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A Discussion-Based Online Approach to Fostering Deep Cultural Inquiry in an Introductory Language Course

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Abstract

Fostering and assessing language learners' cultural understanding is a daunting task, particularly at the early stages of language learning with target language instruction. The purpose of this study was to explore the development of beginning French language learners' intercultural understanding in a computer-mediated environment where students discussed online cultural instruction among peers, in English, outside of formal instructional time. Discourse analyses of the discussion transcripts revealed sizeable growth in learners' development of intercultural sensitivity in response to different types of online instructional materials. Volunteer participants provided additional insight into the influences of the instructional materials on changes in their worldviews in post-discussion interviews. In addition to providing evidence of effective uses of technology to resolve conflicts between target language use and deep cultural learning in the beginning world language curriculum, findings from this study document the application of an assessment model used to measure learners' development of intercultural understanding.

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