Foreign Language Teachers' International Exchange: Intercultural Competency Development through Practice

The purpose of this study is to examine the nature of foreign language teachers’ intercultural competence development while on an international in-service teacher exchange program in Europe.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Monique Bournot-Trites
Co-Investigators:  Dr. Sandra Zappa Hollman and Dr. Valia Spiliotopoulos
Funding Agency: MInistry of Human Resources and Development, Canada and European Union (exchange)

What's Proposed

While there is an emerging body of research focusing on the relationship between study abroad and intercultural competency development of students, research on teachers’ experiences is scarce (Wernicke, 2010). This study addresses this gap by exploring how the expected outcomes of exchange programs, such as the development of intercultural competence (IC) benefitted a group of Canadian foreign language teachers. Our work is mainly informed by Fantini’s (2009, 2012) conceptualization of IC and Deardorff’s (2009) IC model.  

How This Project is Carried Out

This mixed methods study was carried out throughout a two-year period. Multiple types of data were collected (pre/post audio recorded interviews, questionnaires, online discussions, structured journal). The seven participating teachers had a Bachelor of Education degree specializing in foreign languages from a Western Canadian university. Their four-month stay abroad took place in either Spain or France. Rigorous content data analysis was carried out, following a coding manual developed based on Deardorff’s (2009) and Fantini’s IC components. The findings reveal that the participants’ IC competence was enhanced, and that Deardorff’s model was useful in guiding the analysis of the data.

Why This Project Matters

Given the increase in mobility opportunities for educators and globalization trends in education, it is important to analyze how the experience of studying and teaching abroad benefits teachers from an intercultural competency perspective.

How This Project is Put into Action

Results of the research have informed course content and program design initiatives and exchanges that have included intercultural competency development as an educational goal.

Where to Learn More

Bournot-Trites, M., Zappa-Hollman, S., Spiliotopoulos, V. (2012, Jan). Teachers’ international exchange: Socio-cultural and identity development through practice. Third International Conference on the Development of Intercultural Competence: Intercultural Competence and Foreign/ Second Language Immersive Environments, Tucson Arizona, USA:

Bournot-Trites, M., Zappa-Hollman, S., Spiliotopoulos, V. (2008, March 28). Socio-cultural, identity, and professional development through teachers’ international exchange. Paper presented at the AERA conference, New York.

Bournot-Trites, M., Spiliotopoulos, V, Zappa-Hollman, S. (2007, June 3). Teachers’ international exchange: Socio-cultural and professional knowledge development through practice. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Applied Linguistic (CAAL), Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.