Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts




In this thesis, I posit that the practice of Zen Buddhism can help teachers of English to speakers of other languages to become better teachers. In particular, that the practice of mindfulness helps ESOL teachers to let go of their opinions, put aside the hierarchical perspective formed by Western culture and see difference simply as variation, neither intrinsically better nor worse than that which is familiar. All are vital components of successful ESOL teaching and the basis of cross-cultural communicative competence. I use narrative, the oldest form of knowledge transmission, as the major part of my thesis since it is a genre accessible to all. The narrative component of this thesis is extracted from a personal travel memoir entitled From Korea to Kathmandu. In it, I detail the growth in cross-cultural communicative competence which ensued during a 5 month solo journey as a result of keeping everyday Zen mind: maintaining awareness that the mind constructs its own definitions and paying attention to the fact that these descriptions are simply constructs without any intrinsic truth. By illuminating my experiences, the narrative provides a source of contemplation for the ESOL teacher on the path to cross-cultural communicative competence, while the meditative passages and reflective tasks that are included at the end of each chapter of the narrative, help the ESOL teacher connect with my experience and use it as a tool for their own growth.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Karen Harle-Cowan



OCLC Number


File Format


File Size

117 pages