Developing English language and intercultural learning capabilities - Case study 2: the intercultural learning project

Intercultural communication Language and languages
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An increasing number of international students are studying in higher education in English-speaking countries, and many local students come from backgrounds where English is not their primary language. This is significant when we consider that as graduates, these students will be required to live, communicate and work with others both within and across multiple languages and cultures, in other words, interculturally, whether they choose to remain in their home country, or to live and work abroad. There exists the potential for learning through the exchange of linguistic and cultural resources and associated ways of knowing. However, the crucial role of languages and cultures in learning is poorly understood, and the ways in which students experience engaging with one another in their diversity could be enhanced (Tsui 2014). This paper reports on a semester long twinned case study which explored how undergraduate students and their teachers experienced an intercultural approach to learning, teaching and assessment in a core undergraduate course of 550 students. This was a collaborative, action-based research intervention which sought to enhance student engagement and experience through their intercultural learning, to see the world ‘through other eyes’ (Andreotti and Souza 2008). This involved designing learning and assessment activities that encouraged students to draw on their languages, cultures and knowledges and to engage with the course content and with each other through practices of reflection and reflexivity. Data gathered included students’ written texts, observations of routine teaching staff meetings, and interviews with students and teaching staff. The analysis involved thematic coding, focusing on students’ emerging capability to understand and act in light of their linguistic and cultural diversity. The findings highlight the nature and importance of intercultural capability and the need to rethink notions of ‘student experience’ and ‘engagement’ and to recognise the central role of language/s and culture/s in all students’ learning.

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