The challenge for me became to develop principles for language teaching and learning for a general language course in the context of a language degree, which would conceptualize communication as not only taking place in a context of situation but also in a context of culture. I followed Kramsch in using these two parameters. The course would need to develop students’ general communicative and critical language skills and relate these to the immediate context (which I had focused on in my original course), as well as relate it to the wider cultural context of ‘ideas and values’. As I came to understand later, the notion of ‘cultural values’ carries with it the assumption of stability and clearly delineated ‘cultures’ which are distinct from others. As I started to conceptualize the idea of cultuurtekst, I soon came to use the notion of ‘discourses’ and ‘discursive formations’ (see chapter 2) in my own conceptualization, although I used these terms only occasionally to students themselves, since they showed a resistance to these concepts. As a result of this study, my own conceptualization of criticality also changed. My intention was initially to develop students’ critical language skills in both the ‘critical thinking’ paradigm I set out above and in addition in terms of CLA, which I saw as a way of alerting students to the fact that texts invite us to take up certain reading positions, particularly in relation to dominance of particular ideologies. Later in the study, I came to think of this as ‘discursive mapping’ as that afforded texts to be looked at in relation to complexities, contradictions, and tensions in real life as well as the ‘text producing environment’.
My intention was to develop these principles through re-designing my fourth-year language course and to reflect on my pedagogy and the students’ responses to see how the course ‘worked’ in practice. This course is taken by students when they return from their Residency Abroad - a period of a year or half a year, spent at a university in the Netherlands or Flanders.
My initial intention with this study was to develop principles for good practice in language and culture teaching. As my study progressed along dialogic lines, i.e. a continuous reflection on practice in relation to theory, new concepts started to emerge. The research focus changed as part of this reflective process. Early on in the study, I articulated the initial aim further as ‘developing principles for a pedagogy that would enable students to see the text as cultuurtekst within a general language course’. Later on, my research focus shifted from developing principles of good pedagogy to understanding what happens in the classroom, and how students engaged with the concept of cultuurtekst, which had become the focus of my pedagogy.
It was the juggling and problematizing of the initial and emerging concepts which posed the challenge of this study. In the process I followed various angles and themes, later abandoned them, resurrected some, picked up new ones, only to abandon some again. I will describe below which concepts, in the end, informed the thesis and how they changed over time. However, first I will set out the nature of the enquiry and the particular methodological features of this study.