global well-being. Some of these efforts are reflected in the CIAT Program which provides opportunities to participants to gain first-hand knowledge of Korea’s development experiences. The programs are designed to enable the participants to apply what they have learned for the development of their home countries. Since 1991, KOICA has offered about 3,700 courses to more than 58,000 participants from 172 countries. The program is offered in a wide range of topics including public administration, economic development, science and technology, agriculture and health. KOICA is committed to constantly renovate its HRD programs so as to meet the changing needs of partner countries.

The training organization, The Center for Multicultural Education and Research, is an affiliated institution which belongs to the Industry-University Cooperation Foundation of Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea. It carries out comprehensive research related to multicultural education such as the international emigration, globalization in order to cope with intercultural cooperation, conflicts, coexisting issues with other people, and to pursue Korean society transforming into the desirable multicultural society.

The center as a comprehensive multicultural research institute conducts various theoretical research, action research to develop practical programs according to the actual necessity, and multicultural exchange program to encourage people to share their ideas from different backgrounds. In addition, it also takes a role of delivering professional lectures of eminent experts, training future multicultural educationalists, developing certificated multicultural education programs, providing professional consulting, and establishing domestic and foreign network to connect foreign multicultural centers.

The global training program Higher Education Policy Design and Development of this study was constructed with the following official objectives.

  • To understand various educational environment of the participating countries;
  • To introduce higher education circumstances including policies, systems, methodology of Republic of Korea;
  • To raise the quality of education and capacity development of the participating countries by assisting them to design feasible higher education policies;
  • To exchange the views on current educational issues of the higher education related sectors with various players;
  • To strengthen international network in the higher education sectors and to expand the base of education ODA business among the participating countries

III. An Action Model of Global Training

The global training program of this study is organized based upon the intercultural communication models as its theoretical background. The implementation of the program is carried out following the process of action research; look, think, and act. Specifically, each step of these three aspects refers to: understanding the participants, organizing the curriculum, and operating the training.

1. Look: Understanding the participants

A total of twelve government officials from seven different countries participated in the global training program. All the participants were serving at the Ministry of Education in their own countries, and their positions were general managers (2 persons), middle-level managers (9), and a high level manager (1). Their ages ranged from twenties (5), thirties (2) and forties (3) to fifties (2). Before the training program began, the contexts of participating countries were examined focusing on their economy, religion, industrial structure, and the number of internet users and colleges. Then as the groundwork for action planning, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of each context were analyzed.

[Table 1] Participant’s contextual information

At the beginning of the program, the participants presented their current issues of higher education in their countries in the form of country report. The current issues reported by each country can be categorized as following; sustainable global partnership (1), improvement of educational circumstances for universal higher education (3), strategies of educational information (1), vocational and technical education (1), and community education (1).

2. Think: Organizing the curriculum

The training program was organized based on the process of Context  Input  Process  Product (CIPP). The CIPP model started from analyzing the contexts of the participating countries and their current issues. Based upon the result of this preliminary analysis, the prospective outcome was established and the curriculum was designed accordingly to achieve the expected outcome. The CIPP model was introduced to monitor each of the process of the training program and to help the participants make a possible decision during the training (Table 2).

The Context of the global training of this study consisted of the global trends and the introduction to Korean higher education. Input was made with the common issues and differentiated issues in higher education. Process included the strategies to deal with the current issues of participating countries. Product handled the modules for setting action plans. Along with the CIPP process, an Experience module was added, which helped the participants better understand the host country, South. Korea through several field trips, industrial inspections, culture inquiries, and culture experiences.

[Table 2] CIPP(context, Input, Process, and Product) Model for making curriculum

The program was carried out smoothly following the stages of CIPP process for 28 days. A total of 122 hours were allotted for the whole training, which consistied of three hours of entrance ceremony and orientation, 45 hours of lectures, 10 hours of industrial inspection, eight hours of activities for relationship building, 32 hours of introspection for problem solution, and 4 hours of evaluation and completion ceremony.

3. Act: Operating the training

The operation of the global training of this study had four aspects. The first was offering the principles of higher education models. The second aspect included the lectures and field trips to enable the participants to make connection between the principles and the actual cases. Third was for the participants to construct action plans that were applicable to their own contexts by analyzing Korean higher education model. The last aspect was to provide the time for cultural experiences to understand Korean culture.

These four aspects of the training were distributed for action throughout the week. For example, from Mondays to Thursdays, the participants attended the lectures on the theories and application cases and then were engaged in reflective discussions to work on their action plans. Fridays and Saturdays were assigned for the field trips and culture experiences. The daily schedule started at 9:30 AM and ended at 5:50 PM. The first three hours in the morning were the lectures on the theories, and more lectures on application cases followed for two hours in the afternoon. After the day’s lectures, the participants had reflective discussion sessions to prepare their action plans that they would adopt in the situations of their own countries.

[Table 3] The role of practitioners for the global training

Although the action plan module took up only one aspect of the training, the whole program, in fact, was oriented toward designing action plans for each country. From the sessions of lectures to the reflective discussions, the lecturers, facilitators and student supporters worked together to help the participants to clearly understand the principles and the application cases of Korean higher education so that the participants were able to work on feasible action plans for their own contexts (see Table 3).

The major objective of the global training of intercultural communication model is for the participants to draw practical action plans for their own countries by reinterpreting Korean higher education models. The action plans that the participants establish during the training are virtually to design the structural aspects of the policies referring to the experts’ consultations in order to settle the current issues and urgent problems of their countries. For this, the participants made a report on their current issues in higher education at the beginning of the training, then while the training program was running, they analyzed the application cases and theories of Korean higher education in comparison to their own. Finally, the action plan workshop guided the participants to systematically organize their plans with specific details to report as their final portfolios (Table 4).

[Table 4] Approach to establishing action plans

IV. Assessment of the Global Training of Intercultural Communication Model

1. The Participants’ Assessment

After the whole training program was completed, the participants’ assessment on the training program was made in the following five aspects; preparation process which participants offered, quality of the contents, participants’ products, sustainability, and overall satisfaction. The results were converted to scores based on five-point scale; very dissatisfied, dissatisfied, neither dissatisfied nor satisfied, satisfied and very satisfied, to 100 points. The grades of the five categories mentioned above is summarized as follows; preparation process 89.0, contents 93.57, participants’products 95.56, sustainability 94.52, and overall satisfaction was 93.33. This reveals the average of the total scores is 93.40.

In case of Preparation process, the questions included how specific the information about the evaluation process was (91.7), if a clear guideline for processing was provided (86.7), whether the process of selecting participants as a manpower in the related field was proper or not (88.3), and the overall satisfaction of participants’ achievement (91.7).

The quality of the training contents were evaluated by following criteria; the quality of lecturers and the suitability of teaching methods (95), the appropriateness of educational equipment, tools, and materials (95), the contents fitting the goal of training (95), the correspondence of the subjects of lectures for participating countries’ higher education (90), the proper contents of setting their action plans (90), and the propriety of field trips (95). Lastly, the participants made comments regarding their assessment on the overall program.

  • All the activities were better than I had expected.
  • All lecturers professionally delivered good lectures with good teaching methods. I really appreciated that all the staff at training organization have offered everything we all needed for the program.
  • The program, Higher Education Policy Design & Development, helped me to set my action plan in practice. The group of instructors, classes, and teaching materials satisfied me, and what I have learned during the program will help me to develop the educational system in my country.
  • I was really satisfied with the contents offered by the instructors.
  • Two or Three lectures were not related to the program. Although most lecturers satisfied me, some did not. I hoped I would have enough time to discuss college programs and policies with the group of lecturers.

The goal achievement of the training program revealed that; the effectiveness of the program (95), the degree of helping to action plans (93.3), the degree of helping to understand South. Korea (96.7), and the satisfaction level of the overall program (96.7). The participants also commented on the goal achievement as follows:

  • I could gain information about Korean history and life. I set up the goal to improve the educational system in my country with a hope.
  • I learned how to build an action plan through the program, and I will teach that to my coworkers when I get back to my home country.
  • I could learn a lot of information about higher education by sharing thoughts and experiences of higher education with the other participants.
  • Following improvements were recommended; The session which develops the abilities to design educational policies is needed. I recommend that the training organization have to interact more and more.

As for the aspect of the sustainability, the assessment was made in six areas; the accessibility of the contents of training in each country (95), the degree of theory use in their work (96.7), intention to recommend the program to their coworkers (98.3), the degree of helping to set work plans (96.7), intention for networking of the follow-up services (91.7), and the satisfaction of the sustainability during overall training process (91.7). Participants added their opinions in their comments as in the following.

  • Actually, it is somewhat difficult to apply the knowledge and information learned during the program to my work place.
  • I will share the knowledge I learned from the program with my coworkers, and will establish our own educational policies. it will change the education of my country for the better.
  • The program was such a short-time training, but I gained not olny a lot of knowledge but also memorable friendship I will never forget.
  • I am really lucky to participate in the program, and it became my good experience, I also want to take part in another KOICA program.

Finally, the overall satisfaction for the program had the value 99.3 points. There are some reasons for that.

  • It was excellent that the planning of KOICA and Center for Multicultural Education and Research at Hanyang University, the selection of the group of instructors, field trips, facilities.
  • It was difficult to communicate with KOIKA bus drivers. The workers at information desk at KOICA need to be more kind.
  • I am so happy to share the information and knowledge with my cowokers when I go back to my country. I met awesome Korean people, and I hope we will be such good cooperators with each other. The program provided me with the unforgettable experience which will change my future, and I really appreciate that.
  • I certainly love the other participants, all staff, and all Korean stuff! People were so nice and kind. The staff were always ready to help me. Also, Korean food and culture were so fantastic. The only problem during program was that I could not sleep well due to jet-leg.
  • Thanks to the wonderful training program, all the participants including myself obtained good results.

2. Self-assessment

The global training of this case study aims to provide a quality training so that the participants could return to their countries having positive images of the host country, South Korea as a place for communication. At the beginning of the program, some participants had wait-and-see attitude as an evaluator or it seemed like that they felt awkward. After the training, however, they left heartful messages such as; “Thanks, I learned a lot of things,” “Thanks for Koreans’ diligence,” and “I found many lovely friends in Korea.” These messages of positive feedback indicated that the program was not only delivering lectures but also building trust to be the place for communication.

The global training is also a channel of drills to develop the relationship between host country and participating countries. The participants’ evaluation supported that the goal of the training has been successfully achieved ; “This action plan I have made during the training will help to build and develop better higher education policies in my country,” “I won the most memorable friendship in my life here!” and “I want to participate in other KOICA programs, too.”

In the summative evaluation workshop in which all the lecturers, facilitators, staff members, and supporters participated, they expressed that the training was such a valuable experience. Looking forward to working with new participants, they discussed the new aspects to be reflected in the next training program which will be the developmental model of the existing methods. After all, the global training program of intercultural communication model has become the place of communication offering positive experiences to both the participants and the organization. The global training experiences have produced valuable results which realize intercultural understanding, communication, trust-building, and positive attitudes to collaborate in the future.


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