Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > How Do Pre-service Teachers Understand Intercultural Competence During a Short-Term Student Teaching Abroad Program: An Exploratory, Collective Case Study

This dissertation explores how four pre-service teachers (PSTs) came to define and understand intercultural competence (ICC) during a short-term student teaching abroad program. In this exploratory, collective case study I highlight the participants’ voice by analyzing their definitions of ICC before, during, and after their experience in Germany and using their descriptions of experiences living and working in German schools collected from journals, program evaluations, group interviews (before and during), class observation notes, re-entry individual interviews, and reflection surveys. Findings were analyzed using the conceptual framework of ICC (Alred, Byram, and Flemings, 2006; Bennett, 2008; Deardorff, 2006, 2008; Fantini, 2009) and transformative learning theory (Cranton, 2006; Mezirow, 1978, 1991, 2000; Taylor, 1994a, 1994b, 1997). Findings reveal that participants developed a more complex understanding of ICC over the course of a one-month student teaching abroad experience and that perspective transformation occurred in some of the participants. However, the pattern and depth of the transformation depend as much on participants’ affective and cognitive tendencies (impacted by individual’s professional and personal characteristics and history) as it does on program components. Four themes emerged from the data: (a) cross-cultural comparisons; (b) sociolinguistic awareness; (c) self-development; and (d) cultural awareness. All participants grew in their understanding and conceptualization of ICC, but two of the four individuals completed a perspective transformation during the four-week overseas period. The other two participants’ experiences validate Cranton’s (2006) concept of transformation iterative and cyclical and not hierarchical or linear. In addition to the theoretical implication, the applications for universities and K-12 schools can be many. Schools and universities have increased their focus on global education and creating opportunities for their students to participate in different cultural immersion experiences. This dissertation highlights the importance of studying genuine experiences in an international setting and shows ways in which international student teaching abroad program coordinators can maximize the possibility of their students developing an understanding of ICC that can be used not only for teaching abroad, but also when teaching culturally, linguistically, and racially diverse students in the United States.