Sunday, June 24, 2012

Intercultural Communication Training

This past week has been quite a productive one, especially compared to the last 6 weeks of relatively little productivity.  Firstly, I now have two co-chairs for my dissertation committee: my advisor who is essential in the area of teacher education and another professor in my department who is essential in the area of ESL education specifically.  After meeting with the former, I have been advised to revise Chapter 1 of my research proposal to make a stronger argument for intercultural communication training of language educators.

Within the past few days, I have engaged this advice in three different ways.  The first was reviewing the literature I had already collected and seeing how I could reorganize my writing to make a stronger argument.  For me, this is the easiest to plan and most difficult to write.  The second was doing some online research of programs that recruit people to teach English (or other languages) abroad and seeking out any evidence of intercultural or cross-cultural training.  With the list I have compiled so far, I would say that I am familiar with about half of the programs.  The third was starting another search for scholarly articles and books that specifically address the benefits and disadvantages of intercultural communication training in education and elsewhere (usually in multinational corporations).

The last two approaches to this challenge have given me many new ideas, some of which are distracting in that they suggest a complete change in Chapter 3 of my research proposal.  The most interesting yet distracting idea was to investigate the intercultural or cross-cultural training programs within these international teacher recruiters.  For example, the JET Program in Japan, EPIK in South Korea, and the Peace Corps in the United States require some cultural training before their English teachers start teaching.  I would like to know how they developed these programs, how they are evaluated, and how a random sample of teachers in these programs found them useful, useless, or something in between.  I only think of this as distracting because the more I think about a theoretical framework about this type of research, the further I move away from my original proposal.  This is a symptom of analysis paralysis, I believe.  And I do not want to get snared in that net.

So far, I have collected about 10 articles with only a few published over a decade ago and 1 textbook.  The best discovery so far is that I found another expert in the area, Karen E. Johnson from Penn State.  I have heard of her before, and I look forward to reading her articles and the textbook she co-edited.  Our interests overlap in the recognizing the importance of developing language teachers' sociocultural knowledge.  I should be able to elaborate more on this as I read her work.  On a side note, I remember one of my supervisors in Korea who had all of us sojourning teacher trainers read one of her articles.

I feel that I am on a roll in that the more recent studies have indicated that this area, intercultural competence or sociocultural knowledge of ESL teachers, is a hot research area.  I am temporarily stepping aside from another hot area, the English language policies of Japan.  And I am beginning to see a connection to this current research interest to another interest I have in multiliteracies, which suggests that today's classrooms have more diversity in terms of student backgrounds in terms of cultural and technological literacies.  But I digress.

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