How do we develop multiple perspectives?

How do we develop international mindedness in our students?

International-mindedness starts with understanding ourselves in order to effectively connect with others.

Each of us sees the world through the lens of our own life experiences.

In this section we explore the lens through which we see the world and the concept of multiple perspectives

Discovering our perspective

Activity 1: What's in your name?

This first activity is a good way of introducing each other in the group or team. You may have known and worked with each other for many years but have you explored what they think about their own identity and where their perspectives come from? This activity is one way of exploring your own and listening to each others' stories.

  • Watch 'My Name' by Sandra Cisneros. The text is an extract from the book The House on Mango Street.

Reflect on your own name and share your story with others.

  • What is the significance of your name? If you need a search engine try
  • To what extent does your name influence who you have become and are becoming?
  • Why do you think exchanging names seems so important when you meet someone?
  • What are your family, national and cultural stories?
  • How would you define yourself culturally? What are the implications?
  • Have you ever wanted to change your name? If so, why and to what?

Once you have explored your own story share it with a partner. Now introduce your partner to your team or group from the perspective of their cultural story.

Understanding multiple perspectives

The IB’s mission recognizes that “others with their differences can also be right”. This principle is equally relevant in the area of IB leadership. The importance of acknowledging that problems and opportunities can be considered from more than one perspective is central to IB philosophy. Working with participants from different cultural and school contexts provide a rich environment where alternative viewpoints and solutions can be analyzed and new ideas and approaches examined. The comic graphic is a reminder of what people often do - impose their world views onto others. This often leads to misrepresentation.

There's always more that one way of seeing things as the following activity will show.

Activity 2

  • Watch the following video. The best way of doing so is to pause it at stages as the story unfolds. What do you see?

  • As professionals we have to make judgments all the time. However, are we sure we are understanding the whole story?
  • Discuss how people from different cultures and backgrounds may see things in different ways.
  • Ask yourself this: who has the power to decide which version of reality is seen as the real one? 

Activity 3: Seeing the world through maps

Maps are a powerful way of telling a story, of presenting a perspective on the world.

Click here to link to '10 maps that will change how you view the world'.

  • How do maps tell a story?
  • What mental map of the world do we have?
  • Consider Africa. What is our mental map?

'Worldmapper' is a collection of world maps, where countries are re-sized on each map according to the subject. There are nearly 700 maps seeing the world from multiple perspectives. For example, there are world maps on food, resources, exploitation, education, disease, wealth.

  • Access Worldmapper here.
  • Browse the website. Choose a map that tells a story that resonates with you? Explain why.
  • Discuss: how does the picture of the world change in relation to the message it is telling?
  • Why are countries sometimes left off maps? What may be the political story?

Seeing things from a different point of view

Some fun videos were made by, highlighting what's wrong with aid videos and the damage of national/cultural stereotypes:

Watch the following video entitled 'Africa for Norway'. As you watch consider how it challenges your view of Africa and Norway.

"Imagine if every person in Africa saw the "Africa for Norway" video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway? If we say Africa, what do you think about? Hunger, poverty, crime or AIDS? No wonder, because in fundraising campaigns and media that's mainly what you hear about. The pictures we usually see in fundraisers are of poor African children. Hunger and poverty is ugly, and it calls for action. But while these images can engage people in the short term, we are concerned that many people simply give up because it seems like nothing is getting better. Africa should not just be something that people either give to, or give up on. The truth is that there are many positive developments in African countries, and we want these to become known. We need to change the simplistic explanations of problems in Africa. We need to educate ourselves on the complex issues and get more focus on how western countries have a negative impact on Africa's development. If we want to address the problems the world is facing we need to do it based on knowledge and respect."

Developing Intercultural Competence

Intercultural understanding is the ability to meaningfully engage with people outside of one’s culture.

Activity 3: Barnga

Barnga is a card game which aims at improving the intercultural competence of the players. It is a good simulation activity to introduce the importance of intercultural understanding with a whole staff team and explore how cultural differences can impact on communication.

Watch the following you tube video to introduce you to the game.

Click here to access instructions for the game and a set of rules to use.

  • Reflect on your experience of playing the game. Individually create at least one guideline you learned during playing the game which would have practical application to developing intercultural understanding.
  • As a group collate your guidelines together in the form of a protocol for developing intercultural undertanding in your school.

Tip: This is a game which can be played with students as well as staff.

Intercultural Understanding and the IB

Intercultural understanding, as a component of international mindedness, is fundamental to an IB educator.The mission statement prominently states the role and importance of intercultural understanding: ‘The International Baccalaureate Organization aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect’ (IB, 2014).The learner profile includes statements such as ‘we critically appreciate our own cultures and personal histories, as well as the values and traditions of others’ (IB 2013).

Activity 4: Intercultural understanding in IB Documents

  • Click here to access the IB Mission Statement. Underline where intercultural understanding is embedded in the Mission.
  • Click here to access the IB Learner Profile. As an activity to use with your leadership team or whole staff team arrange for each profile attribute and its descriptor to be on a separate card. On the back of each card write an example of how that particular attribute can be connected to intercultural understanding. Display the cards using a Market Place activity. Use a gallery walk to share understanding.
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