07 SES 04 A, Transition and Intercultural Learning
Research questions and objectives
Schools and schooling systems across Europe and in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and elsewhere have developed intercultural policies and curricula for schools to promote cultural knowledge, foster positive relations between different racial, ethnic and religious groups, and build cultural cohesion. Researchers have examined efforts to foster students’ interculturality in schools (e.g. Coulby, 2006; Perry & Southwell, 2011; 2010; Taylor 2014; Walton et al. 2015).
Less frequently considered is how young people experience and learn interculturality beyond the formal boundaries of the classroom and curriculum. Attending to this research gap, this paper examines how critical moments in young people’s lives create formative instances of intercultural learning. It draws on data from a qualitative, longitudinal (3 year) life history study of interculturality among ethnically, socially and religiously diverse primary (n=40) and secondary (n=40) students in Melbourne Australia. Our paper addresses the following overarching question:
- What sort of critical moments in young people’s lives stimulate intercultural learning and shape positive attitudes, value and behaviors towards individuals and groups they regard as different from and ‘other’ to themselves?
This question arose from a striking pattern pattern across the full body of our life history data. Namely, that students only identified events beyond the curriculum and classroom as instrumental in shaping their intercultural attitude and practices. Thus, the objectives of our paper are to:
i) elucidate the phenomenon of critical moments in young people’s intercultural learning and the formation of an intercultural subjectivity; and to
ii) consider the potential implications for school curricula and pedagogies that aim to nurture primary and secondary students’ intercultural capabilities.
The concept of the critical moment is a well-established theoretical framework in intercultural communications, narrative and life history, psychology, and sociology, although it often appears under different guises and labels, such as fateful moments, epiphanies and critical incidents (e.g. Giddens, 1991; 2000; Larson, 1997; Moen, 2006; Polkinghorne, 1988; Riessman, 1993; Thomson et al 2002; Savin-Baden & Nierker, 2007).
In broad terms, a critical moment is an ‘unplanned, unanticipated and uncontrolled’ event (Webster & Mertova 2007, p. 77) that takes on particular significance for the individual involved because it stimulates a personal discovery that changes how individuals constitute themselves and their relationships with others and society. In effect, it is a change that alters the meaning structures of a life and ways of being in the world (Denzin 1989, p. 70). Thus, the substantive and theoretical importance of a critical moment lies not in the character of the event but in the changes it stimulates (Webster & Mertova 2007).
Critical moments and related theories have been used to analyse students’ subjective formation (McLeod & Yates) and how young people construct a sense of self and identity over time (Holland and Thomson 2009). This paper, we believe, is the first to combine life history methods and the theoretical tool of critical moments to elucidate the intercultural learning among students of primary and secondary school age beyond the formal structures of the classroom.
Coulby, D. (2006). Intercultural education: theory and practice. Intercultural Education, 17(3): 245-257. Denzin, N. K. (1989). Interpretive Biography. Newbury Park, CA, SAGE. Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and self-identity. Stanford, LA: Stanford University Press. Giddens, A. (2000). The trajectory of the self. In P. Du Gay, J. Evans, & P. Redman (Eds.), Identity: A reader (pp. 248-266). London: Sage. Halse, C. et al (2015). Doing diversity: Intercultural understanding in primary and secondary schools. Melbourne: Deakin University. Henderson, S., Holland, J., McGrellis, S., Sharpe, S., & Thomson, R. (2007). Inventing adulthoods: a biographical approach to youth transitions. London: Sage. Hollingworth, S., & Mansaray, A. (2012). Conviviality under the cosmopolitan canopy? Social mixing and friendships in an urban secondary school. Sociological Research Online, 17(3), 2. Larson, C. L. (1997). Re-presenting the subject: problems in personal narrative inquiry. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 10(4): 455-47. McLeod, J., & Yates, L. (2006). Making Modern Lives: Subjectivity, Schooling, and Social Change. New York: State University of New York. Moen, T. (2006). Reflections on the Narrative Research Approach. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5(4): 56-69. Perry, L. B., & Southwell, L. (2011). Developing intercultural understanding and skills: models and approaches. Intercultural Education, 22(6): 453-466. Polkinghorne, D. E. (1988). Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences. Albany, NY, State University of New York. Punch, S. (2002). Interviewing strategies with young people: The ‘secret box’, stimulus material and task-based activities. Children & Society, 16(1): 45-56. Riessman, C. K. (1993). Narrative Analysis. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Savin-Baden, M. and Nierkerk, L. van (2007). Narrative Inquiry: Theory and Practice. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 31(3): 459-472. Stokes, H. (2012). Imagining futures: Identity narratives and the role of work, education, community and family. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. Taylor, S. (2013). Globally-minded students: defining, measuring and developing intercultural sensitivity. Part 2. The International Schools Journal, 33(1): 26-34. Thomson, R., Bell, R., Holland, J., Henderson, S., McGrellis, S., & Sharpe, S. (2002). Critical moments: choice, chance and opportunity in students’ narratives of transition. Sociology, 36(2): 335-354. Walton, J., Priest, N., & Paradies, Y. (2013). Identifying and developing effective approaches to foster intercultural understanding in schools. Intercultural Education, 24(3): 181-194. Webster, L. and Mertova, P. (2007). Using Narrative Inquiry as a Research Method. An Introduction to using critical analysis in research on teaching and learning. Oxon, Routledge. Weller, S. (2012). Evolving creativity in qualitative longitudinal research with children and teenagers. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 15(2): 119-133.
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