Experiences of a foreign language assistantship in Mexico: A case study

Marzin, Emily Adele (2023). Experiences of a foreign language assistantship in Mexico: A case study. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00015a81


This thesis explores the experience of a foreign language assistantship programme in Mexico to gain in-depth insights into how the status, roles, and tasks (SRTs) of foreign language assistants (FLAs), as defined by language assistantship programmes agencies (Azimut Exchanges, 2018; the General Bureau for International Relationships, 2019; the International Centre for Pedagogical Studies, 2018), are understood by the stakeholders – namely the assistants’ tutor, educators, students, and FLAs – at a higher education institution, and which of those SRTs are achieved in practice and how.

This case study focuses on the French language Department of a public university in Mexico. Based on a social constructivism framework, the research examines the experiences of two FLAs, one French and a French-Canadian FLAs, three educators of French – one Mexican and two French, including the assistants’ tutor – and 220 French language students working or studying at this institution. Using a thematic data analysis of semi-structured and focus group interviews, questionnaires, and logbook entries, it explores the experiences and perceptions of the two FLAs’ SRTs both inside and outside the classroom.

The findings show that three aspects of the stakeholders’ understanding of assistants’ SRTs influenced the assistants’ practice: 1- the communication and partnerships between the stakeholders involved, 2- the pedagogical expectations of students and educators, and 3- the perception of the role of culture in the foreign language teaching and learning process. Results also suggest that while the assistants’ presence and work fulfilled the general objectives of the assistantship programme and that they performed their prescribed roles and tasks, FLAs also carried out additional ones. It concludes that to successfully engage the stakeholders with the presence and work of FLAs, improving communication, partnership, and training might be considered to mitigate misinterpretations and frustration. The findings support the need to reshape future assistantship programmes to further develop assistants’ intercultural communication skills and prepare them to take linguistic and cultural variations into account.

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