Date of Award

2020

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

First Advisor

Dr Jeremy Pagram

Second Advisor

Dr Alistair Campbell

Third Advisor

Dr Martin Cooper

Abstract

Globalisation has seen our world become increasingly interconnected through the rapid expansion of digital technologies. Intercultural communication competence is a key aspect of global competence for young people to develop their skills, values and behaviours as global citizens. The rapid expansion of the social web (Web 2.0) enables teachers to create rich authentic learning experiences that foster the development of students’ intercultural communication competence through synchronous and asynchronous web tools. The inclusion of these learning experiences engage students beyond the traditional classroom, enabling them to improve and advance 21st Century skills of collaboration, critical and creative thinking, perseverance, interpretation and problem solving.

Intercultural communication competence encapsulates the ability to interact with people from another culture in appropriate and effective ways, involving not only language skills but also knowledge and a willingness to learn other cultures. Through a social constructivist approach, students’ intercultural interactions with web tools and each other promote the extension of human capabilities.

Current research predominantly focuses on the development of intercultural communication competence with students in tertiary institutions through telecollaboration or computer-mediated collaboration. Developing intercultural competence is a lifelong journey. This research study explored what intercultural communication competences developed in upper primary students in Australia when communicating and collaborating with same-age students internationally and interculturally through authentic learning environments facilitated by Web 2.0 tools. Additionally, the study explored if Web 2.0 tools could be used to facilitate collaborative projects online with students in upper primary from two different countries, with different native languages.

This research study utilised participatory action research methodology through exploratory case studies, combining techniques of case study approach with the use of multiple cases. Cross-case analysis using qualitative methodology was employed. Three case studies were undertaken. Upper primary students from an independent school in Western Australia collaborated with two cohorts of students from a school in Spain as separate case studies (case study one and two), and one cohort of students from a rural school in Thailand (case study three). Qualitative data included open-ended questionnaires and documentation data. Triangulation of the data occurred through teacher questionnaires, email correspondence and the researcher’s journal notes, creating a chain of evidence. The qualitative data set was analysed through progressive focus into emerging themes and codes to illustrate the students in Australia’s perspective. Through data reduction, categories emerged in the three dimensions of intercultural communication competence or the use of Web 2.0 tools to collaborate interculturally.

Results showed that students’ ICC was enhanced in all three dimensions of intercultural adroitness (behaviour), awareness (cognitive) and sensitivity (affective), the relative rank order of importance of these dimensions the same across all three cases. Intercultural behaviours emerged as the most frequent whilst intercultural sensitivity the lowest. Ethnocentric thinking and behaving, the tendency to evaluate, anxiety, persevering through language barriers, expectations and the importance of cultural distinctiveness were barriers exhibited through the intercultural communications. The structural and cultural characteristics of ICT in the schools participating enabled the international, intercultural collaborations to occur. Increase to the consistency, quality and quantity of student responses as well as collaborative skills, requires reflection and improvement.

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