Exploring intercultural communicative competence in a distance language learning environment

Baumann, Uwe (2010). Exploring intercultural communicative competence in a distance language learning environment. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000b392


This study explores intercultural communicative competence in a distance language learning programme at the Open University in the UK. The research was based on two cohorts of distance language students of German, one at beginner and one at advanced level. This study uses an approach that combines quantitative and qualitative research methods through the use of questionnaires and in-depth, semi-structured telephone interviews.

It was established that the conceptual framework of intercultural communicative competence developed by Byram (1997b) and his collaborators is the most comprehensive and viable framework for this project. There is evidence in the literature that this framework has been used successfully in different contexts (Byram & Morgan, 1994; O’Dowd, 2006; Sercu et al., 2005a). Little research has been conducted on the development of intercultural communicative competence in adults, with the exception of Aarup Jensen et al. (1995). So this project addresses a gap in the research into intercultural communicative competence among adults. Furthermore, it focuses on a programme of language study at a distance, which is another area for which only limited research evidence could be found.

The findings of the project, both the quantitative and qualitative aspects, demonstrate that these learners gained knowledge through the study of a prescribed package of course materials, and that there is evidence of the acquisition of intercultural communicative competence of varying degrees, as stipulated in Byram’s conceptual framework. The findings also demonstrate that the framework of intercultural communicative competence would benefit from the addition of a sixth dimension to encapsulate the experiences and diverse backgrounds that specifically adult learners bring to the study of a modern foreign language: experience of life or savoir s’appuyer sur son expérience.

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