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The article focuses on the role of significant others in the intercultural learning of teachers. It is based on the data that consist of ten biographical interviews in which former ITE teachers were asked to tell about their lives from the perspective of intercultural learning. The article begins by introducing the theories of intercultural learning, focusing most on transformative learning theory but also discusses the sociocultural aspects of intercultural learning. The article highlights that in addition to considering intercultural learning as a solely individual, cognitive transformation process, the significance of the situations, other people and the emotions that they trigger in intercultural learning processes must also be considered. The article also points out that intercultural learning can be a fluid process that is not necessarily triggered merely by major life crises or disturbances as assumed in the theory of transformative learning. The article also briefly discusses whether teacher education, especially in the Finnish context, attempts to support the development of teachers’ intercultural competence.

The meaning of significant others for teachers’ intercultural learning in the article is categorised under three themes, and the roles that were given for significant others are: 1) significant others transforming attitudes towards diversity,

2) awakening and developing intercultural awareness, and 3) developing ethical orientation. These themes are discussed in Chapter 5.4. of this summary. The analysis of the teachers’ stories indicated that intercultural learning is more of a process that is contributed to by a sequence of experiences and incidents. It is a process that often takes place gradually and in this process, significant others play a remarkable role. In the discussion part it is also argued that in an intercultural leaning process, the reflection that occurs at an emotional level is important and that cognitive reflections are insufficient without recognising one’s emotional state. Experiences that include strong subjective emotions become important for intercultural learning. Dialogical relationships and emotions such as concern, trust, appreciation, respect, affection and hope also play a significant role in that process. On the other hand, confusion or even anger can also be what triggers the intercultural learning process. Significant others played an important role in questioning the teachers’ thinking, beliefs and assumptions. Conflict situations can also be significant for intercultural learning, but require opportunities for reflection in a safe environment in order to create positive learning results.

4.5 Article V:

Jokikokko, K. (2010): Rethinking intercultural learning. Teachers’ narratives on various learning processes. Manuscript.

The article describes teachers’ intercultural learning as a lifelong process. In the brief theoretical part, the article introduces various approaches to intercultural learning and argues that while transformative learning theory offers one perspective through which to study intercultural learning, it does not adequately take into account the emotional and social characteristics of reflection and transformation. That is why by highlighting the sociocultural and experiential nature of learning, this article aims at extending the idea of intercultural learning processes.

The article is based on the results of the narrative analysis of teachers’ biographical drawings and interviews. From ten teachers’ biographical interviews, three different life stories have been chosen for this article to illustrate the various ways in which teachers’ intercultural learning develops. In the first life story, intercultural learning appears mainly as an everyday learning process which takes place gradually through different life experiences that cumulatively affect learning. In this story intercultural learning clearly takes place through the whole course of one’s life and is present in all areas of life: it is not possible to separate intercultural learning from professional learning or from learning that takes place in their everyday, personal life. In this life story it is highlighted that intercultural understanding is gained gradually and attitudes are changed little by little. In the second life story, intercultural learning is shown as a process that is triggered by crises and turning points of life. In the third story, intercultural learning emerges mostly as a sociocultural learning process affected by various cultural environments, networks and significant others.

Although the article illustrates three different sides of intercultural learning through three teachers’ stories, it also emphasizes that these approaches are not exclusive; they can be understood as various alternative and complementary perspectives that shed light on the complex nature of intercultural learning. All three learning theories are needed to understand even one person’s learning processes.

The article concludes by stating that intercultural learning seems to be a process in which formal and informal learning are combined. Learning can be intentional, but just as often, it is coincidental. It can be a gradual process affected, little by little, by various experiences, but sometimes it also occurs rather suddenly through crises and turning points. The significant roles of the environment and other people in intercultural learning are obvious, although individual self-reflection is needed as well. Intercultural learning is clearly a lifelong process. The teachers interviewed emphasize that although they have learned a lot, there is still a great deal more to learn.

5 Main results of the research In this section I will discuss the main findings of this doctoral thesis. Rather than separately discussing the results of each article, I aim at combining the main findings of the articles. The section starts by defining the characteristics of teachers’ intercultural competence and continues by discussing the process of intercultural learning on the basis of the results. The results are further discussed and also reflected upon in light of critical pedagogy in discussion Chapter 6 of this summary.

5.1 Teachers’ intercultural competence as holistic ethical philosophy

In order to explain the nature of intercultural competence on the basis of the existing models and literature, I constructed a theoretical model consisting of attitudes, awareness and knowledge, skills and action dimensions (article I). The idea in the model is that all these dimensions are overlapping and needed for successful intercultural interactions. Dimensions are based on an ethical foundation, which defines the direction for the development of intercultural competence. Without this basis, intercultural competence could also be used for morally questionable purposes. The model of intercultural competence is thus clearly value-laden. The central values and principles that form the basis of intercultural competence are equality, non-violence, human rights, appreciation of diversity, co-operation, dialogue and mutual learning. The development of intercultural competence presupposes constant reflection of one’s own thoughts and actions in light of these values.

However, when undertaking the empirical study of teachers’ conceptions of intercultural competence (article II), I discovered that it was difficult to classify teachers’ conceptions directly into the categories described in the model. Some rather practical and visible skills (related to pedagogical situations), efficient action and communication that are needed for successful intercultural interaction could be found in teachers’ conceptions of intercultural competence (see article II). However, on the basis of my results, understanding intercultural competence as a holistic, ethical philosophy was the predominant way for teachers to conceptualise their intercultural competence (article II; article III). I will next describe the nature of this philosophy, starting with the values, attitudes and characteristics this kind of competence requires and continuing by discussing what kind of awareness, reflection and action it demands based on the teachers’ conceptions.

Ethical dimension as a main content of teachers’ intercultural competence consisted of certain fundamental and rather stable values such as appreciating diversity and equity, but on the other hand, it included criticality and the understanding that not everything needs to be tolerated. The necessity for a positive attitude towards diversity emerged in the teachers’ discussions in various ways. The teachers did not deny the existence of challenges, yet they still clearly emphasized the importance of viewing diversity issues as a natural phenomenon, resource and potential for learning rather than a problem (article III, p. 198). Teachers saw that diversity opens up perspectives and provides a foundation upon which to reflect one’s own ways of thinking. The ethical dimension of teachers’ intercultural competence was also described by various interpersonal traits, attributes or virtues, such as creativity, patience, empathy and openness, which were regarded as necessary characteristics in intercultural interactions (article II, p. 75). Most of the teachers were thus of the mindset that competence is clearly related to personality and the kind of personal traits that can be developed but that are rather difficult to change or learn. Teachers pointed out that the values and interpersonal traits that guide their actions, choices and decisions in the classroom are the most important part of their professionalism.

Teachers also considered it to be very important that they be aware of their own values and how these have been constructed and how values affect their thinking and action (article III, p. 195; article IV, p. 151).

A certain way of encountering and interacting with other people and the environment, especially in school, was also considered a part of ethically oriented intercultural competence. Many teachers discussed dialogue as an important part of teachers’ ethical competence. For the teachers in my data, dialogue was manifested most of all so that teachers would not be regarded as ‘traditional’ and strict authorities in a multicultural class but more as a friend and a co-learner.

Listening to the students, learning from them and taking their various needs into consideration were considered to be significant. A close relationship with students was also experienced as the richness of the work but also as a necessity if the teacher really wants to support students’ individual learning processes and respond to students’ needs. According to my research subjects, a central part of teachers’ ethical intercultural competence was genuine caring and pedagogical love. Teachers saw caring as a necessary condition for creating trust and confidence in the teacherstudent relationship (article II, p. 76; article III, p. 195; article IV, p. 159).

Concepts of hope and idealism were also viewed as part of teachers’ intercultural ethical dimension. Many of the teachers thought that during their studies in intercultural teacher education, they went through a certain period of idealism. Many of the teachers also expressed that even though they had become more realistic in work life, a certain degree of idealism and optimism are necessary resources in teachers’ work: there are a lot of challenges but educators must not lose their hope and belief in the possibility of change (article II, p. 76; article IV, p. 157).

Self-reflection was also found to be a significant part of ethical intercultural competence. It seems that the realization of one’s otherness – a person’s own experiences of feeling different or thinking or acting in a different way compared to people around them – were an important part of teachers’ intercultural competence.

Some teachers clearly expressed that they felt different from ‘mainstream’ teachers.

They experienced that their values concerning the meaning of education and learning were different. Some teachers in my study experienced that their primary goal as a teacher was to support the holistic personal and social growth of their students, while it seemed that for other teachers, it was important to be didactically skilful.

Some of the teachers also felt that they would prefer to teach those children who have special needs or who come from various cultures, because they felt that these ‘special’ students needed them more. Some teachers also felt that it was easy for them to identify with their students as the teachers had also gone through experiences of being different or representing a minority group. The teachers thought that through those experiences, they could better understand their students and their sometimes complex life situations. Teachers’ own experiences of ‘being different’ seemed to make them especially sensitive to recognizing, for instance, issues of bullying in school (article III, pp. 190–194; article IV, p. 154).

One additional aspect of the ethical dimension of intercultural competence was the courage to combat unequal attitudes and practices that teachers faced at school.

Some of the teachers in my data felt that their working communities were not ready for the multicultural reality. At worst, the work communities were prejudiced, ignorant and even openly racist. Prejudices were seen in school traditions and practices, attitudes towards immigrant students and in discourses in the teachers’ room. Teachers also highlighted the difficulty of affecting or trying to change things.

A teacher who actively attempted to influence change was sometimes regarded as a ‘party pooper’. Additionally, the status of a young and newly graduated teacher, who often had a temporary work contract, was not high. Some of the teachers’ commitment

to work for more equal society and school was also visible in their spare time:

teachers thought that it was important to influence issues and some worked in various non-governmental organizations or participated in other voluntary work outside of school (article II, pp. 199–200; article IV, p. 156; article V, p. 19).

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