Developing students' intercultural capabilities in the secondary lanaguages classroom

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Current educators, employers and authorities advocate that learners develop intercultural capacity. The term ‘cultural competence’ has more recently included an intercultural orientation, yet definitions of intercultural competence vary and are contested, the desired intercultural capacity more recently defined as intercultural capability. However, there have been no practical studies in whether and how this is developed, nor on the inherent role of agency. This study examines, through iterative reflective inquiry using a multiple strategy qualitative research design, whether and how school language teachers in one Australian state – Queensland – develop their students’ intercultural capabilities. It focusses on the practice of eight Senior languages teachers; their perceptions of their students and their interculturality; and whether and how they design their teaching to develop what can be assessed as intercultural capability. This will be examined through a focus on teachers’ own world views; their perceptions of their learners as individuals with stores of knowledge; the learner routines they design and implement; their mediation of language, culture and learning; and their reflexivity. It is hoped that this exploration of teachers’ situated discursive and relational practices will illustrate ways their pedagogical stances develop agency and intercultural capability. The study was undertaken in four schools across all sectors using Studies Authority and IB curricula. Classroom observation notes, a curriculum document examination, student questionnaire, teacher questionnaire, videoed class and subsequent stimulated recall with each teacher provided data which were reduced using both deductive and inductive processes. Thematic content analysis was used to discern themes and how they might coalesce, and to categorize, then reorganize as necessary. Research in the area of ICLTL reveals the complexity of the dynamic ecological terrain and systemic constraints teachers and learners need to navigate if true intercultural capability is to be developed. The research question – How is ICLTL (intercultural language teaching and learning) being enacted in these Queensland classrooms? – was addressed in writing up findings, firstly according to the instrument, then considering the role of agency. Themes emerging from analysis reflect key notions of agency and capability operating in ecological contexts which offer a range of affordances as teachers navigate dynamic terrain, adhering to systemic constraints.’ In providing evidence of intercultural language pedagogy and its effectiveness with learners across a spectrum of practice this thesis may make apparent learner engagement strategies in iterative reflective practice, or evidence gaps in teacher participants’ knowledge and pedagogy which provide opportunities for professional growth. Amidst demands for transformative education, it may contribute to the way intercultural languages teachers conceptualize their role.
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