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We Have Done It Ourselves: French Teachers' Exploration of Intercultural Communicative Competence through Critical Participatory Action Research

Kristen L Nugent, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


As globalization, immigration, and multiculturalism transform the current American landscape, the need for foreign language educators to embed an intercultural element within curriculum increases. Intercultural communicative competence (ICC) is a theoretical framework that promotes the building of appropriate and effective intercultural relationships between diverse people as they learn to use a foreign language to participate in meaningful interactions. While the literature recommends that teachers design culture lessons using a conceptual framework to guide students through the consideration of attitudes, knowledge, and skills, many teachers are unacquainted with viable conceptual models for classroom implementation. This critical participatory action research (CPAR) study explores the practices, understandings of practices, and professional conditions of one group of French teachers, as we experience collaborative professional development in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of ICC. This project considers the transformation that takes place pedagogically as participants experiment with new methods for teaching culture in the French classroom. Furthermore, this study represents the viewpoint of French teachers as they struggle with the marginalization of their profession, and strive for group action as a way of improving professional conditions. When French teachers experience CPAR professional development related to ICC, they discover, through extensive conversations, that intercultural learning in the classroom becomes more engaging, meaningful, and powerful for secondary students. Teacher participants learn to play the role of the guide, to encourage students to explore their attitudes toward diverse people, and to create more space for independent inquiry. However, for those teachers entering into the realm of ICC without the foundation of communicative language teaching (CLT), which ensures that students are exposed to target language input on a regular basis, preparing students for effective intercultural communication remains difficult. Providing opportunities for French teachers to play an active role in their own professional development creates space for open dialogue, deep self-reflection, and transformation of classroom practices related to interculturality. Additionally, teachers express an increased desire to continue studying ICC, exhibit confidence while participating in pedagogical discussions, and build a community intending to experiment further with ICC through group action that continues beyond the confines of this study.

Subject Area

Foreign language education|Education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Nugent, Kristen L, "We Have Done It Ourselves: French Teachers' Exploration of Intercultural Communicative Competence through Critical Participatory Action Research" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10101139.