Developing worldview(s): An ethnography of culture learning in a foreign language classroom

Erin Kearney, University of Pennsylvania


While the belief that cultural learning involves a change in ‘worldview’ is pervasive among specialists and non-specialists alike, this study locates the culture learning process in the actual classroom interaction of a French-as-a-foreign language course and analyzes the nature of the meaning-making practices that surround culture learning. By adopting ethnographic and discourse-analytic methods in collecting and analyzing data, which include video-recorded class sessions and interviews with participants, a collection of student writing, and detailed fieldnotes, this research explores how emergent cultural representations, interpretations, and social identities were fostered by processes of cultural learning in this foreign language classroom. Most notably, linguistic and paralinguistic practices (like shifts in point of reference marked by shifts in voice and gesture, for example) were integral in allowing students to access new modes of seeing, reading and constructing cultural meaning. Because learners were being socialized to view and construct the world from an unfamiliar perspective through these new discursive and interpretive practices, spaces opened for them to inhabit and perform new subjectivities. This dissertation aims not only to provide a detailed account of this learning, by identifying the various modes of interpretation, representation and performance surrounding cultural learning, but also to contribute to existing theories and models of culture learning in the classroom. On the basis of this research, the dissertation discusses what practitioners can do in classrooms to address cultural learning objectives that in recent years have been increasingly emphasized by theorists, professional organizations, and university departments. This study shows that a more detailed approach to culture teaching and learning can be articulated in a way that pushes both theory and practice forward.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Linguistics

Recommended Citation

Kearney, Erin, "Developing worldview(s): An ethnography of culture learning in a foreign language classroom" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3328597.