Beyond ‘ignorance’: using the cultural stereotypes of Americans studying in the UK as a resource for learning and teaching about British culture

Article English OPEN
Janes, Dominic (2011)

A course introducing British culture is a standard component of many study abroad programmes running in this country that are aimed at international students who will be spending a limited amount of time in the United Kingdom. However, it is not often acknowledged that such students possess a range of strong pre-conceptions about British culture and society prior to their arrival. Conventional teaching strategies assume student ignorance of the subject. However, an alternative approach which makes us of pre-arrival stereotypes can be more productive in terms of engaging students in active processes of comparative analysis of their new and existing knowledge. A case study of American student stereotypes of the British monarchy is presented and it is suggested that these can be used as the basis for refining student understanding of cultural politics in the United Kingdom. International students, therefore, should not be treated as being culturally ignorant of Britain in the sense of having no knowledge or opinions at all. Rather, it should be understood that they possess a culturally mediated state of subjectivity which I refer to as ‘ignorance’ and that this can become a valuable resource for teaching and learning.
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