Intercultural competence in the making: An instrumental case study in the Spanish as a foreign language secondary classroom



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Students across the country take foreign language courses at the K-12 and college levels. These courses include the study of both the linguistic features and cultural aspects of the target language. However, the foreign language profession has continued to place more emphasis on linguistic development and less on cultural understanding (Ingram & O’Neill, 1999). Some educational institutions have mostly relied on study abroad programs to promote more intercultural learning; however, language learning and/or the study abroad intercultural experience alone are not enough (Deardorff, 2009). In a globalized world, language learning must be purposefully connected to intercultural development (Byram, 1997; Deardorff, 2006, 2020; Fantini, 2019; Kramsch, 2002, Larsen-Freeman, 2018) and for this reason new pedagogical approaches to bridge theory and practice to achieve this goal are currently in high demand. This dissertation investigates the understanding and building of intercultural competence by eight secondary students (ages 16-18) studying a level 4 Spanish class in a private school in the Midwestern U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. For twenty-one weeks, the participants explored intercultural competence through maker-centered learning (Clapp et al., 2016), a thinking and learning framework. Data were collected through written-type documentation of the participants’ responses to written assignments and two artifacts, a poem and an art installation. Data were analyzed utilizing the process model of intercultural competence (Deardorff, 2006) and the maker-centered learning framework (Clapp et al., 2016) with categorical aggregation (Stake, 1995) and constant comparison analysis (Glasser & Strauss, 1967.) The analyses revealed that the process model of intercultural competence (Deardorff, 2006) and maker-centered learning (Clapp et al., 2016) are compatible frameworks due to their mutually reinforcing nature. Through maker-centered learning, the participants showed how, throughout the weeks, their understanding of intercultural competence increased, and they were able to build intercultural competence in all the components (attitudes, knowledge, skills, internal outcomes, external outcomes) of the process model by Deardorff (2006).



Intercultural Competence, Maker Centered Learning, Spanish, Foreign Language