Artefacts, stories & photographs : do they work as a tool for cultural understanding & humanitarian learning? : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education in Adult Education at Massey University
This thesis is a qualitative, ethnographic study, which examines the assumption that at the heart of worthwhile teaching and learning is our shared humanity. Artefacts, stories and photographs are explored as vehicles through which learners critically examine and share their cultural learning and perceptions of what is significant and valuable. In this way artefacts, stories and photographs provide a conduit for learning between and among people of diverse cultures. I believe such learning celebrates our shared humanity, which is deliberately defined in positive terms as "the best that encompasses the collective quality and characteristics of all people including kindness, compassion, empathy, humility, caring and thoughtfulness" Learning that celebrates our humanity may be considered a positive force and humanitarian in nature. In the context of this thesis I speak of and describe humanitarian learning as "the development of understanding of self and others through the sharing of personal, cultural and social experiences that exemplify the attitudes and values needed for responsible citizenship and dignified relationships. Rich sources of ideas, expertise and perceptions about relevant experience have been drawn from various authors and educators. Key documentation from the International Baccalaureate Organisation, (IBO), including "A Continuum of International Education"(2002) and the work of the former Director General of the IBO. Professor George Walker also provided useful resource material. The data was generated through questionnaires and photographs focussing on cultural artefacts with personal meaning, documenting the voices, reflections, interactions, and perceptions of the participants about the significance of cultural diversity in their lives and education. The data is presented in a series of charts and graphic organisers linked with the IBO expected teaching practices. These are analysed in the context of intercultural understanding and humanitarian learning, a notion developed and examined in this thesis with a view to how it may be supported. In analysing the data, the following key points emerged. • Personal multicultural experiences, a sense of global awareness and a thorough appreciation of people from differing backgrounds are considered highly significant in humanitarian learning • Stories, artefacts and photographs create an accessible, versatile and effective human connecting instrument enabling humanitarian learning • Stories, artefacts and photographs can illuminate cultural conflict, tension and misunderstanding. Suggestions and recommendations for ways that humanitarian learning can be fostered in a climate defined by tolerance, respect and responsibility include: • The need to make more explicit the obligations of learners to develop perspectives, intuition and empathy so they know themselves and others and are able to view cultural difference as enriching • The notion of learning as humanitarian is worthy of greater emphasis and implementation in educational organisations • The recognition that areas of tension between people have great potential for meaningful growth of understanding across cultures. This thesis provides a springboard for more serious consideration and action towards initiating learning that purposefully fosters people knowing each other in a spirit of global responsibility.