Intercultural understanding is a very important topic for teachers all over Europe – and all over the world. Marta Hunya and Bettina Zeidler, who both used to work as pedagogical advisors for eTwinning, use their workshop to offer inspiration and ideas to teachers who would like to include an approach to intercultural understanding in their eTwinning projects – with the intention to guide their students towards a feeling of european citizenship.
But what does european citizenship mean exactly? Probably it means something else for everyone of us. So we need to discuss, to find common grounds to start from. We all have different backgrounds, different cultural roots that shape our opinions and views in ways that often are not obvious.
To illustrate this, the idea of culture as an Iceberg with a small visible and a big invisible part serves well: when we meet someone, we know only very few things about their culture, maybe we know popular food from the region the person comes from or we can understand the language they speak. But we can’t see the “part below the surface”, the attitudes, emotions and values, the roots of the culture. Intercultural understanding doesn’t have the intention of getting the whole iceberg out of the water and in plain sight – but to make a bigger part of it visible, understandable.
More about the iceberg model.
In a second group work we then talked about values we think are important and in the groups agreed on the most important ones we share. Of course this is only the beginning: there’s still the question of what, for example, respect means to someone from Cyprus and someone from Norway, or what reliability means in Portugal or Romania – or for any given individual! Respect, tolerance, cooperation, honesty, trust – we need to negotiate the meanings to get closer to understanding each other.
It’s clear that discussing about values, their counterparts and their meaning with pupils can be very fruitful, but it definitely is a challenge.
An interesting way to include these discussion into eTwinning projects is to find a topic where values play an important role. History can be a starting point: seeing historical events from different perspectives, learning about controversial persons and the values they appreciated, discuss their intentions and goals, find out why they acted the way they did.
The teachers’ role in this is to be moderators and facilitators, to guide the pupils and help them express their own opinions. Detailed observation, sharing experiences and impressions can be a starting point, role plays can help exploring different perspectives.
A very inspiring and interesting workshop! A starting point for thoughts about the term european citizenship and its meaning for education.