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teo's design narrative: Should cultural artefacts be returned to their countries of origin?

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Teo T
10 April 2013

Title Should Western Museums return cultural artefacts to their countries of origin?


I am an EFL writing instructor at an English medium university trying to help students improve their second language communication skills and their ability to understand, analyse summarise and synthesise information in a second language.


It's classroom with adult students, communicating in a second language.


I was trying to get students to understand and analyse conflicting arguments and from this to arrive at a personal conclusion and to explain and support their position in an essay. I wanted every student to improve some aspect of their skills in understanding and communicating in a second language. The measure of success was the quality of their final rewritten essays.


To introduce the subject students watch a documentary on various cultural artefacts like the Pergamon temple, Elgin marbles and Hittite artefacts taken to western museums in the 19th century. They then read articles arguing for and against restitution of these artefacts.  In groups students summarize the relevant arguments and discuss them as a class. They individually formulate a position and outline their arguments. They then write an essay explaining whether they think cultural artefacts should continue being kept in western museums or whether they should be returned to their countries of origin.

Students are given comprehensive written feedback on their essays and meet with me for 15 minute individual tutorials where we discuss their essays and how they could be improved. Students then use the feedback to rewrite and improve their essays.


The expected outcome is that students’ final drafts are an improvement on their original essays. Most students improve their essays and in doing so improve the skills needed to understand and use original texts,and  summarise and synthesise relevant information to strengthen their arguments. Most students benefit immensely from the exercise although a few show little improvement.


Although the activity is very taxing and time consuming for the teacher and the students the benefit of learning while doing a process writing and responding to feedback greatly improves students abilities to communicate and cope with readings in a second language. For the students who achieve the aims there is the extra benefit of improved confidence.

Each student faces different challenges and difficulties which are addressed by individual feedback. Although not directly addressed the task has the benefit of improving students’ vocabulary and language skills and each student improves in skills they are weak in. The insight I gained is that each student faces different combinations of challenges which can be overcome with lengthy feedback and response.

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Cintia Andrade
8:12pm 15 April 2013 (Edited 8:13pm 15 April 2013)


Cintia Andrade
8:12pm 15 April 2013

Hi Teo!

I loved the subject of your cloud! The discussions in class must've been really interesting.

Being a language teacher myself, I was wondering about the stages of this task and hoping you could explain them a bit further. For instance: You say students watched a video on the topic. My questions are: How long was this video (I'm asking this because I usually don't spend more than 5-7' on videos because students' attention seems to drift)? Was there a task involved in watching the video? Did students take notes?
Also, I was wondering about language. Was there any moment in the lesson where you reviewed conjunctions and linkers for expressing cause/consequence, the structure of an essay and such? Did you teach any of the language they would see in the video and the articles they read?

I also find that lenghty feedback on compositions - however time-consuming - is the best way to develop students' writing, especially because you can deal and work with individual problems. I find that this kind of feedback has a very positive effect on students in the affective sphere of learning, as they feel they are being cared for as individuals, don't you think so? :)

Teo T
9:56pm 17 April 2013

Hi Cintia!

Thanks for responding! Its great to have a fellow language teacher in the same class – I hope we can have more opportunity to discuss language teaching related technology use sometime. I found most activities and concepts in week 8-9 really difficult, a lot of it was very confusing for me and just didnt feel very relevant to my teaching experience either - how did you find the week 8-9 activities?

I also  found it quite tough to fit a lesson into the given format. In the design narrative above I started with a video to introduce the students to a subject they were mostly unfamiliar with, and make them interested and gain some context and background information. I pre-taught some key vocabulary and asked students to take notes and paused the video at 2 points to check understanding and check their focus and then there was a short discussion following the 30’ video but no formal task. After watching the video we discussed some questions to establish the importance, size and significance of the archeological treasures (Elgin Marbles, Pergamon Alter and the Trojan hoard) and how they came to be where they are. The video also helped to introduce some of the vocabulary which I continued to build on through texts and with several vocabulary quizzes.

We built up through redrafted summary writing of relevant arguments to a first draft of their essays. Like you say the lengthy feedback and process writing really helps develop students’ writing and language skills. In individual sessions you can also deal with various grammar issues and the individual feedback really helps each student improve on their own particular weakness and I think each student gets to improve quite significantly through the process of redrafting.I completely agree with you that this kind of feedback has a very positive effect and they also feel cared for as individuals. It’s very time consuming and exhausting for the teacher but very rewarding, and the student feedback was very positive... See you :)

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