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NEW DIRECTIONS FOR INTERCULTURAL UNDERSTANDING

M. Myers

Queen's University (CANADA)
In multicultural Canada, diversity is key, especially as regards the linguistic diversity of the French cultures in contact with our bilingual English-French policies. Recent Ministry guidelines (2013; 2014) for future French teachers re-emphasize the importance of cultural aspects.In training future teachers, it becomes important to have them demonstrate how deeply they assimilate the required understanding.

Objectives:
The Ministry promotes acknowledgement of diversity and support thereof in classrooms. Specific documents describe guidelines for the implementation of cultural understanding. The problem is how to ensure that in classrooms learners are actually taking in the recommended knowledge and make it their own. Such an appropriation depends on a dynamic approach and facilitation in order to allow learners to get involved in the awareness development processes.
I examined the documents to uncover the relevant parameters and see how much the consciousness raising effort depends on internalized values which could facilitate the anticipated behaviors, or if in some way the values being taught and the behaviors go hand in hand (Dubar, 1991). The question of latency or innateness is explored. Also from an environmental standpoint, I examined the participants’ social context as a more favorable context brings about a greater sensitivity to difference (McLelland, 1961).

Method:
The research method used is qualitative in nature, as according to Patton (2015), it allows to make sense of things having to do with people. Both the official documents and teacher trainer notes taken during the 2018 academic year as well as trainees’ notes (48 participants) were analyzed.
First we carried out an analysis of the relevant official documents where mention is made of intercultural awareness development, namely having to do with intercultural aspects in French curriculum guidelines. Intercultural understanding is included with a further division into intercultural awareness and sociolinguistic conventions. We looked at all the steps taken in a language teacher training course in order to implement ministry guidelines. Journal notes were taken on students’ reactions during teacher planned activities. (Stake, 1995). We contrasted these data with observational data from students in class and their inclusion of intercultural understanding in their assignments. Analysis of ways teacher acquired the needed knowledge was done by comparing outcomes to contents in the documents.

Results:
Findings show how the different students integrated different facets of the contents of the guidelines to access them for understanding and also to suit their own teaching purposes. They also show that the division between intercultural understanding and intercultural conventions added to the participants’ awareness-raising. Various students’ reaction toward the integration of intercultural aspects in their own personal development and for their future teaching will be presented.
The participants coming from more diverse cultures paid more attention to aspects having to do with intercultural understanding, both at the level of intercultural awareness and awareness of sociolinguistic conventions.
In addition, the uptake of new directions varied among students although their awareness of cultural differences increased. Among other outcomes, it appears that these from more diverse cultures included stronger components of intercultural aspects in their lesson planning.