Intercultural Communicative Competence in an IEP Listening and Speaking Course: A Needs Analysis
Hess, Eunhye Kim
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This study aims to describe the use of needs analysis in determining the cultural learning needs of English language learners in an English as a Second Language (ESL) context at an Intensive English Program (IEP). As culture is not a separate part of language learning, cultural learning should be incorporated in language classrooms. One way to decide the amount of cultural learning needed and desired is through a needs analysis because needs analysis provides information about the current state of the course components. In this study, needs analysis was conducted by using different sources and methods. First, the perceptions of learners in an English speaking and listening course were examined by using a basic needs analysis survey. Second, the learners' level of intercultural communicative competence (ICC) was assessed by developing an ICC survey adapted from a model of ICC presented by Byram (1997) and Fantini and Tirmizi (2006). Attempts to account for possible limitations with the survey design were partially accounted for through additional data analysis using results from a teacher interview, textbook analysis, and 8-week classroom observation to provide in-depth accounts of students' cultural learning needs during the course offering. Together, results from all data points were combined for final data interpretation. Findings suggest a mismatch between students' and the teacher's perceptions towards cultural learning needs, with students expressing limited desire for cultural learning and the teacher suggesting it is important. ICC results seem to show indications of limited ICC development after the 7-week course and therefore the need for cultural learning. Although the textbook analysis revealed a balanced proportion of cultural content, the course itself lacked explicit cultural teaching. This needs analysis provides knowledge of how cultural teaching and learning are viewed and practiced in this IEP course and offers the first step in developing future IEP courses that focus explicitly on the importance of ICC development. Future curriculum development would benefit from the knowledge gained from this research through an understanding of specific areas of needed improvement so that culturally specific learning objectives can be met. The cultural learning that can take place as a result of this research will likely contribute to IEP students' feelings of belonging in a new cultural context and potentially improve their opportunities to learn the language more effectively given their probable increase in cultural awareness.
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