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Cross-Cultural Understanding in Immersion Students: A Mixed Methods Study

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This mixed methods study explored the development of cross-cultural understanding in a unique population of students in the U.S.: English-dominant students who had attended French or Spanish elementary immersion schools. Despite the fact that immersion schools have as a goal cross-cultural understanding and appreciation and affirmation of diversity, research has shown that this goal is not always met. This study featured one hundred thirty-one students from five immersion schools who responded to surveys, and 33 of those students who were interviewed. Data analysis procedures included a theme analysis of the interviews, a statistical analysis of the surveys, and an integrated consideration of the findings. It was found in both the quantitative and the qualitative data that the successful development of cross-cultural understanding in these immersion students was not necessarily a function of school activities. These students did not receive the same messages about the target culture(s), nor did they understand the concept of culture in the same way. However, cross-cultural understanding was certainly attainable, particularly with extracurricular exposure to the target language and culture, like living with members of the target culture(s) or undertaking meaningful travel experiences.

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