English language study abroad program : an investigation of Hong Kong pre-service teachers’ experiences of a language immersion program

Sutherland, Mei Ling (2011) English language study abroad program : an investigation of Hong Kong pre-service teachers’ experiences of a language immersion program. Professional Doctorate thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


There has been minimal research focused on short-term study abroad language immersion programs, in particular, with home-stay families. The importance of authentic intercultural experience is increasingly clear and was acknowledged as central to the process of language learning (Liddicoat, 2004). In Hong Kong, education programs for pre-service language teachers have significantly emphasised language and intercultural training through short-term study abroad, and these short overseas language immersion courses have become a compulsory component for teacher training (Bodycott & Crew, 2001) in the last decade. This study aims to investigate eight Hong Kong pre-service teachers’ and their home-stay families’ experiences of a short-term (two months) language immersion program in Australia. The focus is on listening to commentaries concerning the development of communicative competence, intercultural competence and professional growth during the out-of-class study abroad experience. The conceptual framework adopted in this study views language and intercultural learning from social constructivist perspectives. Central to this framing is the notion that the internalisation of higher mental functions involves the transfer from the inter-psychological to the intra-psychological plane, that is, a progression process from the socially supported to individually controlled performance. From this perspective, language serves as a way to communicate about, and in relation to, actions and experience. Three research questions were addressed and studied through qualitative methodology. 1. How do the pre-service teachers and their home-stay families perceive the out-of-class component of the program in terms of opportunities for the development of language proficiency and communicative competence? 2. How do the pre-service teachers and their home-stay families perceive the out-of-class component of the program in terms of the development of intercultural competence? 3. How do the pre-service teachers and home-stay families perceive the outof- class component of the program in terms of teachers’ professional growth? Data were generated from multiple data collection methods and analysed through thematic analysis from both a “bottom up” and “top down” approach. The study showed that the pre-service teachers perceived that the immersion program influenced, to varying degrees, their language proficiency, communication and intercultural awareness, as well as their self-awareness and professional growth. These pre-service teachers believed that effective language learning centres on active engagement in the target language community. A mismatch between the views and evaluations of the two groups – the pre-service teachers and the home-stay family members – provides some evidence of misalignments in terms of expectations and perceptions of each other’s roles and responsibilities. The study has highlighted challenges encountered, and provided suggestions for ways of meeting these challenges. The inclusion in the study of the home-stay families’ perceptions and commentaries provided insights, which can inform program development. There is clearly further work to be done in terms of predeparture orientation and preparation, not only for the main participants themselves, the students, but also for the host families.

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ID Code: 41774
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Supervisor: Carr, Mary & Brownlee, Joanne
Keywords: short-term study abroad program, language immersion, language acquisition, social constructivism, intercultural learning, social interaction, identity
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Past > Schools > School of Cultural & Language Studies in Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 23 May 2011 05:03
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2013 01:07

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