Towards integrating culture into the Arabic curriculum : Arabic teachers’ beliefs on the teaching of culture
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This study examines Arabic teachers’ beliefs on their teaching of culture to learners of Arabic - specifically at the first and second year Arabic levels - at U.S. universities. The study aims at identifying patterns in teachers’ beliefs and practices on cultural instruction, and describing the goals of their teaching and the approaches they used to attain those goals. I collected data from 57 college-level teachers of Arabic using focus-group interviews, online survey questionnaire and follow-up interviews. Broadly speaking, study participants are well aware of the significance of cultural instruction in a language classroom, and they believe that teaching culture is as important as teaching the other four language skills and grammar. They also believe that culture should be an integral part of language teaching, and cultural competence should be developed using both Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Arabic, with the perception that culture cannot be taught appropriately without teaching dialects. With regard to the participants’ actual practices, only approximately half of them believe that the teaching of culture within their classes is adequate overall, while the other half of them are not satisfied with their overall performance related to cultural instruction. Another finding is that there are, by and large, no significant differences between native and non-native speakers of Arabic in their beliefs and practices on the teaching of culture. There are minor differences in that the native speaking teachers have slightly more positive attitudes towards the teaching of culture and are slightly more satisfied with their cultural instruction and teaching environment for teaching culture. A considerable number of participants indicated that their beliefs on the teaching of culture have changed in the course of their teaching careers, and these changes have been reflected in their practices in the classroom. They reported that the most prominent change in their beliefs is the incorporation of dialects and cultural components into their curricula and lesson plans. This study suggests that in order to effectively incorporate culture into the Arabic language curriculum, several developments still need to be made, such as setting up clear objectives of cultural instruction, developing assessment tools and criteria for cultural competence, and offering teacher education programs. In particular, one of the most important implications of this study is that teacher education programs will help teachers become more actively engaged in cultural instruction by enhancing their awareness of cultural and intercultural education and helping them develop their actual classroom practices.