Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Intercultural experiences can result in increased knowledge of and positive attitudes towards unfamiliar cultural groups (Neto, Pinto, & Mullet, 2016; Vuoskoski, Clarke, & DeNora, 2017). Deardorff’s (2006) intercultural competence process framework provides a method for exploring and categorizing elements of intercultural competence including attitudes, knowledge/skills, internal outcomes, and external outcomes.

This narrative instrumental case study examined the perceptions of one middle school choir teacher, choir students, the student teacher, the parents, and the vice principal when implementing a researcher-designed unit titled: Religious Choral Music from the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Worlds. The choir teacher offered a unique perspective as an atheist amongst a large Christian majority. However, her training, solely in the Western classical tradition, informed her programming practices. She avoids programming religious music from a global perspective due to (a) concern over authenticity, (b) her need for choral success, and (c) a lack of resources. She also expressed fears about implied indoctrination, stereotyping, and generalizing, but demonstrated a receptive attitude towards the music unit. The students’ Muslim, Buddhist, Agnostic, and Christian perspectives provided examples of how students can contribute to meaningful discussions about religious music. They appreciated learning about diverse religious music and also expressed concerns over social justice issues related to religious minorities. The issue of the word god in patriotic music arose unexpectedly in data collection and students clearly positioned themselves as appreciative, indifferent, or opposed to the use of the word god in these songs.

When examining participants’ movement through Deardorff’s (2006) intercultural competence framework, the process was complex, amorphous, and continuous. The teacher, students, and student teacher demonstrated respectful, open, and curious attitudes towards unfamiliar religious music and increased their knowledge of unfamiliar religions. However, students’ internal and external behaviors varied. Sometimes participants demonstrated an increase in intercultural competence, such as expressing empathy, while also showing indifference towards learning about other religions. Based on these findings, teachers might consider: (a) explicitly teaching multiple religious perspectives when programming, (b) working towards a complete, nuanced awareness of laws and policies regarding the use of religious music in schools, and (c) intentionally incorporating a global perspective within group singing.



Committee Chair

Stanley, Ann Marie