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Picturebooks as a bridge to cultural autoethnographies

Research on the use of picturebooks with tertiary students has explored several aspects of the ways in which they can be used to support preservice teachers’ understanding of children’s literacy (Hoffman, 2021), their awareness of biliteracy and multilingualism (Hartmann & Helot, 2021), and to build their knowledge of the Maker Movement and Human Computer Interaction (HCI) (Gaye Dinç, Özkan & Alaca, 2021). However, it is difficult to find research examining how picturebooks can support tertiary students’ understanding of culture. In this paper we explore the question of how picturebooks can be used to support tertiary students’ engagement with and understanding of the Ethnography of Communication (Hymes, 1964) in a second year New Zealand university course. This was a collaboration between two researchers, one of whom is a linguist teaching the course, the other of whom is a sociolinguist who researches picturebooks. As we developed a 3 week unit within a larger course on language, society and culture, we chose to use picturebooks as our primary resource for the week in which students practised analysing communicative situations/encounters within the Ethnography of Speaking frame. In this article we report on our process in developing this pedagogical approach and reflect on its efficacy in the tertiary classroom. Our findings indicate that picturebooks had many potentials in a tertiary environment including: (1) to provide a glimpse into familiar and unfamiliar cultures; (2) to create experts of students who were cultural insiders; (3) to provide a finite experience of a complex situation, suitable for classroom discussion and analysis. These findings are discussed in relation to theories of culturally responsive tertiary pedagogy (Rātima et al., 2022).
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This is a presentation at Fostering Dialogue: Teaching Children's Literature and Culture, Norway, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. ©2022 The Authors.