PROJECT WORK AS A TOOL TO DEVELOP
INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCE FROM AN ELF
PERSPECTIVE IN SECONDARY EDUCATION
Rosana Villares Maldonado
Universidad de Zaragoza
During the second half of the 20th century, the global hegemony of the English
language and English-American culture has brought to the fore the need to learn
English. In most of the cases, the different methodologies for teaching English as
a second or foreign language aim at learners imitating native English-speaker us-
ers. However, in the last decades, the number of non-native speakers of English
–approximately 2 billion people according to Crystal (Baker, 2015)– has exponentially
increased, exceeding by far the native-speaker population. Hence, many international
interactions are made by using English as a ‘contact language’ between speakers with
different mother tongues, giving English the status of lingua franca (ELF) (Seidlhofer,
2005). This situation has stimulated debate questioning the natives’ custody of the
language and claiming a share ownership of the language with non-native speakers
so as to provide different learning models based on competence and proficiency rather
than on native-like English production (Ur, 2010).
The aim of this paper is to design and evaluate materials to teach English from
an ELF perspective in secondary education. These teaching materials are part of a
project promoting the development of intercultural competence and intercultural
communicative competence, an aspect usually missing in the course syllabus that
is essential to become a fully competent speaker of ELF. It begins with a theoretical
framework consisting of a brief introduction to English as a lingua franca and an
attempt to define intercultural competence. The next section describes the chosen
methodological framework, i.e. project-based learning. The practical part of the paper
corresponds with the design and evaluation of an intercultural project called Discov-
ering New Cultures, implemented with a group of 4th year of ESO. Once the project is
contextualised and described, it is evaluated according to the chosen assessment tools,
and some improvements for future implementation are finally suggested. In the con-
clusions section, the main theoretical and practical aspects will be reviewed, presenting
an opportunity to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the project as well
as the future implications that it might have for teachers’ professional development.
2. ENGLISH AS A LINGUA FRANCA
Over the last half of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century, one of the
preferred terms to refer to the linguistic imperialism of English has been ‘English as a
108 ROSANA VILLARES MALDONADO
lingua franca’ (ELF) because it is the chosen foreign language of communication used
between speakers with different mother tongues and cultures (Seidlhofer, 2005: 339).
It includes both native and non-native speakers as potential participants of an ELF
interaction although the positions they occupy in the English-speaking communities
differ in status and acceptance. Fiedler (2010) explains the theory of the Three-circle
model (Kachru, 1985), which classifies English and non-English native-speaking
countries. The Inner circle –320-380 millions of speakers– comprises the historically
norm-providing centres of English as a native language such as USA, UK, Ireland,
Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Outer circle –300-500millions of speak-
ers– involves countries where «English is not generally spoken as a mother tongue
but plays an important role as second language in administration, the media and
education, e.g. India, Singapore, Nigeria» (Fiedler, 2010: 205). Lastly, the Expanding
circle –500-1,000 millions of speakers– refers to the use of «English as a foreign lan-
guage in countries where it does not have an official status and is learnt because of
its significance as an international means of communication e.g. China, Germany,
Japan, and Poland» (Fiedler, 2010: 205).
Similarly, Seidlhofer points out that «roughly one out of every four users of Eng-
lish in the world is a native speaker of the language» (2005: 339). As a consequence
of its international use, what is known as ‘standard English’ is being shaped at least
as much by its non-native speakers as by its native speakers, which challenges the
traditional trends of learning and using English. In this way, a change of perception
and attitude towards the linguistic norm-established English is made, advocating for
the non-native speakers’ influence and ownership of the English language (Kohn,
2015). Consequently, it seems reasonable to stop referring to a model of native and
non-native users in order to replace it with a model based on the users’ level of pro-
ficiency. In the fully competent ELF user model, the ELF user is defined as the «person
using English for lingua franca purposes, regardless of which actual English variety
is employed» as well as of the speaker’s origins (Ur, 2010: 85). What was tradition-
ally regarded as Inner circle, Outer circle and Expanding circle now subsumes the fully
competent speakers in the centre, next the fairly competent, and on the outside circle
the limited users (Ur, 2009). More than ever, Seidlhofer indicates, speakers from all
Kachruvian circles «need to adjust to the requirements of intercultural communication»
(2011: 81) and to focus on the necessity of developing communicative competence and
intercultural communicative competence (Common European Framework of Reference,
2001; Kohn, 2015).
3. INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCE
In order to introduce the importance of intercultural competence and culture in
language teaching, Alptekin (2002) describes Canale and Swain’s (1983) model of
communicative competence, which entails four sub-competences: grammatical com-
petence, sociolinguistic competence, discourse competence and strategic competence.
The most relevant type of competence for the present paper is the sociolinguistic
competence, that is, the one that involves an understanding of the social rules and
social context in which language is used –the participants’ role, social status, shared
PROJECT WORK AS A TOOL TO DEVELOP INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCE FROM AN ELF PERSPECTIVE… 109
information, and function of their interaction. Social context here refers to «the
culture-specific context embedding the norms, values, beliefs, and behaviour patterns
of a culture» (Alptekin, 2002: 57).
Alptekin stresses the importance of the integration of language and culture in the
classroom «because it gives learners experience of another language, [they] acquire
new world views and a different way of coping with reality» (2002: 59). In addition
to this, with the increase of globalisation and migration trends in the last decades,
by introducing different cultures in the classroom learners would become «viable
contributors and participants in a linguistically and culturally diverse society» (Mo-
eller and Nugent, 2014: 1).
Although there is no consensus on a precise definition for intercultural competence
(IC), an acceptable definition could be the one Guilherme proposes, «the ability to
interact effectively with people from cultures that we recognise as being different
from our own» (2000: 297), and when involving the use of a foreign language, it
becomes intercultural communicative competence (ICC) (Vettorel, 2010). IC usually
comprises five general dimensions –or savoirs– according to Byram’s (1997) Multidi-
mensional Model of Intercultural Competence: attitudes, knowledge of self and other, skills
to interpret and relate, skills to discover and interact, and critical cultural awareness. This
model is found on the basis of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework
of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) (2001) regarding the learner’s competences. For
instance, the declarative knowledge or savoir is directly related to the knowledge of
the world, sociocultural knowledge, and intercultural awareness. However, the missing
element of critical cultural awareness is key for Byram, for whom it forms the core of
ICC since it is «the ability to evaluate critically and on the basis of explicit criteria
perspectives, practices and products in one’s own and other cultures and countries»
(Byram, 1997:53). The CEFRL refers to intercultural and cultural aspects of the target
language, but when using English as lingua franca, language users cannot be familiar
with «the “perspectives, practices and products” of all the potential interlocutors’
different cultures and countries» (Baker, 2015: 6). Whereas traditional English lan-
guage teaching represents culture as a static concept only related to the Anglophone
world (Guilherme, 2000), ICC aims at promoting wider and differentiated cultural
perspectives, using language to explore different cultures (Vettorel, 2010). Conse-
quently, it is necessary to learn how to communicate properly in different contexts
and raise awareness on cultural and linguistic differences by means of teaching skills
and communicative strategies such as accommodation, code-switching, negotiation,
cooperation and linguistic and cultural awareness –a conscious understanding of how
culture can frame intercultural communication during real time communication– to
consider learners competent speakers (Baker, 2011).
4. PROJECT-BASED LEARNING
Communicative language teaching is the umbrella term used since the 1980s that
covers the main teaching practices of second language acquisition. For this paper,
the chosen methodological practice is project-based learning –or project work. In her
diplomas thesis, Lípová provides the following definition of project work:
110 ROSANA VILLARES MALDONADO
It is a theme and task-centred mode of teaching and learning which results from
a joint process of negotiation between all participants. It allows for a wide scope of
self-determined action for both the individual and the small group of learners within
a general framework of a plan, which defines goals and procedures. Project learning
realizes a dynamic balance between a process and a product orientation. Finally, it is
experiential and holistic because it bridges dualism between body and mind, theory
and practice (2008: 14).
The use of project-based learning allows alternative means of assessment, appren-
ticeship learning, cooperative learning, and integrated-skills instruction among many
other teaching practices. For instance, its focus on content learning allows real-word
subject matter and engaging topics for the students. It is learner-centred because
the student investigates and the teacher offers support and guidance throughout the
learning process. Project work incorporates group work and cooperativeness between
its members so that they can share resources, ideas, and expertise along the way.
This methodology’s final objective culminates in an end product that gives the project
a real purpose while learners integrate skills and strategies to process information
from varied authentic sources, mirroring real-life tasks. Lastly, project work has both
a process- and product-orientation, which provides students with opportunities to
focus on fluency and accuracy at different stages, working on both content and lan-
guage (Stoller, 1997).
Furthermore, project-based learning can work as an excellent complement to
the regular methodology used in the classroom, which promotes differentiation,
cross-curricular contents and empowers learners during the teaching-learning process.
Although teachers might encounter certain problems when using project work –such
as noise, timing, the use of the mother tongue–, it is undeniable that its benefits
worth it to take the risk (Lípová, 2008). To begin with, it brings motivation to the
class. It promotes not only situations where students learn how to deal with group
work and cooperation, but also with their own autonomy and organisation. Students
learn by doing in an active process about personal topics and interests they chose
that gives the project a purpose and relevance. Since all the students participate in
the creation of the project, they can adopt different roles –integrating multiple intelli-
gences and different learning styles– to share their knowledge and abilities so at the
end all of them can experience success during the stages of the project. Finally, and
related to the curricular framework, project-based learning fosters the development of
cross-curricular contents and the eight key competences –Learn to Learn Competence,
Communicative Competence, Personal Initiative and Autonomy Competence, Interpersonal
and Civic Competence, Mathematical Competence, Knowledge of and Interaction with the
Physical World Competence, Cultural and Artistic Competence– that help students see the
relationship between what they learn at school and real-life experiences.
Project work is not a unified practice and therefore many types of projects exist
depending on the data collection techniques, sources of information, how information
is reported, length and the learners’ age (Lípová, 2008; Stoller, 1997). However, in
order to create a successful project, projects should follow certain stages of devel-
opment such as the model proposed by Legutke and Thomas (1991): opening, topic
orientation, research and data collection, preparation of data presentation, presentation,
PROJECT WORK AS A TOOL TO DEVELOP INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCE FROM AN ELF PERSPECTIVE… 111
and evaluation. In this particular case, the designed project is described as a research
project where students need to gather information through research –library and
technological resources–, and a production project or performance project according to
the students’ end product –the product takes the form of videos, radio programs, oral
presentations, theatrical performances, among others (Stoller, 1997). It is also described
as a medium-length project, lasting approximately 8 hours, addressed to a teenager
audience where learners explore personal attitudes and experiences so that they
keep motivated and contribute with relevant information to the intercultural project.
5. PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION
5.1. Project Context
The project Discovering New Cultures was implemented in a school of Zaragoza
(Spain) in 2015, with a class of 4th year of ESO. The group was formed by 27 students
with an A2 level of English according to the CEFRL. Although there were a few
outstanding students, over half of the students participated in the «diversificación»
programme of the school, hence representing a heterogeneous class in terms of English
language competence. It is also worth noting that 12 students came from different
cultural backgrounds, such as South America, Central America and Eastern Europe
but this fact did not difficult the flow of the class.
Regarding their working routine, students started the 50-minute-English lesson
with a routine consisting of practicing grammar tenses or talking about a topic in
English, and later they usually follow the English textbook. They also had a weekly
hour with an Australian language assistant so they could practice their oral skills and
talk in English in a more natural context. Moreover, each semester, students made
a project where they had to work in groups of four-five members organised by their
tutor, so students were already familiar with the methodology and the groups were
better distributed than if I had to create them or the students chose their workmates.
Since this project was included in the course syllabus some attention to the
LOE Aragonese Curriculum Order, May 9th 2007 was necessary in order to justify
its objectives, contents and methodology. The particular context of the classroom
provided an appropriate and motivating setting for the development of intercultural
competence since four out of the six class groups were multicultural teams, with at
least one member with a foreign nationality, contributing to critical cultural aware-
ness (Baker, 2011, 2015). In addition to fostering different methodological principles,
such as active learning, learning by doing, the integration of ICTs, development of
multiple intelligences, group work, differentiation and motivation –Art. 12 SectionII
LOE Aragonese Curriculum–, project-based learning helped the development of key
competences like Communicative Competence, Cultural and Artistic Competence, Digital
Competence, Learning to Learn Competence, Interpersonal and Civic Competence, and
Personal Initiative and Autonomy Competence.
Bearing in mind these learning objectives, the project was evaluated with two
assessment tools: an observation sheet, which evaluated classwork and the notebook,
and an oral performance rubric provided by my mentor. The notebook was an im-
112 ROSANA VILLARES MALDONADO
portant element of the assessment because, as Byram (1997) explains, learners enter
the intercultural learning process from different points based on backgrounds, life
experiences, and perspectives, and move at different speeds. This tool gave students
the opportunity to «interpret meaning, consider judgments, and defend language/
culture choices on an individual basis is the most effective way to record the process
of becoming interculturally competent in the foreign language classroom» (Moeller
and Nugent, 2014: 6).
5.2. Project Design
Before the implementation, one of my principal aims was to introduce the concept
of English as a lingua franca and make students aware of its role and functions all
over the world. Ensuing from this, students would reflect, through activities and their
own project, on the importance of being a competent speaker of English. However,
due to the particular context of the learners –students with a high multicultural back-
ground and low level of English– I thought that it would be more relevant for them
to work on the concept of intercultural competence and gradually introduce the main
features of ELF at the beginning of each session. The project lasted eight successive
sessions organised according to the stages proposed by Legutke and Thomas (1991),
and each of the sessions started with some warm-up activities to set the mood for
the class, then students worked on their projects and the final minutes were devoted
to students’ writing of their reflection diary.
5.2.2. Lesson plans
SESSION 1. OPENING: WHAT IS CULTURE?
• Activate previous knowledge about culture and situations students experienced
with people from other countries.
• Identify what aspects form culture and how they can influence communication
with other people.
• Discuss different ideas and knowledge about culture and cultural situations.
• Warm-up: 10 minutes. The teacher plays the video «Weird or Just Different» with
English subtitles to introduce an intercultural situation and reflect on the impor-
tance of culture tolerance.
• Step 1: 10 minutes. In groups, students discuss and describe what they think culture
is. The teacher numbers the members of each group. In order, each member says
an idea they relate to culture. If they cannot think of anything, they say ‘pass’, so
everybody talks and is active. Each group must think of at least 15 words. Then,
they share them with the class.
PROJECT WORK AS A TOOL TO DEVELOP INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCE FROM AN ELF PERSPECTIVE… 113
• Step 2: 10 minutes. Students create their own definition of culture. They should
try to include all the words they thought about in the previous activity and the
ones in a word cloud the teacher shows with the projector. Later, they listen to
the groups’ definitions and compare them.
• Step 3: 15 minutes. The teacher presents the project «Discovering New Cultures»
and distributes a handout with all the relevant information –objectives, calendar,
working methodology and assessment. The teacher checks that students understand
what they are going to do in the next sessions.
• Reflection: 5 minutes. Students write in their notebook what they have learnt in
terms of contents, key words, and their impression about the project.
SESSION 2. TOPIC INTRODUCTION: INTERCULTURAL WORLD
• Give arguments to support ideas related to countries.
• Organise teamwork in an autonomous way –group identity, roles, and topic.
• Warm-up: 5 minutes. The teacher says four sentences related to his/her experiences
in other countries, three are true and one is false. In groups, students discuss
which sentence is false and then share it with the class.
• Step 1: 10 minutes. The teacher distributes one map per group so students mark
which countries they have visited. Students share their experiences with the group
they will do the project.
• Step 2: 5 minutes. There is group discussion to choose a country on which to do
the project. Students may do some pro-cons list to decide it. They tell the teacher
the chosen country to write it down.
• Step 3: 25 minutes. The groups start planning and organising the project: decide
team roles, relevant aspects they can focus on, if they are going to compare both
cultures or become more expert on the target culture, use information from the
session to have ideas for the project. Later, each group will share with the rest of
the class what they have think of and each group will have to give their opinion
or an idea to improve their classmates’ projects.
• Reflection: 5 minutes. Students check if they have all the information from the
activities in their notebooks. They need to include key words they have learnt and
key ideas such as the team name, team roles –leader, secretary, material manager,
spokesperson, creativity manager.
SESSION 3. INTERCULTURAL AUSTRALIA
• Reflect on students’ intercultural background.
• Identify the general information about intercultural Australia.
• Make connections between the presentation and their the project.
114 ROSANA VILLARES MALDONADO
• Warm-up: 10 minutes. Students complete their biography of intercultural compe-
(1) My family background.
(2) Travel to other countries (short-term visits) for holiday.
(3) Time spent living abroad (two-week-or-more stay).
(4) Time spent in a multicultural community in home country.
(5) Social contacts, friends from abroad.
(6) Language learning experience: language, method of learning, how long, level.
(7) Other factors that have helped me experience cultures other than my own.
• Step 1: 35 minutes. The teacher works with the Australian language assistant
to show an example of multiculturalism in an English-speaking country. Before
her presentation, she comments briefly the student’s answers to their biography
trying to find similarities with her presentation to make them feel involved with
the lesson’s topic. The presentation about intercultural Australia deals with immi-
gration, languages, education and English, Melbourne’s linguistic map, and how
to be careful and respectful with other cultures’ values.
• Reflection: 5 minutes. Students write a reflection on today’s lesson, some key
words and concepts, information they have learnt and if they are going to need
specific materials and resources for their research in the next session (e.g. laptop,
SESSION 4. DATA COLLECTION
• Identify specific details related to stereotypes.
• Use ICTs to search and gather cultural information.
• Read and select relevant information for their project.
• Warm-up: 10 minutes. The teacher starts the session with a video about stereotypes
since students may include some of them in their projects. Play the video «Raj
Koothrappali’s American Accent and Howard Wolowitz’s Indian Accent». Comment
on the different accents used, content of the conversation; give examples of the
American and Indian stereotypes mentioned in the video.
• Step 1: 35 minutes. Before students start their research, the teacher reminds the
project’s main objectives and gives students some ideas from places where they
can find information. The teacher monitors while student use books, computers
and mobile phones.
• Reflection: 5 minutes. Students reflect on what they have done during the session
and write some key words and information they have learnt.
PROJECT WORK AS A TOOL TO DEVELOP INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCE FROM AN ELF PERSPECTIVE… 115
SESSION 5. DATA COLLECTION
• Use ICTs to look up for cultural information.
• Read and select relevant information for their project.
• Select and organise the most relevant information for the project coherently.
• Warm-up: 5 minutes. Individually, students remember one thing they learnt in
the previous session. Then they share it with their group. There must be four or
five different ideas per group and the teacher will ask for some of the ideas to be
shared with the class.
• Step 1: 25 minutes. Finish the data collection. Students will have time to look for
more information for their project. The teacher monitors.
• Step 2: 15 minutes. Students start making a draft about the final product so they
know what materials they will need and what information they will include in it.
Each students needs to write down the information. The teacher collects one draft
per group to provide some feedback about the ideas and format students choose.
• Reflection: 5 minutes. Students reflect on the information they have found, new
vocabulary or what they are going to do in the next session.
SESSION 6. PREPAR ATION OF DATA PRESENTATION
• Select and compare the most important information for their project.
• Use productive skills (speaking and writing) to create the final product.
• Transfer linguistic information to different supports (visual, kinetic, or audio).
• Perform their presentation to practice and receive feedback.
• Step 1: 45 minutes. In groups, students start working on their final product
–PowerPoint presentation, poster, video and role-play– selecting, organising and
planning the product. The teacher gives back their drafts and talks to each group
to help them in the process. Students will have time to practice their scripts.
• Reflection: 5 minutes. Students reflect on what they have done. They can think
on how they are going to practice the presentation.
SESSION 7. PRESENTATION
• Produce an intelligible and coherent oral text related to culture.
• Use previous knowledge and listening micro-skills to guess what is the content
of the presentations they will listen to.
116 ROSANA VILLARES MALDONADO
• Understand and identify the general information of their classmates’ presentations.
• Reflect on and self-assess their own oral performance with the help of a rubric.
• Step 1: 45 minutes. The six groups make presentations of 4-5 minutes. Every time
a group is preparing their presentation, the rest of the class will write down the
team name, the discussed country and make some predictions about the pres-
• Reflection: 5 minutes. Students reflect on their presentation. The teacher will
collect some notebooks to mark.
SESSION 8. EVALUATION
• Recognise communicative strategies to communicate effectively.
• Use listening strategies to infer the origin of specific intercultural misunderstand-
• Assess their learning and work during the project.
• Warm-up: 10 minutes. Taboo game: One member of each group comes to the
teacher and listens to the word he/she says. Then, the student goes back and the
rest of the group has to guess which word their friend is explaining/describing
because he/she cannot say the secret word. The teacher does an example at the
beginning to check whether students have understood the game or not. Repeat
five-six times. Once they guess all the words, ask them which strategies they used
to explain the word to their classmates, and then explain some communicative
strategies –paraphrasing, substitution, coining new words, language switch, asking
for clarification, non-verbal strategies, avoidance.
• Step 1: 5 minutes. The teacher plays the video «HSBC Culture differences Per-
sonal space» (Italian 2:59’ and Chinese 5:04’) where there is no communication
and therefore misunderstandings appear. Students need to infer the reasons why
those intercultural misunderstandings happen.
• Step 2: 20 minutes. Once students watched the video and discussed the reasons
for the misunderstandings, in groups they will imagine themselves in a similar
situation with an intercultural problem in their chosen country. They will prepare
a dialogue that later will be shared with the class.
• Step 3: 15 minutes. Students complete a questionnaire in Spanish to evaluate
the project. Once they finish, the teacher collects the questionnaires –as well
as the rest of the notebooks to mark– and in the final minutes of the class, stu-
dents comment some of their answers.
(Q1) ¿Qué has aprendido con este proyecto?
(Q2) ¿Qué es lo que más te ha gustado del proyecto?
PROJECT WORK AS A TOOL TO DEVELOP INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCE FROM AN ELF PERSPECTIVE… 117
(Q3) ¿Y lo qué menos? ¿Que mejorarías?
(Q4) ¿Prefieres trabajar con proyectos? ¿Por qué?
(Q5) Después de comparar varios países, ¿crees que es importante conocer la existencia
de diferencias culturales (para comunicarte con otros de forma efectiva)?
(Q6) Si ahora estuvieses con un grupo de personas de culturas diferentes a las tuyas,
¿serías más o menos tolerante con sus diferencias?
(Q7) Si ahora quisieras buscar información sobre otros países, ¿sabrías hacerlo?
(Q8) Ahora que sabes que hay muchas variedades de inglés, con diversos acentos ¿sientes
menos presión a la hora de hablar en inglés?
(Q9) ¿Crees que has utilizado mucho inglés en el desarrollo del proyecto? ¿Por qué?
Although the students worked in groups, all of them received an individual mark
according to the assessment tools evaluating the class work, the notebook, and the
oral presentation. The class mark was obtained by monitoring the students’ work,
interaction with the teacher and other classmates, and productivity. For the notebook,
both content and form were assessed –activities included, the reflection diary, and a
correct presentation format. For the oral presentation, the speech was the only item
evaluated with a rubric– based on pronunciation, intonation and voice, knowledge
of the topic, originality of the work and interaction with the audience. In general,
marks were positive –an average mean of 7/10–, with only two students failing the
project because one did not justify his absence during the oral presentation and the
second one missed most of the sessions, so his marks regarding the process stages
The final questionnaire responses were classified into two main categories, the
first one referring to methodological aspects and the second one inquiring about
intercultural competence. The first part coincided with the majority of the benefits
of project work enumerated by Lípová (2008). According to their responses, the stu-
dents enjoyed learning and discovering information (Q2: 36.67%, Q4: 4.35%), they
became researchers of relevant content because they were free to choose and decide
what they wanted to investigate. Besides, while students used searching techniques
and ICTs (Q1: 3.13%, Q2: 6.67%, Q2: 10%), they were exposed to incidental learning
of grammar and vocabulary (Q1: 15.63%) related to their topic. Students also agreed
that having certain autonomy to decide the content, organisation and planning of
the project was beneficial because it led to mutual help within the group (Q1: 3.13%,
Q2:20%, Q4: 4.35%) and to a more effective learning (Q4: 73.91%). Finally, it is always
important to take into account students’ attitude toward the class, so the introduction
of short breaks, i.e. project work that allows students to put the textbook aside, is
always welcomed (Q4: 8.70%). Similarly, students faced the sessions’ contents with
more motivation and described the project as «more funny, entertaining, interesting»
(Q2: 6.67%, Q2: 10%) that allowed them to «practise English» (Q1: 3.13%) in a more
authentic way and helped them develop speaking skills, both as an interaction and
as a performance since each group made an oral presentation (Q1: 6.25%).
118 ROSANA VILLARES MALDONADO
The second part of the questionnaire sought to make students reflect on the im-
portance of knowing intercultural differences and cultural awareness. The answers
were analysed according to Byram’s 5 savoirs (CEFRL, 2009; Vettorel, 2010) to check
whether students acquired knowledge, skills, and attitudes related to other cultures
and countries or not. In first place, skills (savoir comprendre, apprendre, faire) are de-
fined as «the ability to recognise and adapt to cultural contexts that are new» (Vet-
torel, 2010: 3). In the case of the project, students worked in more depth the skills of
discovery and interaction since they learnt information about other countries’ cultures
(Q1: 46.88%), compared, and found similarities between target cultures and home
cultures (Q1: 12.50%, 3.13%). Regarding interaction, students were exposed, through
some tasks, to intercultural communicative situations and they needed to use certain
communicative strategies to achieve successful communicative exchanges. The sec-
ond savoir, attitudes, (savoir être) consists of «learning how to be open and respectful
towards perspectives, which differ from ours» (Vettorel, 2010: 3). It seems that due
to the particular context of the group, students were already tolerant to different
cultural backgrounds as seen in some answers of Q6: «be more tolerant» (66.67%),
«absolutely more tolerant» (4.76%), «same tolerant as before» (9.52%); complemented
with arguments about respect, accepting others’ differences and learning about
others. Besides, exposing students to intercultural situations and giving them the
opportunity to decide what to investigate developed their curiosity and open-mind-
edness towards otherness. The third element, knowledge (savoir), promotes «discovery
attitudes and critical skills» (Vettorel, 2010: 3). Knowledge of the self –e.g. activity
of the intercultural biography– is thus essential in order to relativise perceptions and
value attitudes and beliefs of the other. It is connected to the knowledge of self and
other, of how interaction occurs, and of the relationship between the individual and
society. Therefore, the introduction of cultural differences with activities, tasks and
projects is needed and students agreed on its importance to deal with and bring it
to the class (Q5: 95.24%). Although critical awareness, the final savoir, was a more
complicated issue to include, some sessions were spent introducing the concept of
culture and how it can influence people’s behaviours and attitudes to make students
aware of its effects (Baker, 2015). Besides, as a first step to evaluate critically theirs
and others’ cultures, students needed to compare and look for similarities between
countries to foster this ability.
Finally, students were expected to communicate in English most of the time, but this
did not turn to be the case. Although there were three or four students who accom-
plished this aim, most of the students interacted in Spanish with their group members
and then, when they needed to write and make the presentation they switched to
English (Q8: 38.10%, 9.52%). Despite of this, in the final questionnaire, a minority
admitted they should have made an effort and spoke more in English (Q8: 19.05%).
Overall, the students showed favourable attitudes towards the project. Yet, in
my view, several areas for improvement are deemed necessary in the future. Before
the project’s implementation, the teacher must bear in mind possible linguistic de-
PROJECT WORK AS A TOOL TO DEVELOP INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCE FROM AN ELF PERSPECTIVE… 119
mands, evidence of students’ growth, and clear research questions and objectives.
Firstly, the teacher should prepare the students for linguistic demands (Lípová, 2008;
Stoller,1997). As a novice teacher, I only paid attention to the project’s content; mostly
ignoring the focus on form, so in the future I should include further linguistic input
since the beginning of the project, during the collection of data, or provide more
guidance for the oral presentation. Secondly, it could be useful to promote motiva-
tion among students by using tools that allow them see evidence of their growth
regarding intercultural competence –e.g. the first day students write their initial ideas
about the topic and later compare them with what they have learnt at the end of the
project (Moeller and Nugent,2014). At the same time, the teacher should insist on
the importance of keeping the notebook updated, to track students’ work and make
them aware of their progress through reflection and self-evaluation (Moeller and
Nugent, 2014). Thirdly, the teacher needs to have clearer research questions because
they influence the project objectives, development and assessment. This is because,
in my case, questions might seem too general for a deeper analysis of the project’s
contribution to the development of intercultural competence.
Moving to the stage where the project is in progress, one element that needs to be
improved is guidance and classroom management. I should work on my monitoring
skills, since it is very important to control group work by means of, for example,
a better track of the notebook, how they interact, the adequate use of roles, who
works and who is lazy, etc. Moreover, students should receive more feedback from
the teacher and their classmates regarding their project –what information they look
for, the organisation of that information, the script for the presentation– to improve
students’ learning and intelligibility during communicative exchanges. Thirdly, it is
necessary to insist more on the fact that the evaluated item of the final product is
the oral presentation, not the supporting materials. Students should have worried
more about what they were going to say and how –asking for feedback and prac-
tice– than on using the ICTs to make presentations or videos. A last point to take
into consideration, following my mentor’s advice, is that while some students present
their projects, the rest of the class needs to do certain tasks to keep their attention
and maintain them focused.
Once the project is finished, there are two further aspects worth discussing. For
future implementations, it would be interesting to check the acquisition of linguistic
contents and intercultural competence. The results of the project, due to its sporadic
and short nature compared to the course syllabus, may not show the students’ critical
cultural awareness that was expected since questions were only intended to provide
a general overview of the students’ attitudes. For future practices, it is advisable
to make more specific questions regarding intercultural attitudes as well as testing
communicative skills –e.g. asking for students’ attitudes and reactions in particular
intercultural situations, what they learn about the target culture, or a critical com-
parison between cultures. In this way, the teacher has more evidence of the students’
learning. The last aspect to mention refers to the introduction of ELF in the classroom.
To achieve this goal, students could be exposed to non-native speaking input or they
could make another project to discover the uses of English in Spain e.g. Finding English
in Spain Project –where, when, how, and why English is used.
120 ROSANA VILLARES MALDONADO
This paper has dealt with the design and evaluation of a project aimed to develop
students’ intercultural competence and intercultural communicative competence.
The project focuses on intercultural competence because it is an essential element of
English as a lingua franca that is often forgotten as well as excluded from the course
plan syllabus. ELF is described as the chosen contact language for communication
between people who do not share the same mother tongue and cultural background
so intercultural differences will appear in any communicative exchange (Seidlhofer,
2005). Besides, communicative competence is not only formed by linguistic and gram-
matical components but also by sociolinguistic, discourse and strategic competences
(Alptekin, 2002), which are stressed in this project, since students learn about target
cultures and communicative strategies. In addition to this, the fact that most of the
exchanges in English do not involve English native speakers (Crystal, 2003; Seidlhofer,
2005) stresses the importance of becoming a successful intercultural speaker –rather
than learning everything about a specific target culture–, who can initiate, negotiate
and mediate effectively conversations with people from diverse cultural backgrounds
(Byram, 1997; Moeller and Nugent, 2014). Project-based learning, following the in-
dications of the LOE Aragonese Curriculum, appears to be a suitable methodology to
achieve good results for the development of intercultural competence in secondary
education. The students’ responses were positive and highlighted some of the benefits
of using project work, and they also agreed on the importance of being intercultural
competent and aware of other cultures’ differences to interact effectively.
I would like to suggest some improvements for a future implementation of the
project regarding its design and planning, as well as classroom management. Since
the beginning it is necessary to have clear teaching and learning objectives, otherwise
the class development might look like a messy process where everything is accept-
able. Assessment tools should be introduced in the first session of the project, and
recalled in next sessions, for students to bear in mind the assessment criteria that, at
the same time, serve as guidelines for the correct development of the project. When
explaining the assessment tools, it is also important to mention that by using them,
students can learn without having an adult controlling all their actions, i.e. it promotes
autonomous learning (Moeller and Nugent, 2014). Finally, as happens with any inex-
perience teacher, I still need to work on my classroom management skills to improve
the effectiveness and productivity of the students’ work. With project-based learning,
students have more freedom but certain rules regarding the working environment
must be set and respected. Thus, although in project-based learning students have
responsibility for their own learning, the teacher is still needed to monitor students
and help them during the learning process.
For future teaching practices related to the development of intercultural compe-
tence, teachers should aim for different grades of cultural awareness leading to critical
thinking in order to educate successful intercultural citizens of a globalised world
(Baker, 2015; Moeller and Nugent, 2014). From an ELF point of view, bringing an
intercultural perspective to the classroom might seem a complicated goal, especially
because of the impossibility of learning everything about every culture in the world,
PROJECT WORK AS A TOOL TO DEVELOP INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCE FROM AN ELF PERSPECTIVE… 121
but there are certain abilities, attitudes and behaviours that are common when facing
different cultures. In the case of the project Discovering New Cultures, it served as an
introduction to reflect on the concept of culture, how it influences communication,
and the comparison between cultures. Teachers can continue working intercultural
competence and developing skills and attitudes with further tasks, activities, and
projects that would lead to a deeper identification, analysis and evaluation of cultural
elements that influence behaviours, attitudes, and misinterpretations (Moeller and
Nugent, 2014) when building relationships with other people and to the acquisition
of the necessary communicative strategies to mediate and to overcome intercultural
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