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'We know them, but we don't know them': a grounded theory approach to exploring host students' perspectives on intercultural contact in an Irish university

Dunne, Ciaran (2008) 'We know them, but we don't know them': a grounded theory approach to exploring host students' perspectives on intercultural contact in an Irish university. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.

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Abstract

This study is concerned with intercultural relations among students in an Irish university. Specifically, the study explores host culture students’ perceptions of cultural difference within the student body and their experiences of intercultural contact on campus, including the factors which inform such contact. Using a grounded theory approach, 24 in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 2nd year undergraduate students from three courses. The data were rigorously analysed through a systematic process of coding, categorisation and theoretical development to produce findings grounded in students’ personal comments and lived experiences. These findings indicate that although nationality and age are employed as markers of cultural identity, host students’ construction of cultural difference is heavily informed by their perception of diverging value systems within the specific educational environment. These values are in turn reflected in students’ reported behaviours, attitudes, and levels of engagement in the social and academic aspects of the university life. The findings also identify multiple situational and student-specific factors which impact upon the likelihood of students engaging in intercultural contact and their actual experiences of such contact, including factors impacting upon intercultural relational development. Furthermore, the study highlights the crucial role educational institutions can play in fostering intercultural contact among students and offers suggestions for promoting intercultural relations on campus. Overall, the findings indicate that host students perceive intercultural contact to be both complex and problematic. It is associated with heightened uncertainty and anxiety, and is commonly perceived to be more demanding, yet less rewarding, than intracultural contact. While students’ tendency to gravitate towards cultural peers represents a major obstacle to intercultural contact, language barriers and the need to adapt communication style also emerge as important issues affecting intercultural encounters. At a time when many Irish higher education institutions are experiencing significant diversification within the student body, this research is both timely and necessary.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Date of Award:November 2008
Refereed:No
Supervisor(s):Denby, David and Pearson-Evans, Aileen
Uncontrolled Keywords:intercultural contact; internationalisation of higher education;
Subjects:Social Sciences > Multiculturalism
DCU Faculties and Centres:DCU Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Science > School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies
Use License:This item is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. View License
ID Code:533
Deposited On:10 Nov 2008 11:01 by David Denby. Last Modified 16 Feb 2009 15:49

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