Case Study

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A case study of intercultural communication
in a multicultural classroom
in the Brisbane Metropolitan area

By
Min Jeong Ko
BA, BEd (primary) [postgraduate]
2008

Acknowledgement
I would like to extend my gratitude to Associate Professor, John Lidstone without whom it would have been impossible for me to complete this study. I cannot emphasise enough how grateful I am for his encouragement and guidance throughout the times when I was lost and confused. With his endless effort and kindness, I have become more confident in being a researcher and a teacher.

I was lucky enough to get more help with writing this thesis from two other supervisors. I thank Deborah Henderson for advices at the beginning of this study. I also thank Mallihai Tambaya who has guided me through completing this study. I deeply appreciate her thoughtful advice and encouragement.

I thank my parents who allowed me to move to Australia. Even though they do not fully understand why I have decided to move to Australia and study for such a long time, they have continuously supported me throughout the process of this research. I deeply appreciate other family members’ patience that they have been listening to my complaints and worries over the years.

I would like to thank Mr A, Mr B and Mrs C from the school where I carried out this research. Without their generosity and openness, I would have not been able to collect such rich data. They also helped me to collect data in such a comfortable and welcoming environment. Furthermore, their feedback on my teaching skills made me become more confident in teaching. I thank Mrs C who was the gatekeeper of the research and now has become the most supportive colleague and friend.

Last but not the least; I would like to thank students from 7A and 7B who opened up about their school life.

Abstract
The current global and local issues of culture such as September 11, the Bali Bombings and the “Cronulla Riots” triggered a question for the researcher: “how do primary students deal with intercultural communication in multicultural Australia in times of cultural uncertainty and complexity?” Intercultural communication studies in Australia rely heavily on those of the United States of America and the United Kingdom. For this reason, this study was planned to investigate intercultural communication in a multicultural classroom in a primary school in Australia.

The research employs an ethnographical case study methodology with data collected from observation, interview and documentation. 56 Year 7 students and two classroom teachers from two classes and the school ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher were included in the study. Amongst the 56 students, 24 students were interviewed along with the classroom teachers and the ESL teacher. School documents regarding the promotion of intercultural communication were also collected during the observation period.

The study found that differing language capacities of students and teachers have the greatest influence on intercultural communication. Language was observed to influence positive and negative intercultural communication in the classroom. The study also confirmed that the theory of Intercultural Communication Competence (Wiseman, 2002) supports the current ethos of this school’s curriculum.

Overall, the study provides a vicarious experience of intercultural communication in an Australian multicultural classroom. Intercultural communication in this particular school did not appear to be problematic. This could be due to the teachers’ endeavours to promote intercultural communication both implicitly and explicitly. In concluding, the study suggests that this school could be a model for promoting intercultural communication with a few modifications to its programs.

Keywords: Intercultural Communication, Multicultural Classroom, Multiculturalism, Promoting Intercultural Communication

Statement of Authenticity
The work contained in this thesis...
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