Content modules in UK and US universities – their unique contribution towards the development of intercultural competence and criticality

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Language: English

© 2017 Elinor Parks.

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This paper explores the unique contribution of content modules towards the development of criticality (Barnett, 1997) and intercultural competence (Byram, 1997) in Modern Languages (ML). It draws upon the findings of a PhD study investigating the implications of the division between language and content, as experienced by German Studies students in two American and two British universities. Findings from this study echo to an extent Brumfit et al. (2005), who found that in language modules “the focus on criticality development itself is less central than in other areas of the ML curriculum, especially the ‘content’ courses” (p. 159). In interviews, both staff and students across all four universities referred to upper-level or content modules as the area which contributed the most to students’ development of intercultural competence and criticality, yet content-based language courses were also cited. Implications of these findings are discussed and recommendations are made for the future of ML in Higher Education (HE).

Keywords: language degrees, content modules, higher education, criticality, intercultural competence, languages.


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Parks, Elinor. (2017). Content modules in UK and US universities – their unique contribution towards the development of intercultural competence and criticality. In Carmen Álvarez-Mayo, Angela Gallagher-Brett, Franck Michel (Eds), Innovative language teaching and learning at university: enhancing employability (pp. 59-66).

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