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Published Doctor of Education dissertation, University of Northern Colorado, 2012. This study explored how the learners-as-ethnographers (LAE) approach facilitated intercultural learning among American students learning Chinese as a foreign language. learning experiences in a non-immersion context. I designed six ethnographic tasks for the 15 university students who registered for the Elementary Chinese class in 2010. The students were required to complete four of the ethnographic tasks, write an essay for each, and report their explorations of the linguistic and/or cultural phenomena in the U.
Intercultural Conmmunication Essay Example
S. and a Chinese-speaking community. At the end of the semester, I conducted two focus groups and interviewed 11 of the students. A total of 56 students’ essays and two interview transcriptions underwent thematic analyses. Results show that the ethnographic tasks created learning opportunities for students to recognize and evaluate cultural stereotypes, impacts of contextual or situational factors on cultural artifacts/practices/perspectives, culture-specific connotations or misunderstanding, and potential bias in the intercultural exploration.
Moreover, the intercultural learning assignment added an important dimension to the foreign language course, motivating learners to notice, contemplate, and inquire into the taken-for-granted linguistic and cultural phenomena in their native community. Students PR EV IE W Two research questions addressed the effectiveness of the LAE approach and students’ became aware that culture was situational and contextual. Gradually, their intercultural communicative competence developed.
These findings confirm the benefits of the LAE approach reported in the previous studies. Analyses of students’ reflections upon their explorations yield five themes concerning (1) design of the intercultural learning assignment and ethnographic tasks; (2) accessibility to native speakers and validity of the interview information; (3) selection and use of the information from the Internet; (4) influence of having study abroad experiences; and (5) cultural representations. The five themes reveal the complexity of collecting and interpreting information.
Discussions on the revealed issues point to directions for future researchers on intercultural education and propose suggestions for classroom practitioners to expand the benefits of the LAE approach. PR EV IE W intercultural learning in a non-immersion context, particularly the difficulties of ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Dana Walker, for her auspicious modeling, thorough guidance, and endless encouragement. I would also like to thank my committee members, Dr. Deborah Romero, Dr. Madeline Milian, and Dr. Elizabeth Franklin for their insightful suggestions and assistance in increasing the value of this dissertation.
Factual knowledge, linguistic competence, and communicative competence— which are promoted by the traditional grammar translation approach and communicative language teaching approach, respectively—are not the only attributes to PR EV IE W plenty of opportunities to communicate with the local people in the school community 2 successful intercultural communications. When I took an ethnography class and read research studies on using the learners-as-ethnographers (LAE) approach in language classrooms (e. . , Carel, 2001; Byram & Feng, 2005; Roberts, Byram, Barro, Jordan, & Street, 2001), I was convinced by those scholars’ assertions that language learning requires cultural learning and that LAE is an effective approach to learning culture and language. I began to consider integrating the LAE approach into the Elementary Chinese course that I was teaching to enhance the American students’ intercultural learning. This chapter reports my exploration of intercultural education, the LAE
Language Education and Intercultural Learning The growing mobility of people as well as the escalating access to the World Wide Web has resulted in escalating cross-cultural encounters (Pugh & Hickson, 2003). These abundant cross-cultural contacts and communications point to the importance of intercultural education. Learners need opportunities to develop intercultural awareness or intercultural communicative skills for effective communication with people from different socio-cultural backgrounds and use language in different ways.
Research has found that misunderstandings and communication breakdowns among people from different social groups often result from the culture-embedded schema the speakers use to perceive the situations and each other and the meanings they associate with the settings rather than different languages (Gudykunst & Kim, 1992; Gumperz, Jupp, & Roberts, 1979; Littlewood, 2002; Paige, Jorstad, Siaya, Klein, & Colby, 2003). There have been historical and theoretical shifts in language educational goals from linguistic competence to communicative competence and increasing attention to
PR EV IE W approach, and how to integrate the LAE in intercultural education. 3 intercultural learning. In the 1960s, linguistics and language education were dominated by the sentence-level paradigm led by the theoretical linguist Chomsky. In the 1970s, the functional linguists Halliday and Hasan (1976) challenged the narrowness of Chomsky’s model of language and innate mechanism for learning language, while the anthropological linguist Hymes (1972) proposed communicative competence. Hymes and Halliday and their associates (e. g. Halliday & Hasan, 1976; Heath, 1983; Hymes, 1972; Trueba, Guthrie, & Au, 1981; Watson-Gegeo, 1988) argued that language has social and cultural origins and should be analyzed with its context considered. Since enhancing learners’ communicative competence rather than linguistic competence (for discussion, see Leung, 2005). Intercultural education entails an affective domain and an ethical purpose for improving intercultural understanding and communication, in addition to the linguistic understanding. The goals include developing “empathy toward a second culture and its people” (Hammerly, 1982, p. 24), “attitudes toward other societies” (Seelye, 1984, p. 9), and willingness to de-center and to relativize one’s values, beliefs, and behaviors (Byram, Nichols, & Stevens, 2001). Intercultural education also stretches learners’ imaginations and world views. Stern (1992) insists that the foreign language (FL) course syllabus should consider language learners’ perspectives on the culture of the social community speaking the target language (TL) because the cultural syllabus can build background and context and bring the speech community to life for foreign language learners.
The cross-cultural syllabus helps foreign language learners, to whom the target language community is usually physically remote and the cultures PR EV IE W then, the predominant school of thought has viewed language educational goals as 4 shaping the language are psychologically distant, to “vicariously experience that reality” (p. 223). Integrating Intercultural Learning into Foreign Language Curricula The ties of language and culture and of cultural education and affective domains are fully illustrated in Agar’s (1994) notion of “Languaculture” (p. 0) and Lange and Paige’s (2003) view of culture as the core of language education. Language educators have achieved a consensus that communicative competence for foreign language learners should be developed in conjunction with intercultural learning (Byram & Feng, 2005; Byram et al. , 2001). Researchers have confirmed that when people learn a cultural norms or procedures for interpretation and forms of reasoning (Trueba et al. , 1981; Watson-Gegeo, 1988).
In order to maximize understanding in international communication, foreign language education must help learners develop the awareness that culture affects the values, attitudes, and behaviors of people from different sociocultural communities (Gaston, 1992). Kramsch (1993) echoed Gaston, asserting that the purpose of foreign language education is “cultivating international understanding, responsibility, and effective participation in a global age” (p. 258). Indeed, there has been increasing advocacy for integrating intercultural learning into foreign language curricula.
The National Standards (1996) issued by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) includes culture as one of the five core contents and unambiguously relates three of the standards to culture. The post 9/11 survey U. S. Business Needs for Employees with International Expertise reports that a majority of employers value “an appreciation for cross-cultural differences” and PR EV IE second language, they learn not merely a structure for communication, but the socio- W 5 “a global perspective” (Kedia & Daniel, 2003).
More recently, the document Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World issued by the Modern Language Association (MLA) in 2007 places considerable emphasis on the role of culture in a transformed approach to language education. It explicitly states that “recent world events have demonstrated, deep cultural knowledge and linguistic competence are equally necessary if one wishes to understand people and their communities” (p. 2). Current Problems in Intercultural Education challenges to decide what aspects of culture should be taught and how (Corbett, 2003; Stern, 1992).
In this section, I will discuss difficulties in teaching culture. Then, I will narrow the focus to three particular challenges facing classroom teachers: the lack of attainable instructional objectives, workable pedagogic approaches, and practical material. Problems in Intercultural Syllabus Stern (1992) observes five interwoven difficulties in the cultural syllabus: the vast concept of culture, incoherent educational goals, lack of access to required information, incorporation of cultural teaching in a predominately language-oriented pedagogic approach, and integration of the substantial subject material in a mainly skilloriented program (p. 07). Among the five problems, the vast concept of culture is the basic problem leading to the others. Culture was viewed as a noun, which could be and must be pre-defined to be implemented in teaching (e. g. , Brooks, 1964; Chastain, 1976). Such an assumption has limited the educational goals to memorizing fragmental “facts” PR EV IE W Despite the increasing attention to intercultural education, educators face 6 and analyzing available information.
While The Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century (National Standards in Foreign Language Educational Project, 1999) has given cultural learning a prominent role in American foreign language education in three (out of five) content areas (culture, communication, and comparison), a close examination of the Standards reveals that knowledge is prioritized over skills and attitudes and that there is a general vagueness regarding cultural learning processes (Erin, 2008). Limiting the content of intercultural syllabi to factual knowledge is not only ata and the limited access to information increase the difficulty for foreign language teachers to decide what they should teach, how they should teach, and why they should be teaching cultures. A survey funded by the U. S. Department of Education was conducted among 1,566 high school foreign language teachers. The results show that the major difficulty in adopting the culture syllabus and attaining the Standards was the lack of a “conceptual framework into which cultural information can fit that is described in the standards” (Social Science Education Consortium, 1999, p. 5).
Goals of Intercultural Education The convenient access to information via multimedia and advanced telecommunication technology in this era of information explosion has changed the perspective on culture, altered educational contexts, and directed the challenges in intercultural education to another paradigm. The goals of intercultural education have moved from transacting information and analyzing certain cultural behaviors to equipping students with skills to explore cultures. One decade after Stern’s PR EV IE W problematic but impractical. As Fischer (1997) points out, the lack of “representative” 7 bservations in 1992, Corbett (2003) defines the educational goals of the intercultural syllabus as goals to overcome the limitations of the prescriptive knowledge in textbooks, to develop skills of exploring cultures, to motivate interest in exploring cultures, and to avoid intercultural misunderstanding. Indeed, intercultural learning cannot be evaluated by quantity but should be seen as “the process of acquiring the culture-specific and culture-general knowledge, skills, and attitude… a dynamic, developmental, and ongoing process which engages the learner cognitively, behaviorally, and affectively” (Paige et al. 2003, p. 177; emphasis process-oriented teaching objectives, such as the portfolio approach (e. g. , Abrams, 2002; Allen, 2004; Byon, 2007) and the LAE approach (e. g. , Byram & Michael, 1998; Schulz, 2007). Intercultural Communicative Competence Among the proposed cultural learning objectives, the intercultural communicative competence (ICC) promoted by British scholars may be the most wellknown and widely-applied learning objective in the literature of intercultural education (Byram, 1997; Byram et al. , 2001; Byram & Zarate, 1994).
Byram and his associates argue that intercultural education should be incorporated into foreign language curriculum and that cultivating ICC should be the ultimate goal of foreign language education. The four components of ICC in their intercultural model of foreign language education are attitude, knowledge, skills, and critical awareness. Intercultural attitude refers to language learners’ curiosity and openness. Intercultural knowledge refers to the understanding about how social groups and social identities function. Intercultural PR EV IE W added). The current pedagogic approaches to intercultural learning have adjusted to the skills include the skills of comparing, interpreting, and discovering. Intercultural speakers also need critical awareness of their values and others’. The ICC components have been criticized. Tomic (2000) points out that the concept of competence is problematic because it “implies that there is a measurable amount of ‘knowledge’” (p. 238). Even if cultural learning is measurable, it is difficult, if not impossible, to measure all the ICC components. For instance, the attitudinal shifts and awareness development may require observation for at least four years (Kramsch, 1993; Lafayette & Schulz, 1997).
Moreover, the ICC model is based on the intercultural contacts are extensive and where study abroad is popular. It is unknown yet whether the model is attainable in non-immersion foreign language programs for the majority of students who do not have opportunities to visit the countries speaking their target languages. Intercultural educationists have proposed that foreign language teachers should teach ethnographic skills to facilitate learning the skills of exploring cultures because ethnography has been a legitimate form of inquiry into culture (Corbett, 2003; EganRobertson & Bloome, 1998; Leung, 2005; Roberts et al. 2001). Byram and Feng (2005) began their comprehensive review on intercultural education with an explicit statement: “Culture teaching is moving toward an ethnographic perspective” (p. 911). In cultural inquiry, ethnographers become able to view the knowledge of other societies with more open minds by involving themselves in recognizing their assumptions about knowledge and its legitimization in their own society.
Ethnographers develop the ability to reflect PR EV Ethnography as a Pedagogic Approach IE W observations of foreign language education and research results in Europe, where 9 critically on how their cultural backgrounds and standpoints influence their view of other cultures. Moreover, ethnographers also develop the critical consciousness, viewing ethnography as “a product of particular dominant societies at a particular period” (Roberts et al. , 2001, p. 93).
According to Leung (2005), ethnographic inquiry processes facilitate development of epistemological relativity, reflexivity, and critical consciousness, all of which increase the ICC. Strengths of the Learners-asEthnographers Approach Educationists have attempted to incorporate ethnography in language education, foreign language education, and intercultural education. Variations of the learners-as- 2001; Egan-Robertson & Bloome, 1998; Monahan, 2003; Roberts et al. , 2001; Robinson-Stuart & Nocon, 1996; Su, 2008; Tanaka, 1997).
The recognized contributions of the LAE approach to language learning include: (1) Learners may have a better understanding of the connection between language and culture and how language is comprehended or produced in the large context of communication; (2) Learners may change their attitudes towards their own language and the language of others and unpack their stereotypes about the target culture; (3) Learners will have alternative accesses to studying language components other than the traditional instruction of the rescriptive grammar; (4) Learners can engage in a variety of different writing such as field notes, reports, stories, etc. , realize the power of various kinds of writing to synthesize, generate, and transform knowledge, and position their writer identity as writing is an integral part in ethnography; (5) Learners will acquire a way of thinking about and analyzing language and a new mode of inquiry knowledge; PR EV IE ethnographers (LAE) approach have been developed (e. g. , Barro et al. , 1998; Carel, W 10 6) Learners will feel that learning is meaningful and become more motivated to learn; and (7) Learners can practice life skills such as active listening, communicative strategies, as well as study skills such as collecting data, searching for sources, analyzing and synthesizing ideas, and writing reflection. The LAE approach, thus, influences foreign language learning in four ways. It provides learners with access to authentic language use in context, raises awareness of the language-culture connection, develops autonomy and exploratory skills, and enhances thinking skills.
Students explore not only the social group speaking their target language and its cultural practices, but the native social group in which they are living. The positive effects of LAE initiated my interest in the LAE approach and lead learning. Need for Empirical Studies on Implementation Despite the benefits of the LAE approach, there have been insufficient empirical studies on its implementation in modern foreign language classrooms, and the existing studies have methodological problems.
Most of the LAE studies ignored the fact that the worldwide communication systems have offered access and data for foreign language learners to obtain cultural information without staying in the community speaking the target language (Corbett, 2003; Heath & Street, 2008; Lange, 2003). With technology assistance, the LAE projects may not need to adhere to the tradition of “extensive stay[s] in the field and participant observation” (Heath, 1983). Roberts et al. s (2001) comprehensive examination of LAE projects is based on an interdisciplinary international research project conducted over a period of three years. PR EV IE to my decision to use it to engage and enhance my American students’ intercultural W 11 Despite the encouraging results of the LAE’s effectiveness, these LAE projects were integrated into the undergraduate degree as an independent course and involved a one-year study abroad. Little was known about the effectiveness of the LAE approach applied in regular foreign language curricula which do not require study abroad.
Moreover, the LAE cases in Roberts et al. ’s research as well as other LAE studies (e. g. , Byram & Fleming, 1998; Egan-Robertson & Bloome, 1998) only reported successful cases of learning in controlled contexts with participants of high homogeneity. Competing cases are needed for understanding the complexity of intercultural learning experiences, for example, of long-time residence or participation in a summer program, of being in a community speaking the target language or other languages, and consequently have different perspectives on intercultural learning.
Researchers should avoid the danger of selecting theoretical segments from a large data base to prove the researcher’s point of view and rather investigate extensive learning experiences (Brown, 1992). In addition to the limitations, at least three other areas were unexplored in intercultural education and deserve attention. First, portfolios and reflective essay tasks have been suggested for evaluating students’ intercultural learning (e. g. , Corbett, 2003; Roberts et al. , 2001; Schulz, 2007), but their implementations were not fully investigated.
Second, researchers tended to explore the implementation of LAE in contexts of English language learning from English-speaking researchers’ perspectives (e. g. , Egan-Robertson & Bloome, 1998; Heath, 1983). Investigations of LAE’s implementation with learners of foreign languages other than English from the PR EV IE W in naturalistic settings where students might have had different intercultural learning 12 perspectives of researchers speaking languages other than English can contribute to our developing understanding of the LAE approach as well as intercultural education (Harklau, 2005).
Third, students’ perspectives on intercultural learning have been underexplored but deserve attention as the inquiry into such may offer constructive suggestions to refine the LAE. The present study aims to add the missing pieces to the puzzle. I will explore divergent learning cases. I will investigate American students’ experiences of and perspectives on intercultural learning through the LAE approach. As an instructor- perspective to intercultural education which has been dominated by Anglo researchers studying the learning of European languages and cultures. The Present Study
The present study explores the integration of the learners-as-ethnographers (LAE) approach in a Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) curriculum in a nonimmersion intercultural learning context. It assumes that the challenges facing instructors using an intercultural syllabus result from the absence of attainable learning objectives, a workable pedagogic approach, and legitimate teaching material. It also assumes that these challenges can be overcome by adopting the LAE approach in which students will be guided to complete ethnographic tasks and develop an intercultural learning portfolio.
This study endeavors to bridge the gaps in the research on diverse learning experiences of the LAE approach and students’ perspectives on intercultural learning by examining how LAE facilitates (or does not facilitate) intercultural PR EV IE W researcher from a different country, my investigation may offer an alternative 13 awareness and engages (or does not engage) intercultural learning. Research questions include: Q1 How does the learners-as-ethnographers (LAE) approach facilitate intercultural learning among American college students learning Chinese as a foreign language?
How do the learners perceive their learning experiences through the LAE approach? Q2 Learners’ development of intercultural awareness and understanding is operationally defined as the students’ completion of the intercultural learning portfolio and demonstration of their awareness and understanding of native culture (American culture) and target culture (Chinese/Taiwanese culture) in their ethnographic task essays target learning objectives which is indicated in students’ completed tasks and students’ reflections on the benefits of the LAE in the follow-up interviews.
I utilized a qualitative research design, drawing upon the epistemological stances of constructivism and interpretivism. Research methods included a pedagogic intervention, participant observation, and focus group interview. I designed a onesemester-long portfolio project containing six ethnographic tasks for a class of CFL learners to explore the six aspects of intercultural learning. After completing the portfolio, I conducted two focus group interviews for students to reflect upon and talk about their learning experiences (Burch & Seggie, 2008).
Students’ intercultural learning portfolios and the transcriptions of the two interviews underwent thematic analysis. The results of analysis offer practical information to foreign language classroom teachers who might be thinking about adopting the LAE approach for intercultural PR EV IE written in English. The LAE effectiveness is evaluated by students’ achievement of the W 14 education and who might integrate it into their syllabus. For these practitioners, understanding learners’ perceptions and experiences of the LAE approach is critical.
The results of the effectiveness and engagement of the ethnographic tasks and intercultural learning portfolio may provide material writers and classroom teachers with useful references in designing and/or implementing instructional activities. Furthermore, the investigation results of the LAE approach as a non-traditional, student-centered, skill-based approach bring fresh thoughts to the currently dominant teacher-centered, knowledge-based pedagogy, and, therefore, contribute to the ongoing bout how the CFL learners in the U. S. interpret Chinese culture and better our understanding of the socio-psychological process of cultural studies. PR EV IE W educational reforms. Learners’ narrations of intercultural learning offer information 15 CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW This chapter reviews the existing literature on teaching culture and researching intercultural education to provide readers with background information on intercultural education and also to foreground the research design of this study.
In the first section, I will discuss different perspectives on culture and the goals of intercultural education. particularly the LAE approach. I will briefly introduce the history of using ethnographic inquiry in researching cultures, the rise of using ethnography in teaching cultures, and the LAE approach and its variations. The third section will discuss the integration of portfolios with the LAE approach and its application to intercultural learning in foreign language classrooms.
Defining culture is essential to applying the cultural syllabus in foreign language classrooms because the definition shapes every aspect of intercultural education—from deciding learning objectives and educational goals to choosing the contents and techniques of teaching. Culture has been defined in terms of both outcome and process and as either a noun (e. g. , Tomalin & Stempleski, 1993) or a verb (e. g. , Heath & Street, 2008; Loveday, 1981). PR EV Definitions of Culture IE W Then, I will discuss the contents and techniques of intercultural educational syllabi, 16
Culture as a Noun The culture-as-a-noun view includes the “capital C” and “little c” definitions. The former limits Culture to the elite products and properties—literature, music, art, and philosophy, whereas the latter views culture as “incorporating products such as literature, art, and artifacts, ideas such as beliefs, values and institutions, and behaviors such as customs, habits, dress, foods and leisure” (Tomalin & Stempleski, 1993, pp. 6-7, emphasis added). Still, another perspective sees culture as knowledge: “culture is what the individual needs to know to be a functional member of the community” (Saville- ndividuals “in different parts with different groups to which we belong; agglomeration of common knowledge, perceptions, values, and traditions” (Bowers, 1992, p. 32). Culture as a Verb In contrast with the culture-as-a-noun view based on the assumption that culture is bounded and static, the culture-as-a-verb view is concerned with the dynamic and changing features of culture, which “involves the implicit norms and conventions of a society, its methods of ‘going about doing things’, its historically transmitted but also adaptive and creative ethos” (Loveday, 1981, p. 34, emphasis added).
Risager’s (1998) quote accurately explains why the culture-as-a-verb perspective is a useful working definition to investigate intercultural education in the 21st century: The interwoven character of cultures as a common condition for the whole world: cultures penetrate each other in changing combinations by virtue of extensive migration and tourism, worldwide communication systems for mass and private communication, economic interdependence and the globalization of the production of goods. (p. 248, emphasis added) PR EV IE W Troike, 1989, p. 7). Culture is a “multi-leveled group memory,” which is shared by