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Curriculum and the foreign language student: interpretive approaches to understanding the postsecondary study of German in Canada Open Access


Other title
second language education
postsecondary German
student experience
narrative analysis
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Plews, John Lee
Supervisor and department
Johnston, Ingrid (Secondary Education)
Examining committee member and department
Whitinger, Raleigh (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Dunn, William (Secondary Education)
Leggo, Carl (Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia)
Richardson, George (Secondary Education)
Fordham, Kim (Humanities, Augustana Campus)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
In this dissertation, I use a hermeneutic framework drawing on critical and postcolonial theory and interpretive inquiry (narrative analysis) to explore the postsecondary curriculum for German as a foreign language and culture (GFL) in Canada, its history, and its current manifestation, in relation to the twenty-first-century Canadians who study it. I pursue the questions, What is the GFL curriculum? How did it come about? What is it like for students? and What would curriculum innovation look like if it were based on students’ interests? In part one, I discuss research paradigms, the influence of hermeneutics, the research process, the role of the researcher, and my research acts. In part two, I critique the history of GFL as taught at university in Canada. In part three, I examine the subject positions that have informed that history. I find that the Canadian postsecondary GFL curriculum reflects and benefits the symbolic sociocultural position of native-speaker literary professors and not the educational needs and interests of nonnative-speaker students. The Canadian postsecondary GFL curriculum has been articulated by a cross-cultural divide and withheld knowledge. Using postcolonial perspectives, I propose the diaspora and the less native speaker as potentially counter-hegemonic positions from which to conceptualize the teachers and learners of GFL and reconstruct the curriculum. I follow these initial theoretical analyses with four narrative analyses based on interviews with four Canadian undergraduate students of GFL that explored their experiences of instructional materials, teaching approaches, and curriculum design. The narratives include an episodic account, a mock epic, a psychological case with allegorical digressions, and an allegorical tale and tell of an unrequited love, a quest, shame, and an anti-quest in order to reveal how some are failed by existing curricula and yet make progress toward their linguistic and intercultural goals. In the final chapter, I present a fictional case study of a small German program where I have attempted to rethink curriculum and instruction based on the perspectives and student experiences explored in the previous chapters. I thus offer new vantage points from which to understand the GFL curriculum and enact more constructive teaching and learning.
License granted by John Plews ( on 2010-09-30T15:06:32Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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