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A.B. Larsen

UiT-The Arctic University of Norway (NORWAY)
This paper discusses how student teachers, who specialize in English and other foreign language studies, understand the term cultural diversity. Cultural diversity, i.e. the existence of a variety of cultural or ethnic groups within a society, is one of the global keywords employed excessively in both legislative documents and curricula to depict and define modern society. In teacher education, it is often used as a synonym to multiculturalism. Because of their future roles as language teachers, the term is particularly relevant to students of English and other foreign languages, who specialize in cultural studies and encounter this term in multifaceted contexts both in theory studies and in their practical experience. By using role-play and student narrative texts, this study demonstrate how students’ comprehension of the term cultural diversity deepens when the traditional repertoire of working methods in class is enhanced. Reflective student narratives, students’ role-plays and students’ evaluative statements about the narratives and the role-plays have been collected and are analyzed with a focus on students’ comprehension of cultural diversity. Translation theory - and the terms of velocity and viscosity therein - are used as an intake to understand how students may interpret the term cultural diversity. When the students write narrative texts about cultural diversity to explain what they understand by the term they get knowledge about the term and a chance to study it more closely and work with it individually and think about what the term means to them and what they take it to mean. When students create and act out role-plays where topics involving cultural diversity is dramatized, they do not get much time for reflection during the role-play. When the students prepare themselves for the roles, they use their preconceived ideas about what kind of opinions and statements the characters they play are most likely to pronounce. In the role-play they have to think and talk quickly. They have to change their line of argumentation based om what the other students acting in the other roles say. When students evaluate and reflect on their performance in the role-plays, they get a more profound, complex and dynamic understanding of the term. When student narratives are used to explain the term, the main connotations the term provides are accounted for; when role-plays are used to dramatize and translate the term, the velocity and viscosity of the students’ perception of the term is enhanced and amplified. This enhancement of the students’ understanding of the term is noticeable in the reflective discussions after the role-plays have been acted out. In the post role-play plenary discussions the students discussed how they had felt and about their reflections during the role-play. They focused on how they had to adjust their own opinions, values and beliefs.