Critical Transcultural Competence Through Virtual Reality: Connecting Theories, Materials, and Practices
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractDespite growing interest in the cultural dimension of foreign language learning, the integration of culture and the promotion of intercultural competence into foreign language instruction are still not a priority for a majority of educators due to diverse reasons including demanding teaching duties, an already dense curriculum, and a lack of training. Additionally, in their classroom practices many educators are still relying on a definition of culture that does not reflect practical guidelines and curricular approaches set by scholars and professional organizations, perhaps because of outdated teaching resources. This suggests the need for teaching materials and professional development opportunities that enable educators to explore and experiment with new pedagogical resources that can promote a more updated conceptualization of culture. This three-article dissertation contributes to the existing scholarship on the teaching of culture in foreign language learning by proposing a novel framework for the teaching and learning of culture and by explaining how cutting-edge virtual reality materials can be used to promote culture from a critical and transcultural perspective. Data sources for this study included a nationwide survey with 197 participants, semi-structured interviews with 10 foreign language educators, and an eight-week online training and focus group interviews with seven foreign language educators of Italian. Article one explored US collegiate foreign language educators’ beliefs, practices, and the tools they use inside the classroom for the teaching and learning of culture. Article two proposed the “Critical Transcultural Competence” framework to support educators in the teaching of culture beyond essentialist views and limited intercultural perspectives and illustrated its application to virtual reality resources. Finally, article three is a mixed-methods case study investigating the development of pedagogical content knowledge regarding the proposed framework and its implementation in a lesson plan within a small group of collegiate Italian language instructors through a targeted online training. Altogether, the findings from the three articles suggest that although foreign language educators agree with the importance of exposing students to culture from a critical, not superficial, perspective, when looking at concrete classroom practices not enough time is devoted to culture to engage students in conversations that may lead to deeper understandings. The novel Critical Transcultural Competence framework, aimed at simplifying complex concepts by offering a set of principles for teaching and learning culture from a critical and transcultural perspective, proved useful in the online training. Nevertheless, some discrepancies were still noted between what educators believed and what they concretely did when putting their beliefs into practice in a lesson plan.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquisition and Teaching