Culture’s Role In Transformative Learning

Let’s for this exercise define culture as a “geographical point on a map”. What makes this point different to other points and identifiable are its “landmarks”. These landmarks are recognised by their name and their description. Landmarks, such as literature, language, food, religion, clothes, politics, gender roles and others, as shown in the diagram below. Each culture, over a period of time, brings all these “landmarks” together in differing proportions and descriptions, as well as placing conflicting levels of importance on each. This is known as the dominant culture of the area at that point in time.


The probability of having two culture points on the map with the exact expectations simultaneously in each of these landmarks is zero and hence the reason why so many cultures exist. But what if a culture joins another culture and tries to co-exist on the same point on the “map”? When the levels of importance of the “landmarks” differ then the co-existence becomes problematic and the dominant culture can very quickly overpower the minorities, as was seen with the Australian Aboriginal culture and the First Nations people of Canada. The need then arises to find a way to co-exist, to have cross cultural survival. Schools are often the place for this to gestate.

If we want the “middle ground” (Barnhardt, 1981) of cultural existence, that is cultural ecclecticism then schools have to find ways where the teachings are not stressing either the dominant or the minority culture. If we are conscious of not repeating the unacceptable intolerances of cultures in the past, then the way that schools can be confident this won’t happen is to bring CIE(Creativity and Imagination in Education) into the forefront of its content in its curriculum where each “…unique social and cultural condition of a child is identified. “ (Barnhardt, 1981)

Culture’s role in CIE also examines the curriculum’s need to not be just about subject matter and its disciplines nor is it the other extreme of pure process learning. Instead, it is a need for a curriculum that allows for more flexibility in its actions. A more “project centred approach” (Barnhardt, 1981).

In 1967, Harrison and Hopkins referred to a project as having requirements of the learner. These qualities are “trademarks” of my understanding of CIE. They are :

  • Communication
  • Diagnosis
  • Problem definition
  • Commitment
  • Risk taking
  • Influencing and organising, and
  • Cognition and generalisation.

When these trademarks are examined closely, then the flexibility of learning becomes more obvious.

“If a project centred approach is to be effectively utilised to carry out a substantial part of the educational responsibilities vested in the school, then the projects themselves will have to be deliberately and carefully planned with particular learning tasks in mind, blending the academic functions of the school with the cultural patterns of the community”. (Barnhardt, 1981)

With such an understanding of culture and the influential role it has in education, and we accept that every student is creative and imaginative, then we also accept that they have become accustomed to a culture and its way of learning.; its way of thinking; its way of discovering information; its way of interaction with others, in and out of the school environment.

We also need to accept that culture brings passed on knowledge from generations before. Culture brings elements of communication that differ from other world viewpoints. It brings community socialisation processes which would allow community based classrooms as a natural form of learning. CIE is a perfect way to assure a curriculum assists these differences and similarities.Image2


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