Within the field of intercultural education, several pedagogical approaches are being used. For teacher students it’s important to know several of these instruments, so they can choose an appropriate approach for their classroom situation. Within this course four approaches will be presented, in lesson the ABCD-crown of Abram (2001) will be presented.
Learning outcomes/ sectoral and general competencies
Is able to explain the theoretical background of the ABCD-crown
Can apply the theory on his own personal cultural situation
Is able to compare this approach with the other pedagogical approaches
Teaching and studying methods
Discussion / Dialogue
Teaching oriented on action
Abram, I. (2001); The ABCD of intercultural classroom education; translation of Abram, I. (2001); Het ABCD van intercultureel onderwijs; Barneveld: Uitgeverij Nelissen
Abram, I. & Wesley, J. (2006); Knowing me, knowing you; Identity and intercultural dialogue; Rotterdam: Uitgeverij Ger Guijs
Schellekens, E. (2003); Intercultureel leren in de klas; aan de slag met verschillen; Baarn: Bekadidact
Overall assignment: (suggestion for integration in end assessment)
Follow the three lessons of this educational unit and carry out the self study assignments.
Afterwards reflect on your development as an intercultural teacher using the description below.
“The intercultural teacher provides the children with an open attitude to the world around them. He (read also as she) is prepared to look critically at himself, values what he has received (his own forming and culture) and is open for the world around him. He has the ability to open up this outside world to the children. For this the teacher needs to acquire knowledge about cultures, actively reflect on what he sees, deliberately adopt an attitude with respect to sensitive questions and deal positively with other unknown worlds.”
This lesson shows the ABCD-crown for teaching in multicultural classrooms, an example for an equity pedagogy (Banks, 1994). The ABCD-crown is best embedded in a holistic approach to understand how people develop. You are born with a genetic predisposition. However, that genetic disposition develops under a range of external influences. All of those influencing factors affect each other and interact with the genetic predisposition present. That is how a person’s identity and self-image form. A factor can have a protective or a risky influence. How the various factors influence each other is a very complex and dynamic process. At Arnhem Primary Teacher Training College (Netherlands) a model has been developed provide a better understanding of these influences with respect to children:
The model shows how a child is influenced by its environment (this is sometimes referred to as an ecosystem). However the opposite is also true: a child influences its environment. The arrows therefore point in both directions and are drawn very straight. Be aware, however, that the processes are highly complex and dynamic. For each child the family and neighbourhood/ community are very important. Every child also has to go to school and so this is also represented in the model. The family, the neighbourhood/ community and the school determine, in interaction with the genetic disposition, the child’s development to a very large extent. The government forms a ‘skin’ around this process so to speak. It exerts a strong influence on the family, the neighbourhood/ community and the school (and to a small extent the opposite is true as well). The government therefore has an indirect influence on the child. Each heading in the model hides a mass of factors. At Arnhem Primary Teacher Training College this has also been elaborated into a tool. You can find the ecological field of influences in Appendix 1, where each heading in the model is further elaborated into factors. Each factor can have a positive (protective) or a negative (risk) effect on the child.
If you examine the ecological sphere of influence then you can see that school plays a very important role in the entire model. And within the school you as a teacher are one of the most determining factors. From within your position you exert influence on the other factors. You do not influence everything, however. Your circle of influence is limited. You might want to have more influence on the family or the neighbourhood but that is not your task. It is therefore good to explore how you can influence the development of the children in your class. Take a look at the teacher factors stated below:
Characteristics, (social) intelligence, self-image, autobiography/ biography and daily events
Work satisfaction/ stress
Type of upbringing (authoritarian, democratic, laissez-faire)/ instructional skills
Degree of harmonisation (sensitivity and responsiveness)
Relationships with parents, external parties, etc.
Reflection: Briefly state how the different factors influence you as a teacher in multicultural classrooms.
This equity approach is based on dialogue as an approach for multicultural education, the ABCD-crown of Ido Abram (2001). For more information see appendix 2.
The model starts at A, the autobiography. An autobiography is a description of your own life story. It is a collection of events you find important and so it reveals how you see yourself. It shows who you are and reflects your identity. It is your story and so your interpretation of your life. It therefore says something about how you give meaning to life. The value that you attach to yourself and your life (self-image) is also revealed. This is your version of your life story. Other people can have a very different view of your life story. The image that others have of you is sometimes referred to as a biography. In a biography, others state how they interpret and value your life. It describes your image. Here the focus is on how other people see a person’s life, in this case how people think of you. You can ask other people you know to tell you. Friend/ members of your family often have a very clear view of your life/ lifestyle. They might have a similar life/ lifestyle, so it can be interesting to ask people who are less close to you about your image. The most interesting is to pose such questions to people who come from a completely different culture.
Reflection: What do you think your positive characteristics and/ or points for attention are? Fill it in individually and then share with another student, regarding the questions below.
Do you have any idea how I have acquired these characteristics and/or points for attention?
How open am I to people who are different?
To what extent can I adapt myself in situations where I meet people from other cultures?
The underlying idea of the ABCD is that all these different autobiographies and biographies can lead to conflict. A biography is of course built up from your own autobiography. You judge things from your frame of reference and the other person from theirs. That is how conflicts can arise. These conflicts often remain behind closed doors for the sake of keeping the peace or are covered up to prevent confrontations. This can result in a build up of tension, which can lead to outbursts. Identifying and recognising these conflicts is therefore important. People can then enter into a dialogue with each other. This is not easy as people often have the tendency to fall into a discussion with each other instead. During a discussion, one party tries to convince the other, which means there is a winner and a loser. During a dialogue the aim is to ensure that everyone involved is a winner. This does not mean that people have to agree with each other. The dialogue starts from the position of opposing opinions. By discussing these differences those involved can reach new insights. Each person is entitled to keep his or her own opinion but by talking with each these opinions can be refined.
Reflection: To what extent does your own personality mean you are inclined towards conflict and/ or dialogue when faced with intercultural situations? Give examples from your practice with multicultural groups.
Read the case study below and answer the questions individually:
(The next case is an example which suits the Dutch situation. Change it towards the situation in your country, make sure it’s a case which will lead to discussion)
You work at a Christian primary school with many children of whom one or both parents are from an ethnic minority. Different cultures are also present in the school team and for that reason this is a genuinely multicultural school. Today, an extra meeting has been planned after school to discuss one particular issue. In recent weeks, there has been some disquiet at school. A number of parents have objected to the wearing of headscarves. They consider that wearing headscarves is not appropriate at a Christian primary school and have submitted this as a complaint to the school management team. Of course, the subject has been discussed in the school playground and there is increasing disquiet about the issue; the children are also bringing this subject into the classroom. In the different classes, many conversations have taken place about ‘accepting others’. However, tensions appear to be increasing and the question is what to do next?!?
Reflection: Indicate what you would do in each of the following roles.
Parent: ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. In this case study we see how different autobiographies and biographies lead to conflict. The next step for really understanding each other is to enter into a dialogue. Through dialogue people from different cultures can start to recognize, acknowledge and respect the others cultural values. For example in the case study: The parents of children who wear headscarves made this choice in line with their life stories. In Islamic culture women are often proud to have made this choice as it is a sign of submission to their faith. In other culture headscarves are sometimes viewed as a lack of female emancipation. This of course relates to the history of that culture and their life stories. (Change this part of the text according to the case study you’ve put in).
If you continuously enter different cultures, it can result in conflicts; conflicts between you and the prevailing culture, but sometimes internal conflicts as well. When two people meet each other, they both bring the underlying cultures with them. Therefore the standards, values and opinions of both people also come into contact with each other. This can lead to conflict between the two people. Conflicts can also arise between two cultures; take, for example, the case study. Within a certain culture, subgroups can also develop that come into conflict with each other. A conflict does not have to be big but it can assume extreme forms (during the Second World War it even resulted in genocide). And today many intercultural conflicts are still taking place.
Not all conflicts can be solved. Conflicts at a national level are certainly very difficult to solve. And those conflicts lie outside of our circle of influence. Nevertheless you can make a small start, for example in your school or in your class. You can only do that well if you know the extent to which you are in conflict with other cultures. Now you might think that you are never in conflict with other cultures. But is that still the case if you think about female circumcision, for example? Or not being allowed to take medicine because it goes against one’s religious faith? (change these examples if necessary) These moral issues lie on the surface. However, under the surface there are often many more minor moral issues that can lead to conflicts. We will now do a small exercise and once again you should not try to hide your prejudices.
You are hopefully now more aware of your position in your class when it comes to intercultural education. Teaching is also far from easy in the current intercultural society. The framework that the ABCD crown provides in this respect is dialogue. You can enter into a dialogue with others but also with yourself. There is a fine line between dialogue and conflict. That is because a dialogue always starts from the perspective of contrasting opinions. By talking about these contrasts people can reach new insights. Each participant is free to keep his or her own opinion but during the course of the dialogue this opinion can be adjusted. This is not the same as entering into a discussion with each other. During a discussion one party tries to convince the other and this results in a winner and a loser. During a dialogue the aim is that everybody involved wins, a win-win situation.
Entering into a dialogue with each other is not easy. As you need to let go of your own standards, values and opinions. During a dialogue you try to get the other party to reflect by posing thought-provoking questions. This brings the standards, values and opinions of the other person out into the open so that these can be talked about. During a discussion those involved would be more interested in pitching their opinions against each other. During a dialogue you accept other people as they are. You do not have to agree with another person’s standards, values and opinions but you do have to respect these. If thought-provoking questions are posed to you then you should avoid defending your position. Rather the aim is to let go of your own standards, values and opinions and possibly to review these as well.
You might now be wondering what the advantage of a dialogue is. We can probably best explain that with the help of the Johari window (1955), named after Joe Luft and Harry Ingham who developed the model:
Known to self
Unknown to self
Known by others
Unknown by others
The model shows the autobiography and the biography. How do you see yourself and/ or the other, how is this appreciated, and how do you express this to each other? The model also shows where conflicts can arise. That is when the standards, values and opinions of one or both parties are unknown. The unknown area in particular can lead to conflicts. However the hidden domain and the blind spot also carry a lot of risks. By entering into a dialogue with each other, you can learn each other's standards, values and opinions. This creates an open space in which you can develop positively in relation to each other. This is of course the ultimate objective for education. We therefore encourage you to discuss the content of this booklet and your answers to the reflections with other people (preferably people from other cultures as well).
Reflection: Briefly describe a conflict that arose within the unknown area, the hidden domain and the blind spot respectively.
Entering into a dialogue with each other requires a safe and trusted climate in the group. Each party must feel free to reveal their standards, values and opinions. In such a climate, open space can grow as a result of which conflicts can be prevented. It requires an open attitude from the participants and an awareness that differences in standards, values and opinions are allowed. Building up such a climate is not easy. However by entering into a dialogue with the children in your class such a climate can develop. If you enter into a dialogue with the children then you can use the following scheme for appreciative inquiry and dialogue rules:
Treat each other with respect and friendliness
Let the other person tell his/ her story.
Do not tell your story straightaway but pose thought-provoking questions.
Speak for yourself and not others (‘I think instead of ‘he/ she/ others say’).
Postpone judgements and investigate these.
Allow periods of quiet if people want to reflect.
Reflection: Enter dialogue in a multicultural group of students following the steps of the appreciative inquiry taking ‘intercultural education’ as the affirmative topic. Afterwards write down your insights.
Neighbourhood facilities; living environment and leisure facilities (clubs, play areas, etc.)
International, national and regional level
Integration policy/ tolerance
Economic position/ employment market
Appendix 2: The ABCD of intercultural classroom education Ido Abram, November 2001
The following two pairs of concepts are important for the didactic elaboration of intercultural classroom education: identity-imago and dialogue-conflict. We will discuss these concepts first and subsequently introduce a model for intercultural classroom education: the ABCD crown1.
Biography and autobiography
‘Biography’ and ‘autobiography’ are simple terms for the concepts of ‘imago’ and ‘identity’. The concept of identity refers to awareness of personal unity and continuity, the conviction that one will essentially remain the same person despite all possible changes. It refers to the totality of characteristics, which individuals believe form their ‘being’, their individuality. Groups also have an identity of their own: a female identity, a male identity, a Dutch identity, a European identity, a black identity, the identity of a school, a lesbian identity, etc.
A group consists of two or more persons, who have at least one characteristic in common. This characteristic can be real as well as imaginary, perceived or attributed. Examples of groups are families, tribes, villages, societies, churches, companies and nations. Less obvious groups are people taking part in meetings, competitions, strikes, wars and revolutions. Objects such as a newspaper or a cactus also have an identity, but in this discussion we will restrict ourselves to the identity of people: individuals and groups.
With the identity of people, the emphasis is on the complementary nature of the life stories of people and history. That is why it is wrong to equate the term ‘identity’ with the question ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Who are we?’, unless we put the answers to those questions in a historical perspective. A fascinating and at the same time complicated aspect of the concept of ‘identity’ is that it is both intangible and omnipresent. The concept is so universal and yet so difficult to understand, because it involves a process that is ‘situated’ in the soul of the individual and at the same time also in the soul of the culture of his community, a process that actually determines the identity of those two entities: the identity of the individual (or the group, as we have explained earlier) and the identity of the culture of the community of which the individual (or the group) forms a part.
Modern man has multiple identities: an ethnic, a socio-cultural, a religious, a sexual, a generational and a professional identity, to name but a few. Each group has its own culture as well as its own identity. Each individual belongs to several groups and has therefore several identities. Not all groups to which a person belongs are equally important to him or her. Especially groups that can at least offer its members status (human dignity), security and help, are important to its members. Groups that are important today can lose that importance tomorrow. Other groups can become important overnight.
Instead of speaking of multiple identities, we assign one identity to each individual and to each group, in which we distinguish a number of aspects: an ethnic aspect, a socio-cultural aspect, etc. We can also refer to these aspects as ‘roles’. Each individual and each group has more than one role and consequently the concept of ‘identity’ gets an extra dimension. First of all, it becomes dynamic by the mutual tension and interaction of those separate aspects or roles. Furthermore, it can help to explain the ambivalence which according to some is typical of the identity of modern man. For example, an individual or a group can be progressive in cultural terms and conservative in socio-economic terms, a man can be passive and friendly as a father and decisive and hard as a manager.
What we have just said about identity (autobiography, self-image), can also be regarded from another angle, from the angle of others: we are then talking about imago (biography, the picture that others form of you). Individuals have both an identity and an imago. This also applies to groups. However, 'individual’ and ‘group’ are no static objects that are not related to each other. *An actually nonsensical formulation such as ‘individual and group’ gives the impression that ‘individual’ and ‘group’ are two different things, such as table and chair, pan and lid. Groups are formed by individuals and individuals can only develop their specific human nature by means of relationships with others. We are referring to, for example, their ability to talk, think and love, which can only be developed in groups.
If we define the concepts of ‘autobiography’ (identity) and ‘biography’ (imago) at individual level once again, the reader must imagine the intertwining between individual and group himself. Simple statements such as “I am a Dutch teacher’ and ‘He is being bullied at school’ serve to explain the intertwining referred to here. Reformulation of these concepts involves the following working definitions:
Autobiography (identity, self-image)
How you perceive, experience and value yourself and how you express this.
How you interpret and give meaning to your own life – from the cradle to the grave.
Your own expectations for the future: how you link your life with the past and the future (‘Who am I? Where do I come from. Where am I going?’).
You find autobiographic element in your letters, conversations, the stories you tell, the photos you take, in your diaries, in drawings you make, in the clothes you wear … and in written autobiographies. Your life story can also be recorded in other ways (e.g. on video). Most autobiographic elements are never actually recorded (but they are experienced) and they are stored in our memories or forgotten.
In the classroom, well-known written autobiographies (for example the diary of Anne Frank) as well as autobiographic details of political movements and of the pupils and the teachers are important; in primary education the autobiographic details of the parents are important as well.
Biography (imago, the picture that others form of you)
How others perceive, experience and value you and how they express this.
How others interpret and give meaning to your life.
What others expect from your future: how others link your life with the past and the future.
Biographic elements are found in the way in which others talk about you and portray you.
In the classroom, the biographies of famous people and political movements as well as the biographic details of the pupils and the teachers are important; in primary education the biographic details of the parents are important as well.
Autobiographic sources (photographs, letters, etc.) are often used in biographies. And the opposite also applies. The self-image is influenced by the way in which others perceive you. The general point is this: identity and imago overlap but they never converge completely. Here and below ‘overlap’ does not only mean that there are common elements, but also that these elements interact with and influence each other.
There is a tension between identity and imago, between autobiography and biography. This field of tension has two poles: a positive (constructive) pole and a negative (destructive) pole. We use the term ‘dialogue’ for the positive force and ‘conflict’ for the negative force.
Dialogue and conflict
Identity (autobiography) and imago (biography) are two types of images which we have to take equally seriously and examine equally carefully. This may seem obvious, but it rarely happens. Identity and imago are usually not regarded as two perspectives and forms of expression, which should both be given an equal opportunity to demonstrate their value and their right. The right ‘climate’ is often lacking for such change of perspective. We can only get to know ourselves in two ways in a climate of safety and confidence: through ourselves and through others, by means of our own eyes and by means of the eyes of others. The Johari Window, named after the social psychologists Joe Luft en Harry Ingham, can be used to illustrate this process of dialogue. This model (figure 1) illustrates how people perceive, experience and value themselves and how they express this and how they are perceived, experienced and valued by others and how they express this. The model also shows the discrepancy between the two angles.
Figure 1: Johari Window
Known to self (or own groups)
Area of free Blind area
Known to others
(or other groups)
No Avoided or Area of unknown
hidden area activity
In a climate of safety and trust, the area of free activity can grow and the avoided or hidden area and the blind area can be reduced by means of dialogue. Dialogue will probably not affect the area of unknown activity and if it does, this will remain unknown. This process is illustrated by figure 2.
Figure 2: The outcome of dialogue
Unfortunately such a peaceful climate is a rare phenomenon although it does occur in certain situation and at certain times. Violence is a structural phenomenon in one in two families and discrimination and bullying occurs in all schools. Besides people who protect us and provide us with security and trust, there are usually other people as well: our rivals, people who want to obstruct our activities, groups that want to harm us or even people who want to kill us. If we feel threatened by others, we are neither able nor prepared to learn a great deal from them. In that situation, we need all our energy to ignore, avoid or combat these people, ‘our enemies’.
We now define dialogue and conflict as two-sided or multi-sided interaction processes that take place
between the individual and the group (and the products of its culture);
between groups (and the products of their culture);
within the individual (introspection);
within the group (and aspects of the group culture).
A conflict results in winners and losers. A dialogue, however, only results in winners.
Dialogue, as used here, can involve more than two parties or only one party (yourself or your own group). In the latter case, some prefer to use the term ‘meeting’ rather than ‘dialogue’ to express that non-verbal behaviour is at least as important as verbal behaviour. Of course, it is also possible to have a conflict with yourself or your own group or many others. Dialogue and conflict overlap, like biography and autobiography do. Dialogue is not always sweet and peaceful, it can also be critical and harsh. Conflicts and confrontations often precede collaboration and acceptance, but they can also get out of hand. Unequal power relations usually involve conflicts, although dialogue can nevertheless take place in such an asymmetrical relationship.
We can distinguish many forms of dialogue and conflict. Here we will restrict ourselves to four forms of dialogue (D1 to D4) and five forms of conflict (C1 to C5), knowing that each of these forms can be subdivided into subcategories.
The following forms of dialogue are all important.
D1. Empathic dialogue:
- put yourself in the position of other people and other situations;
- do not indiscriminately follow the majority (nonconformism).
D3. Democratic dialogue:
- look for consensus;
- enter into compromises;
- admit mistakes.
D4. Creative dialogue:
- dare to make mistakes;
- take new paths;
do not shrink away from the unknown and the unpredictable.
Dialogue involves specific knowledge as well as an open attitude and awareness of differences in perception. Dialogue is neither mealy-mouthed nor noncommittal. It can be sharp and to the point. We distinguish five categories of conflicts, ranging from small to large-scale and from confusing to murderous.
C1. Dilemma, paradox, prejudice, disapproving/ facetious use of
C2. Evade, ignore, avoid.
C3. Discriminate, torment, tease.
C4. Physical violence, attacks.
C5. Murder, lynch, pogroms, genocide, war.
Not all conflicts can be resolved. Conflicts are often blurred by the fact that social problems are culturalised or individualised. No attention or respect for pupils can lead to conflicts as well as an unsafe clime at school. Immigrant parents are often concerned that their children become alienated from their ‘own culture’. Opportunities for parent involvement can remove or decrease that concern. Dominance of majority groups and discrimination of minority groups, as well as forced integration of migrants cause tensions. That also applies to the absence of a relationship based on mutual trust between teachers and pupils. Ignoring the identity of pupils from minority groups leads to stigmatisation, because this means that their personal identity is replaced with the usually negative image of these pupils. Dominant teachers are only very rarely aware of this. Just as identity and imago, dialogue and conflict overlap, but they rarely fully converge.
The ABCD crown, a model for intercultural education in the classroom
Human perceptions play a crucial role in learning processes as well as in educational learning processes, i.e. learning processes involving education. We have already mentioned the influence teachers’ perceptions have on their way of teaching. However, this influence goes much further. Human perceptions influence all processes of interpersonal interaction as well as all not purely biological processes of interpersonal interaction, like reflection for example. Human perceptions involve answers to the question “What is Man?’ and, according to one of the most important ‘pre-modern’ philosophers, no question is more important than this one. If we consider the field of philosophy in a cosmopolitan or multicultural way, its scope can, according to Immanuel Kant, be reduced to the following four questions:
What can I know?
What do I have to do?
What can I hope for?
What is Man?
According to Kant, the answer to the first question is metaphysics (nowadays we would say science), the answer to the second question is ethics, the answer to the third question is religion and the answer to the fourth question is anthropology. But anthropology really comprises the three other disciplines because, according to Kant, the answer to the last question includes the answers the first three questions.
Countless multiform and sometimes contradicting answers have been given to the question ‘What is Man?’ What is the nature of a creature that is characterised by such an enormous personal and cultural diversity? All we wish to say about the nature of Man is that Man is an interactive being. This is expressed by the categories of ‘dialogue’ and ‘conflict’. Man is body, psyche, culture and relates to these. He does not coincide with himself, he can look at himself through someone else’s eyes, he needs others to be himself. That is why we distinguish the two perspectives of ‘biography’ (imago) and ‘autobiography’ (identity), which can complement, correct, compete with, ignore and dominate each other. This field of tension is the basis for countless human possibilities, including ethnocentrism and racism, but also openness to other cultures. In this field of tension we place intercultural education, which aims to channel this tension towards openness. Thus we arrive at the following model.
Figure 3: The ABCD crown, a model for intercultural education in the classroom.
The four triangles in the figure overlap, i.e. ‘dialogue’, ‘conflict’, ‘autobiography’ and ‘biography’ overlap,
influence and interact. Any autobiographic or biographic life story shows that it always involves conflict and dialogue. The one is not separate from the other (three). When we say A, we must also mention B, C and D;
when we speak of B, A, C and D are there in the background, etc. In other words, the four triangles are mutually dependent. Intercultural education in the classroom means using classroom situations in which there is a place for the life stories (autobiographies and biographies) of the actors (persons involved), in which dialogue is more rewarding than conflict, conflicts are recognised and not ignored and where possible transformed into forms of dialogue.
The ABCD crown is also suitable for intercultural education outside the classroom. The basis of the crown, i.e. classroom, can be extended to ‘classroom, school, environment’, or a micro-level (the classroom), a meso-level (the school) and a macro-level (society). At those different levels the different actors are important and as a result of that the four concepts A, B, C and D will be interpreted differently. In a way, the ABCD crown can be regarded as a general model for education and communication.
1 The ABCD crown is a relatively new model for intercultural education. See: Abram, I. Het ABCD van intercultureel leren in de klas (draft). Projectgroep ICO, Den Bosch, April 1998. In the autumn of 1994 the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports set up the Intercultureel Onderwijs (intercultural education) project group to promote the realisation of intercultural education. The project group was dissolved at the end of 1998.