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Raising cultural awareness in Iranian English language classroom:: Can a tailored course make a difference?

Raising cultural awareness in Iranian English language classroom:: Can a tailored course make a difference?
Raising cultural awareness in Iranian English language classroom:: Can a tailored course make a difference?
English learners come from a variety of backgrounds and are predominantly taught using teaching methodologies that downplay the importance of culture for teaching. The extra-linguistic side of these courses is mainly limited to discussions of ‘culture’ in English-speaking countries. Due to the complex relationship between language and culture (e.g., Hua, 2014; Risager, 2007) and the added difficulty in case of English as a lingua franca (Baker, 2011a, 2011b), finding a definite answer to the question of culture representation while teaching language is not a straightforward task (e.g., Kramsch, 2006; Byram, 1997).

Iran, the context of this study, presents a relatively culturally homogenous context, which offers learners little opportunity to experience intercultural interactions. The language learners are exposed to two English teaching systems. English is as an obligatory subject at state schools with the cultural side focusing on Islamic values in line with policy-makers’ wishes. Additionaly popular private language institutesfollow the dominant worldwide approach. To what extent the learners will eventually be prepared for possible participation in intercultural communication is questionable. The overarching aim of this study is to establish a course to increase Iranian teenage language learners’ cultural awareness based on their language learning objectives and within the possibilities of the Iranian context.

This Action Research thesis involved a group of ten students, aged between sixteen and eighteen, studying English at private institutes and state schools in Iran. A general structure of two action research phases was followed. For the first phase, four focus group interviews (overall student number = 17) were conducted and qualitatively analysed. These were designed to gain insight into the cultural aspect of learners’ objectives. Additionally, two exemplar English textbooks that are used in the two systems were analysed. The results suggest that students’ English ‘ideal selves’ (e.g., Dörnyei, 2009) mainly involved intercultural communication encounters; however, neither of the textbooks suffices to meet students’ learning objectives.

The second phase consisted of a ten-hour teaching intervention with ten students over a period of five weeks, aimed at increasing the learners’ level of cultural awareness. Different data collection tools, i.e., classroom recordings and transcriptions, students’ reflective writings at the end of each session, and written assignments during the course were used., The findings suggest an overall increase in the language learners’ cultural awareness. In addition, individual differences among the learners were found to influence the process of development, an intresting route for further investigation to maximise learners’ progress.

This Action Research thesis involved a group of ten students, aged between sixteen and eighteen, studying English at private institutes and state schools in Iran. A general structure of two action research phases was followed. For the first phase, four focus group interviews (overall student number = 17) were conducted and qualitatively analysed. These were designed to gain insight into the cultural aspect of learners’ objectives. Additionally, two exemplar English textbooks that are used in the two systems were analysed. The results suggest that students’ English ‘ideal selves’ (e.g., Dörnyei, 2009) mainly involved intercultural communication encounters; however, neither of the textbooks suffices to meet students’ learning objectives.

The second phase consisted of a ten-hour teaching intervention with ten students over a period of five weeks, aimed at increasing the learners’ level of cultural awareness. Different data collection tools, i.e., classroom recordings and transcriptions, students’ reflective writings at the end of each session, and written assignments during the course were used., The findings suggest an overall increase in the language learners’ cultural awareness. In addition, individual differences among the learners were found to influence the process of development, an intresting route for further investigation to maximise learners’ progress.
University of Southampton
Abdzadeh, Yasmina
a84356e2-5592-47a1-b898-7c9267a6a712
Abdzadeh, Yasmina
a84356e2-5592-47a1-b898-7c9267a6a712
Huettner, Julia
bb0cd345-6c35-48e1-89f7-a820605aaa2c
Baker, William
9f1b758c-e6e0-43ca-b7bf-a0d5e1387d10

Abdzadeh, Yasmina (2017) Raising cultural awareness in Iranian English language classroom:: Can a tailored course make a difference? University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 459pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

English learners come from a variety of backgrounds and are predominantly taught using teaching methodologies that downplay the importance of culture for teaching. The extra-linguistic side of these courses is mainly limited to discussions of ‘culture’ in English-speaking countries. Due to the complex relationship between language and culture (e.g., Hua, 2014; Risager, 2007) and the added difficulty in case of English as a lingua franca (Baker, 2011a, 2011b), finding a definite answer to the question of culture representation while teaching language is not a straightforward task (e.g., Kramsch, 2006; Byram, 1997).

Iran, the context of this study, presents a relatively culturally homogenous context, which offers learners little opportunity to experience intercultural interactions. The language learners are exposed to two English teaching systems. English is as an obligatory subject at state schools with the cultural side focusing on Islamic values in line with policy-makers’ wishes. Additionaly popular private language institutesfollow the dominant worldwide approach. To what extent the learners will eventually be prepared for possible participation in intercultural communication is questionable. The overarching aim of this study is to establish a course to increase Iranian teenage language learners’ cultural awareness based on their language learning objectives and within the possibilities of the Iranian context.

This Action Research thesis involved a group of ten students, aged between sixteen and eighteen, studying English at private institutes and state schools in Iran. A general structure of two action research phases was followed. For the first phase, four focus group interviews (overall student number = 17) were conducted and qualitatively analysed. These were designed to gain insight into the cultural aspect of learners’ objectives. Additionally, two exemplar English textbooks that are used in the two systems were analysed. The results suggest that students’ English ‘ideal selves’ (e.g., Dörnyei, 2009) mainly involved intercultural communication encounters; however, neither of the textbooks suffices to meet students’ learning objectives.

The second phase consisted of a ten-hour teaching intervention with ten students over a period of five weeks, aimed at increasing the learners’ level of cultural awareness. Different data collection tools, i.e., classroom recordings and transcriptions, students’ reflective writings at the end of each session, and written assignments during the course were used., The findings suggest an overall increase in the language learners’ cultural awareness. In addition, individual differences among the learners were found to influence the process of development, an intresting route for further investigation to maximise learners’ progress.

This Action Research thesis involved a group of ten students, aged between sixteen and eighteen, studying English at private institutes and state schools in Iran. A general structure of two action research phases was followed. For the first phase, four focus group interviews (overall student number = 17) were conducted and qualitatively analysed. These were designed to gain insight into the cultural aspect of learners’ objectives. Additionally, two exemplar English textbooks that are used in the two systems were analysed. The results suggest that students’ English ‘ideal selves’ (e.g., Dörnyei, 2009) mainly involved intercultural communication encounters; however, neither of the textbooks suffices to meet students’ learning objectives.

The second phase consisted of a ten-hour teaching intervention with ten students over a period of five weeks, aimed at increasing the learners’ level of cultural awareness. Different data collection tools, i.e., classroom recordings and transcriptions, students’ reflective writings at the end of each session, and written assignments during the course were used., The findings suggest an overall increase in the language learners’ cultural awareness. In addition, individual differences among the learners were found to influence the process of development, an intresting route for further investigation to maximise learners’ progress.

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Published date: July 2017

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 417780
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/417780
PURE UUID: 9ea52eac-ce83-4097-9569-5dc5837b6b05

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Date deposited: 14 Feb 2018 17:30
Last modified: 13 Mar 2019 18:53

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