Frequently asked Questions

Intercultural language teaching and learning will raise many issues for classroom teachers. This section of the website is intended to provide responses to frequently asked questions raised by teachers as they clarify their understanding of intercultural language learning principles and the incorporation of these into their teaching.

The questions are arranged under the ILTLP Conference module subjects of pedagogy, planning, assessing and researching and reflecting.

The discussion forum provides an additional support for teachers and is the site for teachers to raise and discuss issues of concern.

 
Return to top of page
 
     
 

Pedagogy

 
     
 

In my school we are required to plan and teach within state curriculum guidelines. How can I do so and incorporate intercultural language learning principles into my planning and teaching and still work within the curriculum guidelines?

 
       
 

Intercultural language teaching and learning is a stance rather than just a body of content or a methodology. Curriculum frameworks are generalised descriptions of the ‘scope’ (the ‘what’) and the outcomes (intended) of teaching and learning. Intercultural language teaching and learning relates to interactions and how teachers and students of languages engage with content and therefore it has links with curriculum frameworks however it does not rely on a specific body of content.

All state and territory curriculum guidelines in Australia acknowledge the place and importance of ‘culture’ within the languages learning area. While there is difference in the treatment of ‘culture’ across the documents, there is a common position that language and culture are inseparable, the same view underlies intercultural language teaching and learning.

Intercultural language teaching and learning is compatible with current curriculum frameworks including those for nationally assessed languages at the senior secondary level (Collaborative Curriculum and Assessment Framework for Languages) since the same construct of language and culture underlies these documents also.

While the principles and practices associated with Intercultural language teaching and learning are not explicitly outlined in some current curriculum frameworks, it is integral to the National Statement and Plan for Languages Education.

 

This response was prepared by Michelle Kohler. Contact her for further discussion.

Return to top of page

 
       
 

How does intercultural language teaching and learning fit with pedagogical practice models such as Gardiner’s intelligences, Bloom’s taxonomy, Multiliteracies, Learning by Design, etc…?

 
       
 

Intercultural language teaching and learning does not exclude the use of other pedagogical models such as Gardiner’s model of multiple intelligences or Bloom’s three domains of educational goals. The question is rather how to use other models to assist in the implementation of intercultural language teaching and learning. For example Gardiner’s multiple intelligences are useful in reminding teachers of the importance of catering for different learning inclinations in the classroom. Bloom’s taxonomy can help us unpack the different cognitive & affective processes at play in ‘noticing’ new linguistic/cultural input and the subsequent ‘comparing’ and ‘reflecting’ phases embedded in intercultural language teaching and learning’s main pedagogical principles.

 

This response was prepared by Chantal Crozet. Contact him for further discussion.

Return to top of page

 
       
 

Is it true that the teacher has to have an in-depth knowledge of the culture he/she is teaching otherwise the wrong knowledge will be imparted?

 
       
 

As in all teaching, teachers do need to keep developing their own understanding.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

Under the ‘Responsibility’ principle there was mention of ‘awareness of reductionism’. Could there be an explanation please?

 
       
 

Reductionism—we often reduce / simplify in order to understand—this removes the nuance and therefore potentially precludes deeper understanding.
By reducing we impose limits ---cut down meaning--- which may lead to generalisations / stereotyping.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

It seems that the ‘Principles of Intercultural language Learning’ are aimed at senior grades or high school levels. Could you show us any advice to teach juniors regarding to the intercultural knowledge?

 
       
 

The principles apply to all levels of schooling but they will need to be realised differently in terms of pedagogy because of the need to take into account the reality of young learners.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

My school is a bi-lingual school. We are prohibited to use English in our class. We also discourage students to use English in our class. Do you have any suggestions for us?

 
       
 

Think about the nature and range of target language in your current programmes, especially the language needed to talk about language, culture and learning (i.e. the language of reflection), and whether students can manage this kind of language use in the target language. Developing students’ skills in the target language so that you can talk about language with students is likely to take some time. Given the importance of these areas, I would recommend using English if needed so as to maximise understanding. You may discourage English but you can’t remove it. If we have more than one language available to us, we should use both as is needed to enhance learning; we need to develop a whole repertoire of language use.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

Perhaps questions which are lower level analysis, such as; What do you notice about…? What is the same/different..? would be good for Prep/reception to year 2 and more complex questions for higher up – i.e. a developmental progression?

 
       
 

There is value in taking a developmental view of this, always.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

I have a question regarding whether intercultural language learning applies to more than the actual language lesson. I think that in a multicultural school (in my case primary 98% ESL), intercultural learning is really important and happens all the time, from how children interact in the school ground and understand why other students behave in a certain way, to discussing intercultural issues in different classes. Everything, from going on an excursion, to a sport activity, to language learning (be it English or another target language) has cultural issues.

 
       
 

Yes it relates to education in general because it is about how our personal frameworks of knowledge, languages and cultures shape our interpretation and meaning-making, how we see ourselves, others and the world and that is profoundly what education is about.
It is a ‘peopled’ view of languages education and a ‘peopled’ view of the educative process.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

Intercultural language teaching relies on the students having developed some ‘interpersonal’ skills. Some students have limitations in interpersonal skills. Please elaborate on helping students confront their fear, ethnocentricity and assist them to be more open to the interpersonal and hence intercultural learning.

 
       
 

These skills are not innate and need to be developed—they can be developed.
Teachers need to provide varied opportunities for engaging with the target language and cultures. This will widen the scope of the students’ interpersonal experiences and give teachers information on whether there are differences in students’ responses with different kinds of interactions.
Give feedback on what you notice and why it’s important.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

What do you hope the nature of language and intercultural learning/ teaching will look like 5 years from now?

 
       
 

I would hope:

  • That we have more students who are engaged in their language learning because they have understood the way their language and culture mediates all that they do, say, think, and who they are.
  • The same for the teacher.
  • That we have a better handle on the relationship between language and culture and the meanings we make
  • That we appreciate the differences between ‘the cultural’ and ‘the intercultural’ and the need to recognise both
  • That we have developed interactive pedagogies and have thought deeply and acted on the kinds of interactions we ask the students to perform, the kinds of questions we address, the kind of feedback- all of which focus on how the language and culture, together, generate meaning and meaningfulness.
  • That there is a shift in emphasis in teaching programmes from content/description to concepts and elaboration.
  • That programmes will incorporate both excellent episodes in teaching and learning and long-term/developmental views
  • That there is better articulation of what it is that students are learning, are able to perform, can analyse, understand and articulate in relation to language learning—better ways of eliciting that through the questions we ask—lots of examples to share, not only the individual assessment tasks, but also the evidence such that we can demonstrate the intercultural in students’ learning.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

It appears that the modules contain things we already know and teach in the classroom but in a more complicated format and a different jargon. I am trying to familiarise myself with the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) - which I now understand. Could you demonstrate a simplified investigation task? A simple example of exactly what is expected from us?

 
       
 

We as teachers of language, and as professionals, do have a specialised language for talking about what we do and we need to use it – it is our professional jargon but it is very necessary to us to be able to exchange with our colleagues.
We are placing a series of examples on the ILTLP website.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
   

Planning/Programming

 
       
 

Does following an intercultural perspective mean that I will have to abandon my present course plans and re-write all my courses?

 
       
 

The response to this question is …. it depends! There is no doubt that moving towards an intercultural orientation demands a reconceptualisation of programming, if the program is a traditional one. Having said this though, as always, it is not a question of trying to make major changes in a small amount time nor of totally discarding course plans, materials, assessment tasks, etc.

The key issue is recognising that some change is likely. It is worth thinking about the fact that a program for intercultural learning is more than an outline of content to be ‘covered’. It needs to record the opportunities / scenarios for interaction and the process of interpreting that interaction. Some amendments will no doubt be necessary to the programming format that you are using to accommodate these planned interactions.

See also Discussion Paper 2 - The challenge in developing learning programmes in intercultural language learning for further discussion of this question

 

This response was prepared by Angela Scarino. Contact her for further discussion.

Return to top of page

 
       
 

How can long-term planning be incorporated when we try to link our programme with the programme of other subject teachers (which is a major objective of the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) )?

 
       
 

Our work with others, connecting with others, also has to be a process of negotiation. The connections are conceptual (related to themes) and we remain responsible for developing students’ language and culture and intercultural understanding in the context of the concept/theme.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
   

Resources

 
       
 

Will I be able to use any of my present materials / topics / themes / course plans?

 
       
 

My response to this question is similar to my response to the question about abandoning existing programs or not.

Developing an intercultural orientation does not mean abandoning all the materials, resources, plans and processes that are currently being used. However they do need to be evaluated in light of their usefulness as resources for developing intercultural language learning.

We need to be clear that traditional practices in relation to developing programs and selecting/ adapting/creating resources have focused on themes/topics (i.e. thematic content) and tasks. Resources have usually been selected depending on the thematic choices. But thematic content and the selection of resources aligned with thematic choices do not go far enough in terms of students’ learning within an intercultural orientation.

If the goal is for students to learn to become intercultural communicators, then they need to participate in diverse contexts of communication and learn to consider and re-consider, analyse, and reflect upon the process of communication and their role in it. Resources need to be carefully selected to support this goal.

Look at the considerations set out below to assist you to review your current resources and modify or supplement your materials as appropriate.

  • who are the participants?
  • what is their role and relationship and how does this influence communication?
  • where are they and how does this influence communication?
  • what is their purpose/reason for communicating?
  • what themes/ideas are they communicating about?
  • what are you expecting them to learn
    • about the topic of their communication?
    • about the process of communication?
    • about language in communication?
    • about culture in communication?
    • about the intercultural (relationship/interaction between the 2 languages – learners’ own language(s) and the target language)?
    • about their own role in communication – what they bring, how they react/interact?
    • about their own learning to communicate interculturally – to be intercultural communicators? See also Discussion Paper 2 - The challenge in developing learning programmes in intercultural language learning for further discussion of this question.

 

This response was prepared by Angela Scarino. Contact her for further discussion.

Return to top of page

 
       
   

Assessment

 
       
 

In my school I have to report against the outcomes specified in the South Australian Curriculum Standards and Accountability Framework / Victorian Essential Learning Standards etc. Will intercultural assessment practices change this?

 
       
 

This project and others that we are undertaking (visit RCLC website) will provide a stronger base to inform our thinking in this area. There is no doubt that, in time, this thinking will influence development / re-development of state and territory curriculum frameworks.

The kinds of frameworks that have been developed in each State/Territory highlight K-12 learning. Work to date on intercultural language learning has been episodic i.e. noticing what happens in particular tasks/episodes/moments of intercultural language learning. To inform K-12 perspectives on learning, we need to have a better understanding of how the learning changes/develops over time. In fact frameworks in general tend to be weak in the area of having a basis for marking the progression through the framework. Some frameworks have begun to include a sense of the intercultural in language learning (e.g. the SACSA in SA; the K-10 syllabuses in NSW, among others), but less within the context of how this learning might develop over time.

It is worth noting that while the intercultural may not be explicitly articulated in the assessment frameworks, it does not mean that the tasks and assignments students undertake for assessment do not or cannot yield evidence of intercultural understanding, and that this can be captured in describing student learning in relation to particular assessment tasks and assignments. There is value in documenting the additional evidence of learning that might not be anticipated in the existing frameworks.

There is a great deal of variability in what systems are asking teachers to do in using the frameworks for assessment and reporting. For example, very few systems are asking teachers to submit data to the system regarding student assessment (i.e. what we might call firm accountability). Rather, most systems seem to be asking teachers to use the frameworks as a resource to inform their assessment decisions (i.e. what we might call a soft accountability).

Assessing intercultural language learning is for me the most exciting area in intercultural language learning. For now though, the implementation of current frameworks allows space for innovation and re-consideration. We need to see frameworks themselves and our use of them as being always open to refinement – and use that space. This is what I think will happen with assessing intercultural language learning. A danger, it seems to me, would be not of not conforming to system requirements but of using the system requirements as a reason for maintaining the status quo. See also Discussion Paper 6 - Assessing intercultural language learning for further discussion of this question.

 

This response was prepared by Angela Scarino. Contact her for further discussion.

Return to top of page

 
       
 

It appears that the modules contain things we already know and teach in the classroom but in a more complicated format and a different jargon. I am trying to familiarise myself with the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) - which I now understand. Could you demonstrate a simplified investigation task? A simple example of exactly what is expected from us?

 
       
 

We as teachers of language, and as professionals, do have a specialised language for talking about what we do and we need to use it – it is our professional jargon but it is very necessary to us to be able to exchange with our colleagues.
We are placing a series of examples on the ILTLP website.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

In an oral interview assessment: which perspective is more important, assessment as individual or assessment as social and cultural?
If they should be in balance, what considerations should be made to keep assessors in the right track? I am asking this as there are many assessors who do not understand about the social and cultural aspects of the assessment.

 
       
 

Participating / performance in an interview is per force social and cultural.
What the student brings to the interviews is social and cultural. Judging has to be individual but input in making judgements (should) consider the following:

  • How do the interviewer’s questions influence the responses?
  • How does the interviewer pick up on what the students say?
  • How does the interaction play out? Were there influences that shaped the students’ performance? It’s individual but based also on the social.

Record a series of these interviews and explore these questions further.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

Intercultural language learning provides new understandings about what we are looking for in the learner as they are acquiring language. This raises questions about how we assess students, which is especially relevant in the context of VELS where communication and intercultural understanding and language awareness are separate.

 
       
 

Frameworks often separate ‘strands’, but these are not separate in communication. It is worth working towards integrating them so that students come to see how language affects meaning- making.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

'I have normal and you have culture’!
I feel this says it all in a nutshell. How do I feel about this?

  • Reflect and analyse it

  • Assess its implications and you have intercultural assessment!!

Do you agree?

 
       
 

Yes it does, and we have to see how different people (teachers and students) unpack this, that is, how they understand it.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

Where do students with language disorders and learning difficulties fit in with intercultural learning regarding assessment?

 
 
       
 

The programme may need to be modified. Think about how to describe what they can do, as closely as possible. Report it as a profile that calls it as it is, stating;

(a) The programme has been modified in this way
(b) The learner can do xxx in these circumstances
(c) The learner maintains the engagement in xxx circumstances.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
   

The Classroom

 
       
 

I find I am using more English in the classroom. Will this have a disadvantageous effect on my students’ acquisition of the target language?

 
       
 

Intercultural language teaching and learning involves using all of the linguistic and cultural repertoire that students bring to their language learning including their first language, additional languages and or English.

The use of English is both a medium for instruction in the languages classroom, particularly in relation to the development of concepts relating to language and culture, and as a point of linguistic and cultural connection and comparison. This is especially likely for beginning learners where their linguistic capability in the language they are learning is not yet sufficiently advanced to express their cognitive capability. The intention is not to use English to learn about culture, as per the Society and Environment learning area, but to deepen students’ language acquisition and understanding through comparison and reflection with an additional linguistic code.

In Intercultural language teaching and learning use of the target language is important for all aspects of learning. English may be used to deepen the process of understanding. In practice, this may result in programmes and teaching having a greater emphasis on deep learning rather than extensive coverage i.e. covering a little less but doing it more deeply.

 

This response was prepared by Michelle Kohler. Contact her for further discussion.

Return to top of page

 
       
 

Where can I find suitable resources to support intercultural language teaching and learning?

 
       
 

Given that intercultural language teaching and learning is a perspective or a mindset, many of teachers’ current resources for classroom teaching remain useful. What may alter, however, is how these resources are used, the nature of teaching and interaction required in order to engage with them.

Resources may include texts in either the target language or in English or both and may be written, oral or visual. Resources for language teaching can be seen as those intended for second language instruction (i.e. pedagogical purpose) and those created for use by the target language speaking community. Both types of resources are valuable stimuli for intercultural language teaching and learning as the nature, purpose and context of these resources can be explored and comparisons and connections can be made.

Intercultural language teaching and learning aims to examine the cultural construction of language in texts, and assumes that all texts are culturally loaded. Given such an emphasis, it is likely that resources created for non-pedagogical purposes will be of great interest to teachers and students of languages as they examine the values, concepts, issues etc. which are deeply embedded in such texts.

 

This response was prepared by Michelle Kohler. Contact her for further discussion.

Return to top of page

 
       
 

Having adopted what I understand as an intercultural approach to a particular area of my teaching, how will I know that it’s working?

 
       
 

The most effective way to find out is to conduct a classroom investigation. You should not think of this as an addition to, on imposition on, your teaching but as a valuable classroom strategy that can support teaching and learning. Teachers continuously make adjustments and changes to how and what they teach based on classroom observations. An investigative stance is part of effective teaching.

Effective teaching is informed by personal knowledge, trial and error, reflection on practice, and conversations with colleagues. To be a teacher means to observe students and study classroom interactions, to explore a variety of effective ways of teaching, and to build conceptual frameworks that can guide one’s work (Fischer, 2001:29).

In designing the investigation there are two questions that you need to consider at the outset. One involves how you yourself understand the value of the intercultural in teaching; specifically, how you expect your adoption of an intercultural approach will affect your students’ learning. The other involves how your implementation of the approach actually affects the students’ learning. You need to reflect on the first before you can address the second. Your investigation can then explore the extent to which your expectation of change match the actually changes that are taking place in students’ learning.

Fischer, J.C. (2001). Action research rationale and planning: Developing a framework for teacher inquiry. In G. Burnaford, J. Fischer, & D. Hobson (Eds.), Teachers doing research: The power of action through inquiry (chapter 2), 2nd edn. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

 

This response was prepared by Jonathan Crichton. Contact him for further discussion.

Return to top of page

 
       
 

Whose culture do we promote in classrooms? Could we be unconsciously critical of other people’s culture, when we do a comparison? People are naturally biased and positively geared towards their own culture. Can you comment?

 
       
 

We are’ promoting’ understanding culture as a process (a verb, not a noun)
Yes, we could be being critical—we do have and bring our own biases, prejudices, but these are all open to discussion. This recognition of our own prejudices is an important part of understanding i.e. that it is so much a part of us but we may not be aware consciously.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

How can I best teach intercultural language in 30 minutes a week, without losing the very limited language content I cover now? I agree that intercultural language learning is important and extremely beneficial but how can I do it effectively and teach the language in an average 5 hours per term? Please help.

 
       
 

You can’t do much in 30 minutes. Your question suggests that you are putting language and culture in opposition (either-or). You need to recognise that culture is in language, language is in culture; we cannot separate them even within the constraints of limited time for teaching.

 

Return to top of page

 
       
 

Have you considered that intercultural language teaching opens up languages education to a wider cohort than ‘just’ the traditional language student or those ‘elite’ bright students thought by some to be typical ‘good’ language students?

 
       
 

It would be fabulous to have evidence of just that.

 

Return to top of page