Developing Intercultural Awareness and Skills in English Majors: A Constructivist Approach

Document Type: Research Paper



2 Associate Professor, IAU, Garmsar Branch

3 English Department, South Tehran Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran



In the fast-changing modern world of today, learners need global skills for life-long learning and effective communication. Among these skills are intercultural competence and critical thinking. Although teachers have acknowledged the importance of the inclusion of global skills in their actual teaching procedures, they still need more concrete methodology and tangible pedagogical frameworks to incorporate these skills into their teachings. This study has been an attempt to propose a framework based on the constructivist approach to activate critical thinking and, in turn, develop critical cultural awareness and intercultural skills in EFL learners. To achieve this aim, a qualitative study was designed; an intercultural syllabus was developed and implemented through the constructivist approach in an academic semester. The related data were then collected through the participants’ reflective worksheets and interviews. The content analysis of the data indicated that the constructivist approach and the intercultural syllabus were effective in assisting the participants in applying critical thinking strategies and developing critical cultural awareness and intercultural skills of discovery and interaction, interpreting and relating, and evaluation. Meanwhile, the results of the self-report evaluation survey indicated that the participants evaluated most of the aspects of the intercultural experience positively. The findings of the current study have implications for instructors, materials developers, and educational stakeholders who support developing intercultural awareness and skills in learners.


Alptekin, C. (2002). Towards intercultural communicative competence in ELT.  ELT Journal, 56(1), 57-64.

Baker, W. (2011).  Intercultural awareness: Modeling an understanding of cultures in intercultural communication through English as a lingua franca. Language and Intercultural Communication 11(3), 197-214.

Baker, W. (2012a). From cultural awareness to intercultural awareness: Culture in ELT. ELT Journal 66(1), 62-70.

Baker, W. (2012b). Using online learning objects to develop intercultural awareness in ELT: A critical examination in a Thai higher education setting. British Council Teacher.

Barrett, M., Byram, M., Lázár, I., Mompoint-Gaillard, P.,& Philippou, S. (2014). Developing intercultural competence through education. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

Byram, M.(1997). Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

Canagarajah, A. S. (2006). Changing communicative needs, revised assessment objectives: Testing English as an international language. Language Assessment Quarterly: An International Journal, 3(3), 229-242.

Cunningham, D., & Duffy, T. (1996). Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction. Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology, 51, 170-198.

Dewey, M. (2012). Towards a post-normative approach: Learning the pedagogy of ELF. Journal of English as a Lingua Franca 1(1), 141-170.

Deardorff, D. K. (2009). Implementing intercultural competence assessment. In D. Deardorff (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Intercultural Competence. (Pp. 477-491). Los Angeles: Sage

Deardorff, D. (2004). The identification and assessment of intercultural competence as a student outcome of international education at institutions of higher education in the United States (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.  

Driscoll, P., J. Earl & C. Cable (2013). The role and nature of the cultural dimension in primary modern languages. Language, Culture and Curriculum 26(2), 146-160.

Dörnyei, Z. (2007). Research methods in applied linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Galloway, N. & H. Rose. (2014). Using listening journals to raise awareness of global Englishes in ELT. ELT Journal 68 (4), 386-96.

Galloway, N. & H. Rose. ( 2015). Introducing Global Englishes. Abingdon: Routledge.

Gyogi, E. (2016). Reflections of own vs. other culture: Considerations of the ICC model.International Journal of Bias, Identity, and Diversities in Education (IJBIDE).1(2)P.14.

Hsieh, H. F., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis.  Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277-1288.

Kramsch, C. (1993). Context and culture in language teaching, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kalfadellis, P. (2005). A multidisciplinary approach to teaching cross-cultural communication. The International Journal of Learning11, 1283-1288.

Lantolf, J. P. (2000). Introducing sociocultural theory. In J. P. Lantolf (Ed.), Sociocultural theory and second language learning (pp. 1-26). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 Littrell, LN, & Salas, E.(2005). A review of cross-cultural training: Best practices, guidelines, and research needs. Human Resource Development Review, 4, 305.

Liu, X. (2003). The cultivation of intercultural communicative competence: A constructivist view. Foreign   Languages and Their Teaching, 1, 34-36.

Moir, T. (2013). FIR System identification using feedback. Journal of Signal and Information Processing (JSIP), 4(4), 385-393.

McKay, S. L. (2012). Teaching materials for English as an international language. In  A.

Matsuda (Eds.), Preparing teachers to teach English as an International Language. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

McDonough, J. & McDoonough, S. (1997). Research methods for English language teachers. London: Arnold.

Matsuda, A. (2016). ‘Introduction’. In A. Matsuda (Ed.), Preparing teachers to teach English as an international language. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Numrich, C. (2006). Face the issues: Intermediate listening and critical thinking skills (3rd ed.). London: Pearson Higher Education.

Nault, D. (2006). Going global: Rethinking culture teaching in ELT contexts. Iranian Journal of Language Teaching Research 6(2), 77-96.

Lantolf, J. P. (2000). Introducing sociocultural theory. In J. P. Lantolf (Ed.), Sociocultural theory and second language learning (pp. 1-26). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Orszag, A. (2015). Exploring Finnish university students’ perceived level of critical thinking. Master of Education Thesis, University of  Jyväskylä. Retrieved from

Piaget, J. (1966). The origin of intelligence in children. New York: International Universities Press.

Pruegger, V.J., & Rogers, T.B. (1994). Cross-cultural sensitivity training: Methods and assessment. International Journal of Intercultural relations, 18 (3), 369-387.

Rezaei, S. (2017). Researching identity in language and education. In K. A. King, Y-J. Lai, & S. May (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Language and Education: Research Methods in Language and Education, 10,171-182. Dordrecht: Springer.

Risager, K. (2007). Language and culture pedagogy: from a national to a transnational paradigm.  Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Saville-Troike, M. (1989). The ethnography of communication. Oxford: Blackwell.

Scollon, R., S.Wong Scollon (2000). Intercultural Communication: A Discourse Approach. Oxford: Oxford    University Press.

Skehan,  P. (1998).  A cognitive approach to language teaching.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sharifian, F. (2013). Cultural conceptualizations in learning English as an L2: Examples from Persian-speaking learners, Iranian Journal of Language Teaching Research. 1(1), 90-116.

Sharifian, F. (2013). Globalization and developing metacultural competence in learning English as an international language. Multilingual Education, 3(7), 1-11.

Taras, V., Caprar, D. V., Rottig, D., Sarala, R., Zakaria, N., Zhao, F., Huang, V. (2013). A global classroom? Evaluating the effectiveness of global virtual collaboration as a teaching tool in management education.    Academy of Management Learning & Education, 12, 414-435.

T. J., & Sachdev, I. (2011). Intercultural communicative competence: Exploring English language teachers’ beliefs and practices. Language awareness, 20 (2), 81-98.

Sercu, L. (2005). Foreign language teachers and intercultural competence: An international investigation. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1986). Thought and language. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Wang, J., & Zhang, Y. (2012). Practical application of constructivism and metacognition in computer-aided college English teaching. Paper presented at the International Conference on Education technology and computer, Singapore.

Young, T. J., & Sachdev, I. (2011). Intercultural communicative competence: exploring English language teachers’ beliefs and practices. Language Awareness, 20(2), 81-98.