Teaching and Learning Forum 97 [ Contents ]

Creating a background of relatedness within cultural diversity

Michael Pearson
School of Design
Curtin University of Technology


The Lecturer
Michael Pearson School of Design at Curtin University of Technology. I teach design process in the School of Design and have a particular interest in creative thinking and problem solving within the context of design.

The History
In 1996 I was a member of a team participating in a pilot programme run by my colleague Peter Efford within the School of Design at Curtin University.

The Context
Peter Efford coined the phrase 'background of relatedness' to describe the result of participating in the programme, whose aim was to make students from diverse backgrounds feel comfortable and supportive towards each other regardless of their background. A consequence of relatedness is being comfortable about dialogue. Dialogue drives communication and communication is crucial in the business of learning. Within group learning situations in the School of Design a significant portion revolves around increasing participants transferable skills: listening, being critical, speaking out, presenting, putting across ones point of view - a difficult task when communication is thwarted by diversity.

So, it is our experience that culturally diverse groups have diverse perceptions of themselves in relation to:

The Group
The Lecturer
What is expected of them
What they expect of the lecturer
Each Other
In the pilot programme Peter Efford and then colleagues like myself, we created a sense of togetherness by guided dialogue over a period of six weekly sessions (Efford 1995).

When I first began I followed the lesson plan of the pilot programme having faith in the good teaching judgement of my colleague. During my first pilot programme I admit to thinking: When am I and the students going to feel this relatedness?

There was of course no blinding revelation - there was more a peeling away of the barriers. My participation means that I now know what these barriers are and I believe that the result of my development of the initial project are equal to the pilot programme. The difference is that I have restated the problem within my own understanding. I no longer need the faith in my colleagues insightful practice. I have my own.

The Demonstration

My demonstration then, is an endeavour to fast track this feeling of a background of relatedness to those of you who are willing to participate.

The demonstration involves problem solving, creative thinking and a lecture style that includes a degree of self disclosure from the lecturer and high interactiveness from the participants. How I achieve this interactiveness in the midst of culturally driven diffidence the demonstration will reveal. How effective? This will be determined through the adventure of participation!

The only criteria that participants need possess is interest, enthusiasm, and the ability to draw a circle or two. (Bring pencil and paper)

The Dynamics
The atmosphere and energy of this demonstration is driven by one of the most basic problem solving techniques. When you have a problem to solve. Make the problem the solution.

The Problem
Devise a method for cutting across the cultural diversity of group members in order to communicate within the group.

The Solution
Communicate to each other about the problem: communicate the cultural diversity within the group.

The Method
Construct a group culture that includes the diversity.

The Result
A background of relatedness derived from the culture of the group.

The Evaluation
Whether you feel more 'together' with members of this group in comparison to your relationship with other members of other groups you attend within this conference!!

The Time
We have thirty minutes.

Please cite as: Pearson, M. (1997). Creating a background of relatedness within cultural diversity. In Pospisil, R. and Willcoxson, L. (Eds), Learning Through Teaching, p259-260. Proceedings of the 6th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Murdoch University, February 1997. Perth: Murdoch University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1997/pearson2.html

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