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An evaluation of culture teaching and learning in a Uniwide Language Program: Teachers and students’ perspectives

Salwa Mohamed

Abstract

It is generally accepted that culture is inseparable from language. However, the provision of culture in FL courses takes different forms. At Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), minor route/30 credit language students in the Uniwide Language Programme are allocated 1 h for cultural studies (known as the project hour) in addition to a weekly 2 h language class. This study surveys teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the teaching of culture in MMU Uniwide language courses with the aim of discovering to what extent this promotes students’ intercultural competence (IC) based on Byram, Michael, Bella Gribkova & Hugh Starkey. 2002. Developing the intercultural dimension in language teaching: A practical introduction for teachers. Strasbourg: Council of Europe, model. Byram et al.’s model of IC involves three components: knowledge, skills and attitudes. Teachers and students’ questionnaires were used to collect their views about the project hour and were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. The qualitative data, using thematic analysis showed that teachers and students’ perceptions of culture learning and teaching, in general, were in line with the recent literature on IC. However, the quantitative data did not prove that the project hour fully attends to the components of IC, even though the methods and activities used matched its requirements.


Corresponding author: Salwa Mohamed, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK, E-mail:

Acknowledgment

I would like to thank Dr. Bernard Lisewski, University Teaching Academy (UTA) at Manchester Metropolitan University for his directions and support during the course of producing this research report.

Appendix 1: Teacher’s questionnaire

Gender: ____________ Language(s) taught: ___________

Levels taught: _________ _________ ________ ________ ________ __________

How long have you been teaching? _______________

Section I

1) How do you define the term ‘culture’?

2) What do you regard as the purposes of teaching and learning about culture in a language course?

3) List below the cultural topics that you think should be taught in a language course. Start with what you think is most important.

4) What do you consider the best approach or method to teach and learn about the target culture? (e.g., searching the Internet, class discussions, films/songs, literature, traveling abroad, research projects)

5) What do you regard as the best resource(s) and material(s) for teaching and learning about culture? (e.g., the teacher, textbook, contact with native speakers, Internet, any other suggested resources)

6) What do you regard as the most effective assessment technique(s) for learning about culture? (e.g., written tests, presentations, discussions, problem solving, any other suggestions?)

7) In what ways do you think explicit teaching and learning about culture contributes to language learning skills (i.e., listening, speaking, reading, writing)?

8) How do you think you can incorporate students from different cultural backgrounds in your class (using diversity as a learning tool)?

Section II

1) How much do you think the project hour introduces your students to the target culture’s perspectives, e.g., philosophy, values, beliefs, etc.?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

2) How much do you think the project hour introduces your students to the target culture’s products, e.g., literature, music, architecture, etc.?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

3) How much do you think the project hour introduces your students to the target culture’s practices (and behaviours), e.g., eating habits, weddings, work, etc.?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

4) How much do you think the project hour enables your students to interpret events from the target culture?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

5) How much do you think the project hour enables your students to relate events from the target culture with events from their own culture?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

6) How much do you think the project hour enables your students to discover, and acquire new knowledge about the target culture?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

7) How much do you think the project hour helps your students develop critical cultural awareness, i.e., evaluate critically perspectives, products, and practices in their own and other cultures?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

8) How much do you think the project hour enables your students to use your knowledge, skills and attitudes in real time communication/interaction?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

9) How much do you think the project hour enables your students to understand and accept people from other cultures as individuals with other distinctive perspectives, values, and behaviours?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

10) How much do you think the project hour increases your students’ curiosity and openness to other cultures?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

11) How much do you think the project hour develops your students’ awareness of themselves and their own culture as seen from other people’s perspective?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

12) How much do you think the project hour provides opportunities for discussion?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

13) How much do you think the project hour provides opportunities for your students to draw on their past experiences, i.e., what they heard, read, or saw?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

14) How much do you think the project hour encourages your students to draw comparisons with their own culture (comparative analysis)?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

15) How much do you think the project hour encourages your students to ask questions and interpret answers about the target culture?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

16) How much do you think having a whole separate hour per week dedicated to the teaching of culture is a good idea?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

17) Please give reasons for your chosen answer to question 16 above.

18) If you have any further comments on the educational approaches to the teaching and learning of the target culture please state them below

Appendix 2: Student’s questionnaire

Gender: ____________ Year of Study: ________

Language studied: ___________ Language Level: ____________

Section I

1) How do you define the term ‘culture’?

2) What do you regard as the purposes of learning about culture in a language course?

3) List below the cultural topics that you think should be taught in a language course. Start with what you think is most important.

4) What do you consider the best approach or method to learn about the target culture? (e.g., searching the Internet, class discussions, films/songs, literature, traveling abroad, research projects)

5) What do you regard as the best resource(s) and material(s) for learning about culture? (e.g., the teacher, textbook, contact with native speakers, Internet, any other suggested resources)

6) What do you regard as the most effective assessment technique(s) for learning about culture? (e.g., written tests, presentations, discussions, problem solving, any other suggestions?)

7) In what ways do you think explicit teaching and learning about culture contributes to language learning skills (i.e., listening, speaking, reading, writing)?

8) How do you think you can learn from other students from different cultural backgrounds in your class (using diversity as a learning tool)?

Section II

1) How much do you think the project hour introduces you to the target culture’s perspectives, e.g., philosophy, values, beliefs, etc.?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

2) How much do you think the project hour introduces you to the target culture’s products, e.g., literature, music, architecture, etc.?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

3) How much do you think the project hour introduces you to the target culture’s practices (and behaviours), e.g., eating habits, weddings, work, etc.?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

4) How much do you think the project hour enables you to interpret events from the target culture?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

5) How much do you think the project hour enables you to relate events from the target culture with events from your own culture?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

6) How much do you think the project hour enables you to discover, and acquire new knowledge about the target culture?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

7) How much do you think the project hour helps you develop critical cultural awareness, i.e., evaluate critically perspectives, products and practices in your own and other cultures?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

8) How much do you think the project hour enables you to use your knowledge, skills and attitudes in real time communication/interaction?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

9) How much do you think the project hour enables you to understand and accept people from other cultures as individuals with other distinctive perspectives, values and behaviours?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

10) How much do you think the project hour increases your curiosity and openness to other cultures?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

11) How much do you think the project hour develops your awareness of yourself and your own culture as seen from other people’s perspective?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

12) How much do you think the project hour provides opportunities for discussion?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

13) How much do you think the project hour provides opportunities to draw on your past experiences, i.e., what you heard, read or saw?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

14) How much do you think the project hour encourages you to draw comparisons with your own culture (comparative analysis)?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

15) How much do you think the project hour encourages you to ask questions and interpret answers about the target culture?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

16) How much do you think having a whole separate hour per week dedicated to the teaching of culture is a good idea?

a) not at all b) very little c) a little d) quite a lot e) a very great deal

17) Please give reasons for your chosen answer to number 16 above.

18) If you have any further comments on the approaches to the teaching and learning of the target culture please state them below

Appendix 3: An extract from the thematic analysis table (Theme 3)

ThemesExamples from teachers’ questionnaireExamples from students’ questionnaireEvidenced in question
Theme 3: Culture learning is negotiable
  1. “Films, then discussions, Internet may help” (T3/Q4)

  2. “A combination of Internet, class discussion, and research projects) (T4/Q4)

  1. “Class discussions with native speakers” (S2/Q4)

  2. “Class discussions; having one topic per week and having the students research that topic as homework for a group discussion” (S4/Q4)

  3. “Class discussions” (S7/Q4)

  4. “Discussions with native speakers” (12/Q4)

Q4

Approach
  1. “Understanding how native speakers communicate” (T4/Q7)

  1. “Speaking, listening, and reading” (S1/Q7)

  2. “Speaking” (S2/Q7)

  3. “Speaking and listening” (S3/Q7)

  4. “Speaking and listening- mainly speaking as you may learn about dialects and cultural slang” (S4/Q7)

  5. “Listening and reading” (S5/Q7)

  6. “Speaking and listening as new vocab relevant to the cultural topic will emerge” (S6/Q7)

  7. “Speaking” (S7/Q7)

  8. “Listening and speaking” (S10/Q7)

Q7

Language skills that benefit from culture learning
  1. “Encourage discussions to find similarities and differences” (T2/Q8)

  2. “Pose questions and give a range of answers” (T1/Q8)

  3. “Talk about their own views” (T3/Q8)

  1. “Native speaking students share their stories or knowledge of their culture” (S4/Q8)

  2. “Conversation and sharing resources” (S6/Q8)

  3. “Allows for understanding of different opinions” (S7/Q8)

  4. “Understanding different opinions” (S8/Q8)

  5. “Debates and sharing of ideas” (S9/Q8)

  6. “Sharing different viewpoints is valuable” (S10/Q8)

  7. “Opens the mind” (S12/Q8)

Q8 diversity as a learning tool

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Published Online: 2021-02-03
Published in Print: 2020-12-16

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