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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Holmes, P., Bavieri, L. & Ganassin, S. (2015). Developing intercultural understanding for study abroad: Students' and teachers' perspectives on pre-departure intercultural learning. Intercultural Education 26(1): 16-30.

Author(s) from Durham


This study reports on students’ and teachers’ perspectives on a programme designed to develop Erasmus students’ intercultural understanding prior to going abroad. We aimed to understand how students and their teachers perceived pre-departure materials in promoting their awareness of key concepts related to interculturality (e.g., essentialism, stereotyping, otherising) during an intercultural education course for mobile students. Twenty pre-departure Erasmus undergraduate students from an Italian university, four teachers and one observer participated in the study. Seven hours of audio/video recordings of classroom discussions and teachers’ retrospective narratives were analysed thematically. Although students initially subverted the goals of one of the tasks, they demonstrated foundations of intercultural thinking; followed by movement from self-interest to intercultural awareness of the other; and finally, developing intercultural awareness, supported through opportunities to express emotions/feelings and discussion and application of key concepts of interculturality. Teachers’/observer’s perspectives confirmed the quality and flexibility of the materials in developing students’ intercultural awareness. The findings suggest that pre-departure materials can help students to recognise variety and complexity in self and others in intercultural encounters. But students’ primary needs for practical information should first be satisfied; interactive spaces for expressing emotion and feelings are important for understanding self and others; and scaffolding activities help students to understand intercultural concepts.

School of Education