Last spring we joined Nelson Mandela Public School in Toronto, Canada on a class visit and were able to witness an exercise in students uncovering stereotypes before our very eyes. The class had previously been investigating the topics of “child labour” and “racism” and wanted to extend their learning by understanding how other students in different countries thought about these topics.
Before they looked at the answers from other students, these Grade 6 students were asked to “predict” what they thought students from different countries who had answered the question had said. How did what students from different countries say either confirm or disprove their assumptions? Keeping in mind the limited number of answers contributed in our pilot (of 600).
This investigation led to a deep discussion. Students had come into the experience with an understanding that others can form “stereotypes” of them, but were beginning to uncover their own assumptions about the world and ask questions about their “mental models” of others.
This exercise in uncovering assumptions can be repeated with your own class questions and when delving into questions posted by others that interest your class!