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«ACTA ACTA U N N IIVR SRS IIT AT IIS O L U E N NIS IIS U IN EVE RI S ATAT S U U L U E S S S U V E T T IS O OULUEN E E Katri Jokikokko Katri Jokikokko ...»

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Aittola (1998, p. 64) points out that for everyday experiences to become meaningful learning experiences, reflection is needed. Aittola (p. 64) argues that the most of the significant and transformative learning experiences are triggered by informal life situations.

Marsick and Watkins (2001, p. 28) describe the following characteristics as being typical for experiential learning. In my opinion, these characteristics also

describe the nature of intercultural learning:

• It is integrated with daily routines.

• It is triggered by an internal or external jolt.

• It is not highly conscious.

• It is haphazard and influenced by chance.

• It is an inductive process of reflection and action.

• It is linked to the learning of others.

According to Tuomisto (1998, p. 39; see also Marsick & Watkins, 2001), ‘everyday’ learning can be divided into three different but interrelated categories: unconscious hidden learning, self-directed/goal oriented learning and learning by experience (which has been described above). In unconscious hidden learning we are not aware that we are learning and that is why it is difficult or impossible to reflect or control our learning (compare research on hidden curriculum by e.g., Lynch, 1989;

Karjalainen, 1996; Margolis, 2001). Goal oriented learning includes learners’ willingness to try to make sense of, understand or control challenges in their lives and work, a basic interest and openness towards new situations and a tendency to think individually and distinctively. This kind of learning can be seen as a necessary condition for intercultural learning: people need to possess a certain kind of interest and openness towards otherness and diversity if they want to, for instance, develop their intercultural competences. A certain amount of toleration of uncertainty and stress is also a necessary condition for intercultural learning situations (Kohonen & al., 2001, p. 67; Lustig & Koester, 1998).

2.4.3 Intercultural learning as sociocultural process

Sociocultural learning process is based on the idea that knowing involves the agency of other people and is mediated by community and culture (Vygotski 1962, Cole, John-Steiner, Scribner & Souberman 1978). In the area of sociocultural learning there are various pedagogical approaches and concepts such as collaborative learning, co-operative learning and peer collaboration which usually are based on the socio-constructivist paradigm of learning. While both transformative and experiential learning theories emphasize the importance of cognitive self-refection for learning and change, sociocultural learning theories highlight the fact that our learning experiences always occur in a certain context – personal, social, professional and cultural – and that these contexts play a key role in influencing the way in which people interpret the situation and learn. It is not only that environment and other people affect our learning, but as collaborative learning (e.g., Kaartinen & Kumpulainen, 2002; Rogoff, 2003; Wells, 1999; Wells & Claxton, 2002) suggests, two or more people can actually learn and create something together and thus, learning becomes a mutual construction of new knowledge and a shared experience.

Sociocultural theories have challenged, in particular, cognitively oriented approaches to learning and teaching, which assume that knowledge and skill are acquired by mental or cognitive processes ‘inside our heads’. Säljö (2001) argues that in the cognitive approach, the environment and other people are seen as more or less passive objects of a learner’s action, while in sociocultural learning it is perceived that a person learns through participating in certain interactive relations (see also Greeno, 1998; Lave & Wenger, 1993). Thus, in sociocultural theories, learning is viewed as a social event in which cultural and historical context is present (Cole, 1996; Vygotsky, 1962). According to Säljö (2001), learning always involves co-operation between people; we are cultural beings and we act and think with other people in everyday situations. From the sociocultural point of view, learning is often unconscious and incidental. In intercultural learning, the means, tools and restrictions the environment offers for learning do matter (Cole, 1996). For example, the learning processes of so-called third culture kids (Pollock & VanReken, 2001) spending part of their childhood in countries and cultures other than their own and of children who have spent their whole life in a rather monocultural village are very likely to be different. On the other hand, spending time in a different culture, country or physical environment as such does not automatically lead to intercultural learning or a broader world view.

Lave and Wenger’s theory (1992) on situated learning is also worth discussing when analyzing intercultural learning as a sociocultural process. Lave and Wenger (1992, p. 15) perceive learning as a process that takes place in a participation framework rather than in the mind of an individual. Learning is thus mediated by the differences of perspective among co-participants. According to Lave and Wenger (1992), the defining characteristic of learning as a situated activity is a process that they refer to as legitimate peripheral participation. In this process, learners are participants in a community of practitioners. The knowledge and skills owned by the practitioners require newcomers to move toward full participation in the sociocultural practices of the community. These communities of practice, which usually consist of a rather small amount of people, are an inseparable part of our everyday life. Each of us belongs to several different communities of practice at home, at school, at work and during free time activities (Lave & Wenger, p. 15).





These groups, which are often informal networks, have shared mental or functional aims that make individuals in the group act together (Hakkarainen, Lonka, & Lipponen, 2004). In intercultural learning, these communities are significant, as described in Chapter 5.3. of this summary. According to Lave and Wenger (1992, p. 20), the situatedness of activity refers to the negotiated character of meaning and the nature of learning activity concerned for the people involved. In other words, the idea is that all activity is situated. From a sociocultural perspective, intercultural learning can be understood as the previously described negotiation process in which a person construes his/her identity in dialogue and through negotiation with other individuals as well as the environment.

3 Methodological choices during the research process: from phenomenography to narrative research The methodological approaches as well the data collection methods in this doctoral thesis have changed during the research process as the researcher’s understanding of the nature of the research topic has deepened. However, from the very beginning of the research process, my interests have been on teachers’ experiences, understanding and ideas on those intercultural competences that teachers find important in their work and life, and how this competence can be learnt.

In the beginning of this research process, my aim was to determine how teachers describe and conceptualise the intercultural competence that is needed in their work. Teachers themselves were considered to have firsthand experience with this and that is why they were chosen as the sources of information. I chose the phenomenographical research approach for investigating teachers’ intercultural competence because I thought that the description categories I would form on the basis of the teachers’ conceptions could provide new knowledge and understanding of the phenomenon called ‘teachers’ intercultural competence’. The interest was clearly in people’s qualitatively differing perceptions of intercultural competence.

According to Marton (1986), there is no objective knowledge about social reality but one can get the information and knowledge through the various conceptions of people. The philosophical assumption of this study is that each human being individually, as well as socially, constructs meanings on social phenomena around them, or as Mezirow (1996) writes, knowledge is not ‘out there’ to be discovered but is created from interpretations and reinterpretations in light of new experiences.

Similarly, in this study it is assumed that intercultural learning and intercultural competence are phenomena which are experienced, at least to a certain extent, differently by each human being; meanings related to those phenomena are thus individually construed. Even though they are individuals, social relationships and sociocultural context play a significant role in peoples’ learning, knowledge, skills and experiences. Furthermore, individuals’ experiences are not totally unique, because our experiences always reflect the historical and cultural contexts of where we live. By nature, human beings interact with others and in this interactive process they formulate their conceptions of various phenomena together. Individuals’ experiences also modify common experience (MacIntyre, 1981). Thus, I think that teachers’ conceptions on intercultural competence and their stories on intercultural learning are not totally subjective, but that there is also something general in them that helps us to understand the nature of these phenomena.

When approaching teachers’ conceptions on intercultural competence phenomenographically, I thought that a rather clear and systematic model for the phenomenological data analysis was well suited for analyzing my research data. I also liked the idea that in phenomenographical study, the data is analysed as a whole: there is no need to look at research subjects as individuals or to be interested in the reasons why they have certain kinds of conceptions. One person can have many different conceptions of intercultural competence. Interestingly, this impersonality and ‘facelessness’ of the research subjects became a problem when I grew interested in their individual learning processes.

There were also other reasons for transferring from phenomenographical to narrative research. When my interest moved from the nature of intercultural competence towards its development process, I realized that the phenomenographical approach may be insufficient. I had found out, when interviewing teachers, that they talked about the development of intercultural competence mainly as a lifelong process, which already starts in childhood and is affected by many different life experiences. I did not think that approaching intercultural learning through teachers’ conceptions by creating description categories about the whole data would necessarily give me the best possible tools by which to understand these individual, diverse processes in a biographical context.

When collecting data for my first articles, I also noticed that my research subjects willingly told about their experiences in a narrative form. I became interested in narrative research and it somehow felt natural to approach teachers’ intercultural learning on the basis of the teachers’ narratives. As the processes of intercultural learning seemed to be personal, the biographical perspective became another methodological frame for researching teachers’ intercultural learning.

Although I have applied two different methodological approaches in my thesis, I do not see them as contradictory. In both approaches, the interest lies in the meanings that people give to phenomena around them. In the phenomenographical approach, it is thought that we can describe a reality with the help of various conceptions, while in narrative research it is acknowledged that narratives are always situational and personal. However, these narratives still have the potential to deepen our understanding and obtain new knowledge and perspectives on certain phenomena.

For this doctoral thesis, I have collected data twice. The original idea was that there will be a longitudinal aspect in my study; that I would study the same teachers’ ideas of intercultural competence when they were newly graduated and after they had been working for some years. However, this idea changed as some of my informants moved abroad and it was more or less impossible to interview them again. Moreover, my research questions were modified and I did not think that the longitudinal aspect would be necessary to understanding the nature of teachers’ Table 1. Summary of the methodological approaches, data and research subjects in the empirical articles of the doctoral thesis.

–  –  –

intercultural learning. However, some of the research subjects are the same in both data collection cycles. The first data collection took place in 2001 and the second in 2005. These data collection processes are described in detail in Chapters 3.3. and

3.6. The following table summarises the methodological approaches that are used, what the data consist of, and who the research subjects are in each article. Article I is theoretical and that is why it is not mentioned in the table.

Data in article II have been collected and analysed phenomenographically.

The same data have been used in article III but in that article they have been analysed as narratives. This article is methodologically in a transitional phase from phenomenography to narrative research. The two newest articles (IV and V) are based on biographical interviews and the data have been analysed as narratives. In the following chapters, I first discuss my research subjects and then describe the two methodological approaches, data collection and analyses that I have used in my research.

3.1 Former ITE (Intercultural Teacher Education) students as research subjects The teachers who are the research subjects in this study have studied in the Intercultural Teacher Education (ITE) Programme in Oulu. The ITE programme is a master’s degree programme for intercultural educational tasks providing the qualifications for the post of primary school teacher. The special aim of this education is to respond to the challenges posed by globalization and diversity.

In the field of education, this manifests itself as a need for teachers who are capable of acting as experts in educational tasks in an increasingly international and multicultural society, both in Finland and abroad. In accordance with the

Bologna agreement and statute (794/2004), the programme has two cycles:



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