In pursuit of an intercultural dimension in EFL-teaching : exploring cognitions among Finland-Swedish comprehensive school teachers
Larzén, Eva (2005-12-19)
Åbo Akademis förlag - Åbo Akademi University Press
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This thesis is about the educational purpose of foreign language teaching (FLT) in an increasingly internationalised world.The past 20-30 years have witnessed a fundamental rethinking of the aims of FLT, entailing a shift in emphasis from linguistic competence over communicative competence to intercultural competence. The growing emphasis on cultural issues, called for by research and international curricular documents, places new demandson language teachers. The overall aim of this study is to deepen the knowledge about the attitudes of teachers at the upper level of the Finland-Swedish comprehensive school towards the treatment of culture in English foreign language (EFL) teaching. The questions in focus are: 1) How do teachers interpret the concept"culture" in EFL-teaching?, 2) How do they specify the cultural objectives of their teaching? and 3) What do they do to attain these objectives? The thesis strives to reveal whether or not language teaching today can be describedas intercultural, in the sense that culture is taught with the aim of promotingintercultural understanding, tolerance and empathy. This abductive and largely exploratory study is placed within a constructivist and sociocultural framework,and is inspired by both phenomenography and hermeneutics. It takes its starting-point in language didactics, and can also be regarded as a contribution to teacher cognition research. The empirical data consists of verbatim transcribed interviews with 13 Finland-Swedish teachers of English at grades 7-9. The findings are presented according to three orientations and reviewed with reference to the 2004 Finnish National Framework Curriculum. Within the cognitive orientation, "culture" is perceived as factual knowledge, and the teaching of cultureis defined in terms of the transmission of knowledge, especially about Britain and the USA (Pedagogy of Information). Within the action-related orientation, "culture" is seen as skills of a social and socio-linguistic nature, andthe teaching aims at preparing the students for contacts with people from the target language areas (Pedagogy of Preparation). Within the affective orientation, which takes a more holistic approach, "culture" is seen as a bi-directional perspective. Students are encouraged to look at their own familiar culture from another perspective, and learn to empathise with and show respect for otherness in general, not just concerning representatives of English-speaking countries (Pedagogy of Encounter). Very few of the interviewed teachers represent the third approach, which is the one that can be characterised as truly intercultural. The study indicates that many teachers feel unsure about how to teach culture in an appropriate and up-to-date manner. This is attributed to, among other things, lack of teacher insights as well as lack of time and adequate material. The thesis ends with a set of recommendations as to how EFL could be developed ina more intercultural direction.
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