Psych Abstract: Using writing assignments and follow-up discussions in teaching cultural psychology

Research Abstract

Praslova, L. & Wood, T. (2008). Using writing assignments and follow-up discussions in teaching cultural psychology. Participant Idea Exchange session to be presented at the III International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology, July 12-16, St. Petersburg, Russia.

This presentation summarizes the experience of using writing assignments and follow-up discussions in teaching Culture and Psychology (or Cultural Psychology; Cross-Cultural Psychology) course. The goal of these writing assignments and discussions is to help students to explore, expand and share their understanding of their own cultural background. Such understanding will in turn help students to appreciate other individuals as cultural beings, as well as to become more conscious of the overall role of culture in psychological functioning. In this presentation two specific examples of writing assignments will be discussed and their effectiveness in helping students to explore their inner cultural self will be evaluated. The first assignment is focused on student exploration of their cultural background and cultural self (selves); the second assignment requires that students reflect on a real life cross-cultural experience. Both ethnic majority and ethnic minority students benefit and experience personal growth as a result of these assignments.

Furthermore, students greatly benefit from adding a class discussion element as a follow-up to individual writing assignments. However, planning such discussions requires sensitivity and careful preparation. Therefore, this presentation will include a list of suggestions for making class discussions of potentially sensitive cultural topics both enjoyable and beneficial for all students. Selected examples of student work and student feedback on their classroom experience will also be presented and discussed. An example of student comments reads as follows: “It opened me up to the many different cultures and what makes them unique. I liked doing my presentation and paper on culture” (class evaluations, 2007).