Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Intercultural Sensitivity Orientations Prior to Short-Term Study Abroad: A Qualitative Study on Prospective English Language Teachers

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Intercultural Sensitivity Orientations Prior to Short-Term Study Abroad: A Qualitative Study on Prospective English Language Teachers

Article excerpt

Introduction

With the advent of complex technological and transportation activities, people navigate, more than ever, across different social spheres, and thus need to develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes to behave and communicate across these social contexts (Spitzberg & Changnon, 2009; Wilkinson, 2012). In that regard, a number of scholars have underscored a pressing need to integrate intercultural (communicative) competence (IC) into educational agendas so that the world can be transformed into a state in which every living being learns from one another and continues to transform the social realms (Deardorff, 2006; Fantini, 2009; Spitzberg & Changnon, 2009). This ethos of IC encourages people to exhibit humility and see the world from alternative perspectives and, therefore, paves the way for dialogue and collaboration with people from diverse backgrounds.

In language education, the recognition and promotion of IC is not a luxury. As Baker (2011) argues, there is no target culture(s) to include in language education; instead, there is a world of ambiguities and challenges that should be embraced and managed by both teachers and learners through non-essentialist and critical perspectives (Holliday, 2011). Such a task might be challenging to achieve with every single language learner, but it is not impossible with interculturally competent language teachers. In that regard, language teachers are expected to develop an awareness of global interconnectivity, respect diversity, and embrace social justice (Cushner, 2011; Phillion & Malewski, 2011), thus, for the interests of this article, to develop critical interculturality. A language teacher, who embraces critical interculturality, can help culturally and linguistically diverse students grow and can prepare them for an increasingly diverse and interconnected world that is also imbued with power relations (Dervin, 2016; Sercu, 2006). However, concerning the integration of this interculturality ethos into language education, the question of teacher preparation continues to be a focus in language teacher education (LTE) research (Byram, 2014).

In order to help language teachers develop (critical) interculturality, theory may not suffice alone; there must also be experiential learning opportunities (Dooly & Villanueva, 2006; Zhao, 2010). Considering the situated and experiential nature of learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991), several teacher education programs from different parts of the world continuously exert efforts in the integration of cultural immersion opportunities into their program components (Ciftci & Karaman, 2019; Smolcic & Katunich, 2017). One such effort is the Erasmus exchange program that makes it possible for higher education students to study in another European country for a temporary period and to benefit from academic and sociocultural experiences. Since Erasmus students usually spend one semester in another European country, the program can be viewed as a short-term study abroad opportunity, as Engle and Engle (2003) assert that short-term study abroad programs last between three and 23 weeks. Such short-term study abroad opportunities can leverage intercultural challenges and can allow participants to experience otherness that is considered essential for interculturality growth among student teachers (Marx & Moss, 2011; Medina, Hathaway, & Pilonieta, 2015). Such opportunities, further, can enable program participants to confront and reflect on their potentially ethnocentric, essentialist worldviews (Bennett, 1993) and stereotyped opinions, which are known as exaggerated beliefs associated with a category (Allport, 1954). Although short-term study abroad participants may not completely disidentify from such exaggerated beliefs and essentialism, they, through their first-hand experiences, are highly likely to reflect more deeply on people's cultural and personal multiplicity (Medina et al., 2015). In other words, they may develop non-judgmental reflexivity through which they may view individuals as a complex amalgam of their various identity dimensions, personal histories, and worldviews (Holliday, 2011). …

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