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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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