Communicative mediation and identity for the development of European democratic values in the EFL classroom

  1. Esther Cores Bilbao
Supervised by:
  1. María del Carmen Fonseca Mora Director
  2. María del Carmen Méndez García Director

Defence university: Universidad de Huelva

Fecha de defensa: 16 December 2020

  1. Maria González-Davies Chair
  2. Lucia Quintana Hernández Secretary
  3. Michael Byram Committee member

Type: Thesis


Against the backdrop of rapidly evolving globalised societies in which public attitudes are polarised, and where phenomena such as the revival of nationalism intersect with movements that seek to achieve further internationalisation, the aim of this thesis is to put forward scientifically grounded teaching methodologies that can extend the strictly linguistic nature of adult English as a Foreign Language (EFL) by positively impacting on students' receptivity to the adoption of European democratic values, as well as on the functioning of the overall social dynamics of the classroom. From a conceptual perspective, this work endeavours to present the interrelationship between the socio-cultural perspective of the language teaching-learning process, the development of relational forms of social capital and the self-identification of students with European democratic principles and values. To this effect, and focusing on possible strategies for promoting active European citizenship through higher education, foreign language learning is explored as a means of developing cognitive, relational and communicative competence for individual empowerment. Building on the contributions of disciplines such as sociology and psychology, as well as the latest frameworks adopted at Community level for language and civic education, the importance of enabling learners to become participatory members of a democratic learning community, in which collaborative interaction, intersubjectivity and mutually assisted performance occur through the implementation of Mediated Language Learning Experiences (MeLLE) is equally upheld. The empirical application of mediation as a language activity (CEFR/CV, Council of Europe, 2018a) thus becomes the centrepiece of this contribution, as it underscores the collaborative nature of communication, explicitly asserting the role of the language learner as a social agent. The fundamental focus followed hence lies in the importance of establishing dialogical and reflective communities of practice in the language learning classroom setting which encompass the integration of relevant thematic content and a mediated approach as a critical variable in the development of collaborative activities. On the other hand, despite the considerable interest that European identity building has aroused and the quest undertaken by scholars to specify the predictors of its support, few studies have addressed, from a unitary theoretical framework, the joint analysis of positive identification attitudes among young people in Europe and the values they perceive as typically European. Among the shared community values considered here, the appreciation for linguistic diversity and multilingualism, the respect for otherness and the development of an intercultural mindset are fundamental premises for people to coexist in a world of increasing heterogeneity. Within this landscape, there is space for language identities and foreign language teaching to play an exciting part in education for democracy. Consequently, the other fundamental focus of this work is the process of Europeanisation, understood as the compounding effect of European integration on the of rules, values and identities on the lives of European nationals, which from the sociological angle here adopted inevitably demands attention to issues such as cross-border encounters in a European Union (EU) context, as well as inquiring how EU citizens are perceiving the politically promoted values and EU policies. To this end, we empirically address the plausability of attachment to Europe being derived from or intensified by transnational learning experiences. Finally, after examining the main interlinkages between the pedagogical paradigms of Intercultural Communicative Competence and Intercultural Mediation, their impact on the reconceptualisation of the role of educators is traced, substantiating the necessary conversion of teachers from target language and culture knowledge providers to facilitators of intercultural awareness. In a similar token, the management of pedagogical processes associated with the development of learning strategies as a by-product of a democratic classroom culture is analysed.