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Teaching and Learning across Cultures

A Guide to Theory and Practice

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Representing the fruit of a lifetime of reflection and practice, this comprehensive resource helps teachers understand the way people in different cultures learn so they can adapt their teaching for maximum effectiveness.

Drawing on extensive research and cross-cultural experience from around the world, senior missiologist and educator Craig Ott introduces students to current theories and best practices for teaching and learning across cultures. He examines five dimensions of culture's influence on teaching and learning: cognition, worldview, social relations, use of instructional media, and the environmental context. Additional topics include intercultural competence for teachers living in a foreign culture and learning style theory. Case studies, illustrations, diagrams, and sidebars help the theories of the book come to life.

Teaching and Learning across Cultures will be useful for professors and students of missions and intercultural studies as well as intercultural teachers, including development workers, missionaries, teachers of English as a second language, and cross-cultural teachers.

1. Understanding the Challenge
2. Culture and the Teaching Context
3. Learning Styles, Teaching Styles, and Culture
4. The Cognitive Dimension--Part 1: Concrete and Abstract Thinking
5. The Cognitive Dimension--Part 2: Teaching Concrete Thinkers
6. The Cognitive Dimension--Part 3: Holistic and Analytic Cognitive Styles
7. The Worldview Dimension--Part 1: The Influence of Worldview on Learning
8. The Worldview Dimension--Part 2: Teaching for Worldview Change
9. The Social Dimension--Part 1: The Influence of Social Hierarchy
10. The Social Dimension--Part 2: The Influence of Individualism and Collectivism
11. The Media Dimension--Part 1: Instructional Methods
12. The Media Dimension--Part 2: Online Learning and Culture
13. The Environmental Dimension
Works Cited


"I loved this book. In a globalized world where most subject-matter experts consider themselves capable of teaching anywhere in the world, the book is urgently needed. The easy reading style with hundreds of personal examples makes the book helpful in dozens of situations. The book is useful for an American youth pastor leading a short-term team to teach Vacation Bible School in Mexico or a Singaporean businessperson making a sales pitch in Japan. The book is useful for the practitioner and the academician. The frequent reference to research studies and the expansive bibliography make the book a valuable textbook and resource for doctoral students. Ott brings not only solid academic credentials but also years of practical experience in global teaching. This excellent book combines a highly qualified author with a most urgently needed subject matter."

James E. Plueddemann, retired professor, Wheaton College and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; author of Teaching across Cultures

"The most comprehensive treatment of this subject from a Christian perspective that I have yet seen: an excellent in-depth examination of the issues facing cross-cultural workers. The chapters describing the use of traditional methods like stories, songs, and proverbs, and the one on teaching and learning online are by themselves worth the price of the book."

Judith Lingenfelter, coauthor of Teaching Cross-Culturally

"This book, written for Christian cross-cultural educators, is filled with valuable insights from forty years of experience, giving readers a map to navigate cultural differences and strategies to both understand and bridge cultural divides in the classroom. Analyzing cognitive, social, spiritual, and contextual dimensions in cross-cultural classroom encounters, the author provides both broad approaches and specific pedagogical applications that Christian workers should consider to help students thrive."

Mary Shepard Wong, interim associate dean, professor, and director of TESOL field-based programs, Azusa Pacific University

"Craig Ott has provided a valuable service to all intercultural teachers by drawing upon his broad experience as well as current research. This work provides a wealth of insight into critical concerns for teaching in a culture other than your own, written in a style that is very accessible for intercultural teachers at all levels. This is a wonderful resource that I plan to refer to again and again."

W. Jay Moon, professor of church planting and evangelism, Asbury Theological Seminary

"Teaching and Learning across Cultures is a timely book. Ott is a missiologically informed and experienced cross-cultural teacher. He presents case after case of actual experiences, both his own as well as that of others from diverse cultures. The book is further strengthened by presenting the essence of cross-cultural teaching and learning using five dimensions of culture's influence--acting as pillars to which are hung various cross-cultural teaching theories. I recommend this book in that it will benefit not only educators from the West but also the recipients at the other end. Educators and missionaries from both the West and the East, not excluding those who are in higher education in general, will surely benefit from reading this book."

David Tai Woong Lee, director, Global Leadership Focus, Korea; former chairman of WEA Mission Commission

"This book is supremely needed. Ott's treatment is careful, comprehensive, critical, and current in addressing the subject of teaching and learning. The book is well-written and backed by rigorous study. I am amazed at how accessible it is to the reader and packed with numerous relevant and practical illustrations from different contexts. All of these attributes make this book a helpful guide for cross-cultural teachers. This book is not written from the perspective of the West for the rest. The author draws insight from around the globe. Though written from a Christian perspective and primarily for teachers from the West in cross-cultural contexts, the insights in the book will benefit all teachers. I recommend this book enthusiastically to anyone who takes education seriously and wants to do it effectively in the twenty-first century. It is filled with gems of wisdom that will serve the teacher well."

Bulus Galadima, former dean, Cook School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University

The Author

  1. Craig Ott

    Craig Ott

    Craig Ott (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of mission and intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where he also directs the PhD program in intercultural studies. He has written or edited...

    Continue reading about Craig Ott


Outreach 2022 Resource of the Year (Cross-Cultural and Missional)
Southwestern Journal of Theology 2021 Book Award (Evangelism/Missions/Global Church)

"Offers hope to local congregations immersed in the complexities of our cross-cultural world. . . . This book provides strategies to bridge the cultural differences among North American churches. This Cross-Cultural and Missional resource of the year helps to announce the gospel in a compelling way amid a harshly divided Western society splintered into ideological and cultural factions."

Robert Gallagher,


"You need to read this book. Whatever your role or interest in cross-cultural ministry is, you will benefit from this fine work by Craig Ott. . . . This book will appeal to a wide range of audiences. It is strongly recommended for anyone who anticipates serving cross-culturally or is currently doing so. Pastors serving multicultural congregations would also benefit from this work. I have often looked for a book to recommend to those who do modular teaching or seminars cross-culturally and this book fills that need. It would be a solid choice for numerous college courses, both undergraduate and graduate. . . . I anticipate that this book will be a standard for years to come."

Mark D. Wood,

Evangelical Missions Quarterly

"Skilled academic and experienced cross-cultural teacher Craig Ott draws deeply from extensive social research and the experiences of other global colleagues. It is a fruitful confluence of theory and practice resulting in a reliable reference tool for those entering the teaching profession outside their own culture. . . . I urge cross-cultural teachers to read and reread this book. In heeding the pedagogical suggestions offered therein, we will learn to communicate more clearly the character of the God who loves and the Jesus who humbled himself for our salvation."

Duane H. Elmer,


"This book is one of the most comprehensive publications available from a Christian perspective that combines educational theory with cross-cultural communication. . . . Ott's decades of cross-cultural experience and interaction with many others with such experience give credence to the cultural aspects of the book, especially as he deals with the worldview and social dimensions. . . . Ott's abundant sidebar anecdotes from many parts of the world add life and color to the book, and help the reader consider concrete applications. . . . An excellent resource for those preparing to teach cross-culturally, those who are already doing so, and those who are involved in training others for such work."

Stan Kruis,

Calvin Theological Journal