Uzum, Baburhan (Sam Houston State University), Bedrettin Yazan (The University of Alabama), Sedat Akayoglu (Abant Izzet Baysal University), and Netta Avineri (Middlebury Institute of International Studies)
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The present study aims to contribute to the knowledge-base of intercultural competence (IC) in teacher education by incorporating an intercultural virtual exchange (IVE) engagement between ESL teacher candidates at a US university and EFL teacher candidates at a Turkish university. The research question addressed is: How do preservice teachers (PTs) discursively negotiate their beliefs and ideas about multicultural and social justice issues in an IVE project?
Informed by the Intercultural Competence theoretical perspective by Byram (2008), the study explored how PTs develop IC through IVE, as an example of intercultural intervention (Jackson, 2018) that focuses on cultural and educational topics in the US and Turkish educational contexts. PTs in these universities engaged in weekly discussions in Fall 2015, exploring such topics as gender, socioeconomic status, religion, (in)equity in education, and other educational considerations in their contexts. Following their discussions, PTs interviewed each other to learn more about their partner’s cultural identity and reflected on this experience.
The findings indicated that the particular language PTs used had an impact on discussing multicultural and social justice issues in their contexts. In the synchronous and asynchronous conversations, PTs made discourse choices, capturing culture(s) and communities as generic, specific, multiple, or single, and engaged on critical topics in different ways based on the topic and platform. When culture was referred to as generic in framing questions (e.g., What holidays do people celebrate there?), marginalized/minority groups were lost in these representations. In addition, critical conversations were less likely to take place in the synchronous video conferences compared to the asynchronous discussions. Given the immediacy and language demand of the synchronous exchanges, PTs did not want to be misunderstood and leave a negative impression. The asynchronous discussions provided more room for critical conversations as PTs had more time to formulate their thoughts and edit their entries. The implications include a call for focusing on language in IVE projects. Teacher educators should promote and demonstrate language that captures culture(s) and communities as specific, multiple, and ever-changing, and should equip PTs with strategies to explore multicultural and social justice topics adopting such language.
Byram, M. (2008). From foreign language education to education for intercultural citizenship. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Jackson, J. (2018). Interculturality in international education. New York: Routledge.