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

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© 2017 Elinor Parks.


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Abstract

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.

References

Barnett, R. (1997). Higher education: a critical business. Bristol: Open University Press.

Brumfit, C., Myles, F., Mitchell, R., Johnston, B., & Ford, P. (2005). Language study in higher education and the development of criticality. International journal of applied linguistics, 15(2), 145-168. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1473-4192.2005.00085.x

Byram, M. (1997). Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Gieve, S., & Cunico, S. (2012). Language and content in the modern foreign languages degree: a students’ perspective. The language learning journal, 40(3), 273-291. https://doi.org/10.1080/09571736.2011.639459

MLA. (2007). Foreign languages and higher education: new structures for a changed world. http://www.mla.org/flreport

Matos, A. G. (2011). Literary texts and intercultural learning: exploring new directions. Oxford: Peter Lang.

Phipps, A. M., & Gonzales, M. (2004). Modern languages – learning and teaching in an intercultural field. London: Sage.

Quality Assurance Agency. (2015). Subject benchmark statement: languages, cultures and societies. http://www.qaa.ac.uk/publications/information-and-guidance/publication?Pub ID=2982#.WHjTdIXgWDo

Worton, M. (2009). Review of modern foreign languages provisions in higher education in England. HEFCE. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100202100434/http://hefce.ac.uk/pubs/year/2009/200941/

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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). Research-publishing.net. https://doi.org/10.14705/rpnet.2017.innoconf2016.655

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The dichotomy of language and content in US and UK higher education – Implications for the development of intercultural competence and perspectives towards the target language
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doi:10.14705/rpnet.2016.000413