WORLD LANGUAGES COURSEWORK AND INTERCULTURAL SENSITIVITY IN AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION
The world continues to witness a crisis when it comes to reconciling cultural differences. In many cases, failure to bridge cultural differences has led to a continuum of violence that begins with individual conflict and ends with wars and terrorism. College campuses, such as the University of New Hampshire (UNH), experience increasing cultural tensions and racial conflict. This dissertation argues that education, particularly liberal arts and world language (WL) programs, ought to address the issues of misunderstanding and violence that stem from the failure to reconcile cultural differences. This dissertation investigates the capacity of the liberal arts and world language education to improve students’ intercultural sensitivity. The study assesses the College of Liberal Arts (COLA) students at UNH who study world languages. The study uses the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI)to measure the intercultural sensitivity of 71 students from five different world language classes. The study finds that there is a negative change in the total average score of the IDI, as the average mean score of the pretest was statistically significantly lower than the average mean score of the posttest, with a large negative effect size. Additionally, the professors of the five WL classes were interviewed, and their syllabi were critically reviewed to investigate their pedagogical approach to teaching culture. This study finds that professors’ pedagogical approaches for teaching culture may impact the change in students’ IDI scores, and that best practices identified in the literature for teaching culture, namely reflections, are important for increasing students’ intercultural sensitivity in WL classes. This dissertation not only helps to fill gaps in the literature on the relationship between WL classes and intercultural sensitivity, but also offers practical recommendations for universities based on the findings of the study.