Culture via television : investigating the effects of a German television serial on the perceptions of fourth-semester German language classes
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This dissertation investigates how four half hour viewings of an authentic German television serial over the course of one fourth semester intermediate course in German affect foreign language (FL) students' perceptions about German culture. In recent years, filmic media have become popular learning instruments. However, how they affect the attitudes of the FL learner about the lifestyles, behaviors, and characteristics of that FL culture has remained largely unexplored. This study triangulates questionnaires, classroom protocols, and assessment of student essays to see in what ways students' discuss and write about cultural differences and similarities at the onset of viewing and after the final viewing of a German video serial. Additionally, it investigates whether English or German language class discussions following student viewing of the program are more effective in fostering critical thinking about a foreign culture. Participants in this study were 69 students (24 female and 45 male) enrolled in four fourth-semester classes of the lower-division curriculum of the Germanic Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin. After reading biographies and related information about characters, all four classes watched four episodes of the popular German television program, Lindenstrabe, without subtitles. While all classes viewed and wrote about the television serial in German, two classes conducted post-viewing discussion activities in German and the other two classes in English. The investigator visited and took notes on all classes and provided instructors with guidelines to enable consistent approaches to relevant materials and assignments. The resulting data were analyzed using statistical (pre- and post-questionnaires) and qualitative analyses (student response papers and classroom protocols). Two central findings were identified: 1) Fourth-semester German students increased their ability to identify and critically discuss cultural issues and their related social implications when exposed to repeated viewings of the television serial Lindenstrabe and when reacting to the program and its content orally and in writing during in- and out-of-class assignments; 2) Students' gender and the language of the classroom discussions influenced the content and analytical style of students' on their essay analyses of the video. These and other findings are assessed in light of classroom variables, in conjunction with suggestions for future research, and implications of these findings for media use in FL classrooms.