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Witsel, M 2008, 'Transcultural teachers: experiences of academics teaching tourism and hospitality in multicultural and transnational contexts', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright M Witsel 2008


The rapid growth in internationalisation of education has led to the point where Australia has become a world leader in transnational education. Simultaneously, the provision of hospitality and tourism management education has developed rapidly from its inception in 1974 with numbers of international students rising steadily. Although robust research into the international student experience has been conducted, the impact of these changes upon tertiary academics has received little attention from researchers.

Within this context, this research project aims to develop a better understanding of academics’ experiences of teaching tourism and hospitality in transcultural settings. More specifically, the study seeks to discover the impacts of working in a multicultural, multinational and multilingual environment on the tourism and hospitality academic (Objective One), and to explore the concept of competence in multicultural and transnational teaching (Objective Two).

This thesis is presented in five stages. The first stage considers the formative background to the research, and explores literature and concepts surrounding transcultural contexts of higher education. The current state of internationalisation of tourism and hospitality higher education in Australia is outlined, and gaps in the research field are highlighted. This section observes a need for transcultural competence in teaching.

Stage Two addresses methodological considerations and explores the use of interpretive phenomenological methodology for gaining a greater understanding of the lived experiences of academics teaching in transcultural contexts. The practice and philosophies surrounding phenomenology, interviewing, and transcribing talk are critically examined. This stage also proposes the use of mind mapping as a tool for qualitative research analysis.

Employing the interpretive methodologies outlined in the previous stage, Stage Three considers Objective One by addressing the research question ‘What are the concerns and constraints experienced by academics teaching in transnational and multicultural contexts?’ In keeping with a phenomenological approach which encourages testing initial intuitions by subjecting them to critical evaluation, this section incorporates a peer-reviewed paper written by the researcher. Findings showed that academics experienced concerns and constraints relating to their sense of self, the intercultural other (the students) and the temporal and education environment in which they are situated. Stage Three also addresses the second research question, ‘What influences the positive experiences of academics teaching in transnational and multicultural contexts?’ Findings showed that travel and journeying (both physical and metaphorical) were highly significant, beneficial, and contributed greatly to emotional well-being as they allowed the academics to experience joy in transcultural teaching.

Stage Four addresses the second research objective and incorporates two research questions. The question ‘How are academics’ intercultural competences in multicultural education formed?’ involved the theoretical delineation of the specific research area through an in-depth systematic literature review in order to develop a holistic explanatory model. The model considers epistemology and ontology of teaching practice, and contains four quadrants: self-knowledge, values, knowledge and skills. The final research question, ‘How do successful international tourism and hospitality educators embody and integrate competence in their teaching within multicultural and transnational classrooms?’ entailed close phenomenological analysis of the narrated experiences of four academics who had not only derived much enjoyment from their transcultural teaching, but had been publicly recognised by peers and by their universities as being successful teachers. The narrated experiences, approaches and opinions of these academics are analysed and organised according to the model and are explored under the headings Epistemology – which includes ‘cultural knowledge’ and ‘skills’; and Ontology, which covers ‘values’ and ‘self’.

Stage Five considers the implications and significance of this research for higher education. The thesis contributes not only to research into teaching and internationalisation of education, but also makes original contributions to qualitative research methodology.