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Gaging The Transformative Potential of Second Language Education: Language Educators' Understanding of Interculturality and Criticality Open Access


Other title
transformative education
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Ogilvie, Gregory S
Supervisor and department
Dunn, William (Secondary Education)
Examining committee member and department
Ranta, Leila (Educational Psychology)
Smith, David (Secondary Education)
Cammarata, Laurent (Campus Saint Jean)
Kirova, Anna (Elementary Education)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Second language education is well suited to promote transformative outcomes due to its unique character (the importance of both declarative and procedural knowledge), the close connection between language and culture, and the entrenched humanistic tradition within the field (Musumeci, 1997; Guilherme, 2002). Nonetheless, second language pedagogy is commonly portrayed as having an exclusive linguistic focus, as evidenced by the professed professional knowledge base of second language educators (e.g., Freeman & Johnson, 1998; Johnston & Goettsch, 2000; Andrews, 2003; Liddicoat, 2006; Mullock, 2006). This study sought to explore the transformative potential of second language education by investigating how professional second language educators understand ‘criticality’ and ‘interculturality’ – two complex, heterogeneously defined concepts that have received increased attention in the field and have a significant impact on how pedagogy is enacted. As the primary unit of inquiry was understanding, an interpretive approach was adopted grounded in post-formal thinking, Gadamerian hermeneutics, and critical pedagogy. Data for the study was collected from ten highly educated, dedicated second language instructors with experience teaching in higher education institutions. Data was collected in the form of extensive interviews and the analysis of resources deemed important in guiding instruction. The results of the hermeneutic investigation demonstrated that the educators defined the function of second language education and the central concepts of the study (criticality and interculturality) in diverse ways. The varied conceptualizations illuminated different aspects of criticality and interculturality and their influence on pedagogy from a practitioner perspective. Moreover, they revealed that all the educators conceptualized second language education as a transformative act, but to differing degrees and with different foci. Among the central factors influencing the transformative potential of second language pedagogy were the domains in which criticality was applied. Although all of the educators applied criticality to information introduced in the classroom (in relation to the source, validity, etc. of information), only some of the educators applied criticality to the domains of the subject, content introduced, pedagogical practices and epistemology, thus greatly influencing the transformative potential of instruction. The results of the study also revealed the presence of discourses that had an inhibitory effect on second language education as a transformative endeavour. These included the discourse of political correctness, the discourse of narrow instrumentality, and the discourse of decisive deference. The discourses demonstrate how the trends towards standardization and de-professionalization rampant within the field of education have had an adverse impact on how second language educators understand their role in the pedagogical process and enact pedagogy.
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