Intercultural competence in foreign language teaching and learning: action inquiry in a Cypriot tertiary institution

Georgiou, Mary (2011) Intercultural competence in foreign language teaching and learning: action inquiry in a Cypriot tertiary institution. EdD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This study explores the potential of teaching intercultural competence in foreign language courses through the example of a pedagogical experience in a higher education institution.

Language research increasingly acknowledges the intercultural dimension of foreign language education and foreign language teachers’ social and moral responsibilities. Successful intercultural interactions presuppose unprejudiced attitudes, hence learners’ intercultural competence: tolerance and understanding of other cultures as well as cultural self-awareness. Intercultural communicative competence can therefore be considered as one of the central aims of foreign language education so that learners can successfully communicate with people from different linguistic and cultural worlds. However, there have been few empirical studies which illustrate intercultural competence with a view towards assisting its integration into classrooms.

The main purpose of this investigation is the increased understanding of my practice in order to reconceptualise it as one of a social justice educator, which entails the construction of an understanding of intercultural competence teaching and learning in the foreign language classroom. The study incorporates insights from critical pedagogy, critical multiculturalism, and intercultural competence theories and examines the ways in which the research process has influenced and reshaped my practice, paving the way forward to further improvements for the future.

During a classroom-based study over two academic semesters, I created an intercultural syllabus for my teaching of an English writing course which aimed to facilitate new understandings and insights around cultural diversity and contribute to learners’ responsible citizenship in a democratic society. Participants included all students who were enrolled in these two university classes. Using an action inquiry methodology, the project was a study of my educational practice which addressed five broad research questions. Qualitative data collection and analysis endeavoured to answer these questions by investigating student perceptions of cultural diversity and assessing their response to the syllabus; hence by focusing on the enhancement of students’ intercultural competence, the study sought to identify successful strategies for teaching intercultural competence. Data collection methods included student interviews, student essays, and my reflective diary.

Findings reveal that most learners construct cultural differences as problematic, resort to negative stereotyping, and reproduce essentialised images of the self and of otherness; however, analysis also surfaced a more fluid and ambiguous understanding which portrays cultural others in more positive ways. Additionally, greater and deeper student understanding of intercultural issues is evidenced with reflection on the concept of culture and on migration, increased cultural self-awareness, expression of empathy and solidarity, acknowledgement of heterogeneity within national cultures, and awareness that insufficient knowledge of cultural groups may lead to misconceptions. The identification of ineffective strategies has assisted me in revising the intervention, while the self-reflective process brought to light my own biases towards otherness, assumptions which inform my practice, and ethical dilemmas involved in transformative teaching.

Implications include the significance of affective learning, of student agency in the knowledge production process, and the connection of the educational experience to their lives. They point to the empowering experience for teachers of shaping the curriculum and living out their values in their practice but also to the challenges involved in transformative practices, teaching values, and assessing intercultural competence.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (EdD)
Supervisors: Firth, R.
Smethem, L.
Keywords: Intercultural Competence, Foreign Language Education, Action Inquiry, Classroom-Based Research, Critical Pedagogy
Subjects: P Language and literature > PE English
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 11866
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2011 12:05
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 06:57

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