20 SES 11, Issues of Inclusion: Teachers' identity and intercultural practices
Paper/Ignite Talk Session
In context of the Erasmus+ research action project SHARMED (SHARed Memories and Dialogues, www.sharmed.eu, 2016-2018) we developed and tested an innovative form of inclusive participative pedagogy. The method includes the production and collection of children’s stories about their memories and the facilitation of their description, comparison, and sharing through dialogic communication. This paper focuses on the specific didactic method of using the students' private pictures to gain access to their memories and thereby to their experiences and knowledge. The principal aims of this method are: (1) to empower students by fostering their agency; (2) to develop their participative approach to learning; (3) to create a space for expression of diversity; (4) to allow them to learn from the particuliar access to knowledge that the others have; (5) to support their free construction of identity, beyond the categorizations which are imposed from the outside; (6) to help them to see new aspects of their classmates, discovering unexpected similarities and diversities; and (7) to allow teachers to learn things about and from their students and stimulate them to make full use of it in their classes. Furthermore, the SHARMED method invites teachers to take the call for inclusion seriously, changing perspectives about their roles as educators and the role of their students, who are not black boxes waiting to be filled but rather already brimming boxes, ready to be discovered. SHARMED understands children as active constructors of knowledge, encouraging them to share their thoughts, ideas, and backgrounds through collective narratives.
Further relevant premises of this paper are follows:
Cultural identity is frequently considered an “essential” identity, i.e. something given and fixed (Hofstede 1980). This perception of “the others” create significant problems of discrimination in our diverse society. Inadequate handling of cultural identity can also be observed in schools. This project is based on the idea that a dialogical construction of cultural identity before adolescence, when children can manage such identity with less prejudice, can enable the negotiation of cultural difference in public discourse and interaction (Holliday 2011; Piller 2011; Hua 2014). This negotiation can enhance cultural mélange (Nederveen Pieterse. 2004), in which identities become more fluid and mixed. A negotiated construction of cultural identity in dialogic forms could avoid the individual and social construction of essentialist narratives in which cultural identities are considered fixed and separated (Baraldi 2009).
Memory is a socially constructed basis for constructions of identity. It is possible to distinguish between communicated memory, related to the transmission of memory in everyday life, especially oral and visual memories, and cultural memory, including narrated memories which can be shared, transferred, and reincorporated throughout generations. (Assman 2011) Both of these memories are socially constructed and influence each other. Against this background, memory could be defined as the faculty that allows us to build a narrative picture of the past and through this process develop an image and an identity for ourselves (Assmann & Czaplicka 1995). The “narrative picture” and its dynamic construction are at the core of this project.
Creation and reproduction of photographic images have transformed our understanding of places and people. Photographs are often our closest representation of the reality we are trying to come to terms with. Photographs allow us to: (a) capture moments of our lives instantly; (b) express and reflect personal feelings; (c) tell stories about personal experiences; (d) encapsulate time and preserve memory; (e) use a powerful medium to recollect and narrate memory ; and (f) invite the rest of the world to connect with us, overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers. (Bartes 1980; Moline 2011).This project uses photos as a medium to stimulate interactive and personalised storytelling in educational settings.
The SHARMED didactic method has been applied in four workshops, each of them two hours long, in 54 classes (3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade): 16 of them in Great Britain, 16 in Italy and 16 in Germany. Around 1000 students have been involved in the activities, almost all of them participated in this assessment (341 in Italy, 334 in the UK and 306 in Germany). To test the impact of the activities a mixed methods research design was developed: 1. Pre- and post-test: the classrooms activities were preceded by a pre-test and followed by a post-test. Both tests were carried out via questionnaires in the involved classrooms and in control groups in classrooms with similar profiles. 2. Evaluation questionnaire: the students involved in SHARMED were asked to fill out evaluation questionnaires. 3. Group discussion: the most relevant point of the questionnaires were discussed collectively with the whole class in order to obtain more details about the children’s perspectives on the activities. 4. Educator interviews: workshop leaders (SHARMED facilitators) and the teachers who observed or joined the process were interviewed (audiotaped demi-structured interviews) at the end of the activities to collect their perspective on the activities. 5. Samples: a signifcant sample of classroom activities (50%) was videotaped and relevant results could be evaluated through discourse analysis. The interpretation of the results obtained in 1. and 2. has been supported by the assertions made by the students (3) and by the teachers & facilitators (4) as well as through the analysis of the video-taped material (5). The differences in the results obtained in the different countries have been reflected and proved helpful for understanding the results in relation of the specific contexts, considering the contrasting national and regional idiosyncrasies i.e. social context, migration history, educational system, pedagogical styles.
Out of the questionnaires, the group discussion, and the interviews with the teachers we can assert that: 1. The use of photographs and visual materials fostered students' engagement, on the one hand motivating them to express their own stories and to share them with the others, but on the other hand also to listen to the others and get involved in discussions. 2. SHARMED method provided opportunities for the children to improve mutual knowledge and understanding, and in various cases intimate, delicate or emotional stories were told. 3. Participation was high and all children were involved and were supported in sharing their own stories and perspectives, including children who usually don't participate actively e.g. because of their personality or linguistic abilities. 4. The experience enhanced the ability to engage in dialogue. 5. SHARMED method offered the teachers the chance to leave aside their usual teacher-student relations and attain new perspectives. 6. Teachers were able to learn new details about the children's experiences and views. 7. Children themselves also got to know one other better, recognising their similar experiences and discussing them as a group. 8. Facilitators were able to promote children’s participation without being directive - and the students were able to adapt to it. Most teachers expressed the wish to have such workshops over a longer and continuous period, though acknowledging the issue that they could not easily insert it into the school curriculum. While these assertions by the students and teachers involved confirm the achievement of the presented aims 1,2,3,4,6 and 7, the analysis of the video-taped material shows that supporting a free construction of identity, beyond essentialist categorization, was a challenge for the facilitators and teachers involved who were not proficient in intercultural communication.
Assmann, J.; Czaplicka, J. (1995): Collective Memory and Cultural Identity. New German Critique, 65, Cultural History/Cultural Studies, 125-133 Assman, J.: (2011): Cultural Memory and Early Civilization: Writing, Remembrance, and Political Imagination. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press Barthes, R. (1980): La Chambre claire, Note sur la photographie, Paris, Seuil Baraldi, C. (ed.) (2009): Dialogue in intercultural communities. From and educational point of view. Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins Fail, H.; Thompson, J.; Walker, G. (2004): Belonging, identity and Third Culture Kids. Life histories of former international school children. Journal of Research in International Education, 3(3), 319-338 Hofstede, G. (1980): Culture’s consequences. Beverly Hills/London, Sage Holliday, A. (2011): Intercultural communication and ideology. Thousand Oaks/London, Sage Moline, S. (2011): I See What You Mean. Portland, Stenhouse Nederveen Pieterse, J. (2004): Globalization & culture. Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield Piller, I. (2011): Intercultural Communication. A Critical Introduction. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press Hua, Z. (2014): Exploring intercultural communication. Language in action. London/New York, Routledge
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