Week7.The_Challenge_of_Assessing_Cultural_Understanding_in_the_Context_of_Foreign_Language_Instructi

Week7.The_Challenge_of_Assessing_Cultural_Understanding_in_the_Context_of_Foreign_Language_Instructi

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FOREIGN LANGUAGE ANNALS • VOL, 40, NO, 1 The Challenge of Assessing Cultural Understanding in the Context of Foreign Language Instruction Renate A. Schulz University oj Arizona Abstract: Numerous publications, including the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century (National Standards, 1999), emphasize the importance of cultural understanding in the development oj intercultural competence in foreign language learning. However, there is no agreement on how culture should be defined operationally in the context of the foreign language curriculum in terms of concrete instructional objectives, and there is even less consensus on whether or how it should be formally assessed. This article reviews the literature relating to goals and objectives for the teaching of culture and suggests fivefundamental objectives to serve as a founda- tion for the development of cross-cultural understanding and intercultural competence. Portfolio assessment is proposed to evaluate students' emerging awareness, and a tem- plate for such a portfolio is provided. Key words: assessing cultural understanding, intercultural competence, objectives for teaching culture, portfolio assessment, teaching culture Language: Relevant to all languages Introduction Ever since foreign languages entered the formal school curriculum, foreign language educators have claimed that such study helps develop cross-cultural understanding, including positive attitudes toward other cultures and lessened ethnocentrism, as well as the ability to communicate effectively (i.e., interact in ways that are culturally appropriate) with people of the target culture. There is, however, no empirical evidence that what Robinson calls a magic carpet ride to another culture syndrome (Robinson, 1997) actually takes place. There is no question that language and culture are inextricably interre- lated. Ethnographers of communication have demonstrated that many speech events have their own culture-specific structures and routines, such as inser- vice encounters (e,g,, in shops, banks, government agencies, restaurants, etc), phone interactions, and classroom interactions, and that many speech acts (e,g,, apologies, compliments, expressing disagreement) use culture-specific variations. Indeed, Mitchell and Myles (2004) point out that "researchers in the language socialization tradition beheve that language and culture are not separable, but Renate A. Schulz (PhD, The Ohio State University) is Professor of German Studies and Faculty Member of the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.
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10 SPRING 2007 are acquired together, with each providing support for the deyelopment of the other" (p, 235), That means that at least for the learning of a first language (LI), linguistic and social/cultural development go hand in hand and that one's social identity is culturally defined. To what extent this development of linguistic and sociocultural
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Week7.The_Challenge_of_Assessing_Cultural_Understanding_in_the_Context_of_Foreign_Language_Instructi

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