Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 287–301 | Cite as

Gender, religion, and sociopolitical issues in cross-cultural online education

  • Zareen ZaidiEmail author
  • Daniëlle Verstegen
  • Rahat Naqvi
  • Page Morahan
  • Tim Dornan


Cross-cultural education is thought to develop critical consciousness of how unequal distributions of power and privilege affect people’s health. Learners in different sociopolitical settings can join together in developing critical consciousness—awareness of power and privilege dynamics in society—by means of communication technology. The aim of this research was to define strengths and limitations of existing cross-cultural discussions in generating critical consciousness. The setting was the FAIMER international fellowship program for mid-career interdisciplinary health faculty, whose goal is to foster global advancement of health professions education. Fellows take part in participant-led, online, written, task-focused discussions on topics like professionalism, community health, and leadership. We reflexively identified text that brought sociopolitical topics into the online environment during the years 2011 and 2012 and used a discourse analysis toolset to make our content analysis relevant to critical consciousness. While references to participants’ cultures and backgrounds were infrequent, narratives of political-, gender-, religion-, and other culture-related topics did emerge. When participants gave accounts of their experiences and exchanged cross-cultural stories, they were more likely to develop ad hoc networks to support one another in facing those issues than explore issues relating to the development of critical consciousness. We suggest that cross-cultural discussions need to be facilitated actively to transform learners’ frames of reference, create critical consciousness, and develop cultural competence. Further research is needed into how to provide a safe environment for such learning and provide faculty development for the skills needed to facilitate these exchanges.


Cross-cultural communication Power Hegemony Critical consciousness 



Stacey Friedman, Associate Director Evaluation and Planning at FAIMER for her support. Brownell Anderson and Karen Mann for reviewing the article and for their valuable suggestions. Gwen Martin for editorial assistance.


This work was supported by the Gatorade Trust through funds distributed by the Department of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, U.S.A. and by the Medical Education Travelling Fellowship awarded by ASME to the first author.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

IRB approval was obtained through the Foundation University, Pakistan, on commencement of the study; Approval to use the FAIMER data was obtained through FAIMER.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zareen Zaidi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniëlle Verstegen
    • 2
  • Rahat Naqvi
    • 3
  • Page Morahan
    • 4
  • Tim Dornan
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of MedicineUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Educational Development and Research, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life SciencesMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  4. 4.FAIMER InstituteDrexel University College of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA

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