Please mind the gap: A pre-service teacher's intercultural development during a study abroad program

Date of Completion

January 2008


Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Education, Teacher Training




The overall purpose of this study was to describe and interpret a pre-service teacher's intercultural development during a teacher education study abroad program in London, England. Employing a qualitative case-study design, the study was conducted over the course of an academic year utilizing four participant observation periods and a series of five, in-depth, informal interviews. Bennett's Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity provides the theoretical framework for the analysis of the participant's intercultural development. This research details how the pre-service teacher's internship and immersion in a foreign school cultural context provided her with an appropriate intercultural challenge; in her experience as the cultural outsider, cultural difference could not be ignored. Her intercultural development was supported during the semester by her seminar leader who acted as a cultural translator, interpreting her experiences through a cultural lens and scaffolding interculturally sensitive ways of understanding her encounters. Findings demonstrate that the participant began the study with a limited cultural consciousness and superficial approach to cultural difference; however by the end of the study she was seeking out, accepting, and recognizing the influence of cultural differences within an educational context, and developing an ethnorelative worldview. Implications reveal the potential of teacher education study abroad programs to positively influence pre-service teachers' intercultural development. Careful attention must be paid to the level of intercultural challenge faced by students within a study abroad program as well as the role of a translator and guide in supporting intercultural development. Study abroad programs in teacher education should ultimately be judged by the influence the experience has on pre-service teachers' intercultural competence within domestically diverse school contexts; developmental gains made during international experiences must be leveraged upon re-entry toward increasing student's ability to work in culturally responsive ways within school contexts. ^