Dialogue and Argumentation for cultural Literacy Learning in Schools
DIALLS is a three-year project working with schools to understand and develop how children and young people make sense of Europe and its differing cultures. Cultural diversity is one of Europe’s most valuable assets but we need to support young people to build the skills and competences needed for effective inter-cultural dialogue and mutual understanding about each other’s lives.
In our project, schools in seven countries work with researchers and teacher educators to develop a Cultural Literacy Learning Programme (CLLP), where young people of all ages learn the skills of ‘dialogue and argumentation‘ to be better able to communicate with each other, understanding each other’s perspectives and exploring the different cultural heritages and values of people who live in Europe. Dialogue that is characterised by collaboration encourages young people to think together as they express their opinions whilst listening to, and respecting, the opinions of others. Picturebooks and short films that have been produced in Europe are used as Cultural Texts to stimulate classroom discussions, and children and young people from different countries will share their ideas using a special online platform.
Led by the University of Cambridge, the project includes researchers and teachers from nine countries who each bring their own specialism to work together on DIALLS. We draw on cultural studies and civic education experts, teacher educators, psychologists and literacy specialists. Most importantly, the students in our project have a central voice in their activities, choosing the books and films that they feel will generate great discussion, and we will showcase their work in our virtual gallery. Our project includes the development of resources for teachers and researchers that are open access.
What is Cultural Literacy?
“Cultural Literacy” is a term coined by ED Hirsch in the 1980s as a bank of knowledge that it was felt young people in the US should have to be able to operate effectively in their society. Hirsch included a list of cultural ideas that he felt reflected what ‘every American needs to know’. This is in contrast to the DIALLS approach to cultural literacy which moves beyond cultural literacy as knowledge.
In DIALLS we use the term “cultural literacy” to include the attitudes and skills that people need to get along with each other in everyday living. Empathy is key to being culturally literate, with a view to understanding and including differing perspectives and values that are reflected in people’s lives. To facilitate collaboration, individuals should value diversity, respect others and be willing both to overcome prejudices and to compromise (European Parliament, Council of the European Union, 2006).
Our Cultural Analysis Framework diagram (right) reflects the key concepts for DIALLS regarding cultural literacy and making sense of Europe. Our glossary explains these terms as they appear in European educational policy documentation. See the full document here.
We are all ‘others’: teaching children to celebrate differences
The University of Cambridge’s research magazine, Research Horizons, is showcasing DIALLS’ work with the University of Cambridge Primary School. We are all “others”: teaching children to celebrate differences discusses how working with textless picturebooks and films can help children discover for themselves that far more unites us than divides us.
European Researchers’ Night
The European Researchers’ Night is an annually organized European-wide event showcasing the value of publicly funded research to the general public and seeking to inspire a new generation of researchers. DIALLS participated in Researchers’ Night at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, 28 September 2018, by presenting DIALLS’ core themes with a poster and screening a film Baboon on the Moon.
The European Union is currently working on the next EU research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe, that will replace the Horizon 2020 programme in year 2021.
To impact on the missions and focuses of this new programme, Universities Finland (UNIFI), a co-operational organisation for Finnish universities, organized a lobbing event ‘Moonshots of the 2020s. How to make the most of the missions of Horizon Europe? Inclusive and Secure Society’ 11 October 2018 in Brussels. As a part of UNIFI’s delegation, Tuuli Lähdesmäki gave a talk ‘Cultural Encounters: A Key in Solving Tricky Problems and Making a Better Future’ in which she emphasized that cultural encountering can function as an arena for solving various social and societal challenges and making a more inclusive, tolerant, and equal future. This requires from researchers a more active role in societies as well as research that actively engages people beyond academia as participants and co-creators in research. In her talk, Lähdesmäki used DIALLS as a good example of ongoing EU-funded research projects that actively engages citizens – teachers and their pupils – in research.