DOI

10.17077/etd.fr3fqk9v

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Access Restrictions

.

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Second Language Acquisition

First Advisor

Wesely, Pamela M.

Second Advisor

Liskin-Gasparro, Judith E.

First Committee Member

Otto, Sue E. K.

Second Committee Member

Plakans, Lia

Third Committee Member

Schmidt, Renita

Abstract

Using interpretive qualitative research methods, this dissertation study examines how a telecollaboration in a social networking site affects learners’ intercultural competence development. In particular, it explores the changes in learners’ understanding of the concept of culture, as well as their understanding of their own and target cultures. Additionally, this study investigates what role the medium of the exchange plays in the project. Finally, it analyzes three individual learners’ experiences in an online intercultural exchange.

Two intact classes of college-level language learners—U.S. students learning Spanish and Colombian students learning English—participated in an eight-week telecollaboration using Facebook. Each week students shared information about their own culture and reacted to the posts about the target culture made by the students in the partner class. This study analyzed 14 U.S. students’ experiences and learning, based on their pre- and post-telecollaboration questionnaires, reflexive portfolios, and pre- and post-telecollaboration one-on-one interviews.

Data analysis demonstrated that the participants experienced a notable development in their intercultural competence. In particular, participants showed a more detailed understanding of the concept of culture, as well as the reasons for cultural learning and awareness. The activity of explaining their own culture to foreigners led the participants to an ongoing analysis of their own culture and, therefore, facilitated development in their understanding of the home culture. Specifically, participants were able to take a critical stance in their analysis and evaluate their own culture from the position of an outsider. Finally, participants gained knowledge about Colombian culture and developed an ability to analyze cultural products and practices, as well as infer information about cultural perspectives from that analysis. In general, the telecollaboration enabled participants to develop critical cultural awareness and change their worldviews from more ethnocentric to more ethnorelative.

In regard to the use of Facebook, this popular social networking site proved to be uniquely suitable for a telecollaboration. It gave the participants an opportunity to create a personal learning environment that was accessible whenever and wherever they needed it. It also facilitated a bridging between participants’ learning and leisure online activities.

The three case studies demonstrated that while any type of learner can benefit from telecollaboration, their experiences and the degree of intercultural competence development are individual. In addition, the development of intercultural competence appeared to be non-linear, which demonstrates the difficulty of its assessment.

Based on the findings, the researcher concludes that telecollaboration facilitates the development of intercultural competence and, thus, is an effective way of addressing the challenge of culture instruction in foreign language courses. Additionally, the unique properties of social networking sites make them an easily accessible platform for telecollaboration projects.

Public Abstract

The continuous development and global spread of internet technologies and the ever-growing rates of international migration have contributed to a world that is more interconnected than ever before. In this context, the ability to effectively and appropriately communicate with people from other cultures has become an essential skill. One way to help foreign language learners develop this ability is through online intercultural exchanges, or telecollaborations.

This dissertation study explores a telecollaboration between the U.S. college students learning Spanish and Colombian college students learning English. The exchange was conducted in a private Facebook group over the course of eight weeks. Each week students posted information about their own culture on assigned topics and commented on each other’s posts.

The analysis of the U.S. students’ pre- and post-project interviews, questionnaires, and personal reflections showed that telecollaboration helps learners develop their skills of intercultural communication. Specifically, after participating in the exchange, learners showed a better understanding of what culture is and how it affects people’s everyday lives. They were also able to look at their own culture from an outsider’s perspective. They realized that their culture and the way they do things is not universal to everyone. Finally, students learned to analyze information about foreign cultures and make assumptions about the beliefs and values inherent to those cultures. These skills make an individual more empathetic and understanding toward different cultures, which is why the researcher concludes that telecollaboration projects are a useful activity that helps students become better intercultural communicators.

Keywords

intercultural competence, social media, telecollaboration

Pages

xiii, 279 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 239-266).

Copyright

Copyright © 2017 Anastasia R. Izmaylova

Share

COinS