While discussing the schools and charities version of BaFa' BaFa' with Dr. Nadia Svirydzenka of De Montfort University we asked if it would be possible to hear about the setting in which she was thinking of using BaFa' BaFa', her goals for the class, and if she would be willing to send us any feedback from the participants. She kindly agreed. With permission of the participants this post is the information she furnished. This has only been slightly edited for formatting and punctuation.
The Setting (As per Dr. Nadia Svirydzenka):
The simulation was run with 3rd year students (final year) for a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology (BSc Psychology Honours). These students are enrolled in the Psychology and Culture: Global Issues and International Perspectives module (course) which I developed and lead. The module is part of the Psychology Honours undergraduate programme at the Division of Psychology, School of Applied Social Science at the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. The objective of including the BaFa' BaFa' simulation in my module (and particularly in the beginning of teaching) was to provide students with a cross-cultural experience (especially if they have not traveled outside the UK), help them develop critical insight into processes and consequences of culture contact, and engage them with their own learning, give them a sense of agency, confidence, and stir up curiosity about psychology and culture.
All of these objectives have been reached as they were very engaged in the session. Eighty percent of respondents to the feedback wanted a longer 3 hour session (as opposed to the allocated 2 hours) to extend culture visit times and the discussion at the end. We will be running BaFa' BaFa' again next year.
Questions for, and responses from, the participants:
Question 1: The best part(s) of the BaFa' BaFa' culture simulation experience for me was... (please feel free not to limit yourself to just one).
How members of the class got to know one another and interact with people they wouldn't usually.
- Learning about how people react to different cultures and experiencing feelings of protection over my own culture and feelings of isolation when experiencing a new culture.
- Understanding the differences between other cultures from an outsider’s perspective.
- The organization and the concept of being able to be part of it. I think it was great and it should definitely be part of our program as it makes one understand by experiencing the value of our own groups, costumes and cultures.
- Overall the experience was very enjoyable.
- I really enjoyed visiting the other culture and interacting with them.
- I also like when we finished and had our discussion. I feel doing that in small groups would make it even better as we would be able to be more detailed and interact more naturally.
- The best part was going to the other culture and getting to visit what they were like and trying to figure out what the other culture was about.
- The other best part was the group discussion at the end, hearing all of the thoughts and opinions of the Betas' and Alphas'.
Question 2: My experience of BaFa' BaFa' culture simulation could be improved by... (please feel free not to limit yourself to just one suggestion).
- If the classrooms were slightly closer to each other, because then we could have had more time to have a group discussion towards the end rather than being rushed.
- Perhaps being able to have rooms closer to each other so we don't spend as much time going from room to room.
If the end discussion was done in small groups then it would feel more complete.
- Perhaps the students could be sent resources in advance so they could learn the language/rules beforehand and therefore would be more able to demonstrate their culture more clearly to the other group.
- Possibly booking a longer session, I'd definitely be happy to have it be extended by half an hour and I don't think that would necessarily put students off in the future.
- Having it related specifically to current events in the discussion afterwards.
- Having a longer session to fully debrief from the experience and not have to rush the simulation.
Question 3: Please name three key things you took away from the experience (it can be gained knowledge or personal experience). (If you cannot think of three or want to name more, please adjust the list accordingly.)
- How people should enter new cultures eg. don't expect everyone to act how they do.
- People, generally, want to help you understand their own culture and feel good in doing so.
- Knowing the right way to approach people from a new culture eg. ask polite questions.
- There are multiple ways that people cope with being in a new environment.
- How quickly a Them vs. Us mentality can develop.
- How hard it is to understand a culture without being immersed in it.
- Meeting people I haven't otherwise spoken to.
- Personal knowledge about interactions with new and dominant cultures.
- Personally I had never taken part in an activity like this so it was something definitely out of my comfort zone, which I believe has helped me build my confidence.
- I've learned how to work with others in a different manner.
- Change of attitude towards having a cultural awareness when seeing/visiting other cultures, being more aware of taking note of rules and regulations of other cultures.
- Not everything that seems is... for over two years I have read about studies and experiences but being able to be part of one and feeling like I actually belong to that group in such a short space of time. Once I visited the other group (Betas) I just could not wait to come home to the Alpha's. I found the experience really interesting and wish we could do more activities like this as I feel that we (students) would engage and actually learn something that is applicable to our everyday life.
Question 4: Please comment on your experience of working with others in your culture group.
- Funny and confusing to begin with...
- I thought everyone took part really well and got involved.
- I found that being set a goal allowed the group to work well together and I now feel like I know the people on this module a lot better. It was interesting to see different people's techniques to gain their set of cards and how they used the language we were provided.
- It was strange how quickly you feel a connection to them, that's something I didn't expect.
- I really enjoyed working with other people I had not worked with, to communicate with them. I also noticed how quickly we became a group through the activity of our culture and following through with all the same rules etc.
Question 5: Was there anything in the session that surprised you about your learning? (For example, how you reacted to certain parts of the simulation).
- I was surprised by how quickly I could pick up the language we were taught and use it to communicate effectively.
- Entering the new culture was surprisingly difficult to understand.
- The discussion towards the end, and seeing how much this actually applies to real life situations, as you can think about how and when this has actually occurred, in previous experiences such as on holidays or when you communicate with people from other cultures. The main example that came to mind was international students at DMU, how they have adapted to the culture in Leicester.
- Just how alienating interacting with dominant cultures can be when you have a significant language barrier. Being English, I have the advantage of having most of the world speak my language and experience all of the privileges that brings, but I understand now quite how intimidating that can be if you don't have that benefit.
- In the very end of the session when the other group returned to the room and Alpha's and Beta's were still defending their culture and while we were discussing culture differences how protective most people were of their adopted cultures.
Question 6: Did you learn anything in the session that you might not have expected to or were surprised by? (For example, a particular psychological process that was illustrated in a different way).
- How protective we became of our own culture and how we should not judge without trying to understand first. What might be wrong for a specific group of individuals might be right for another.
- How quickly in-groups were formed by the two cultures. We instantly preferred our own group to the opposite culture
I was shocked by how quickly Alphas and Beta's formed groups and how excluded and isolating it felt to visit the other culture.
- I was surprised at how quickly I came to grasp with the concept and being a new culture, and it was interesting to see how the theory all takes place in a simulation task.
- The function of in-groups and out-groups (in regards to SIT) and how intergroup conflict can arise.
Question 7: Did you find it easy/challenging to follow the pace and the instructions of the session? What would you change if you found it challenging?
- Perhaps a little more time spent on rules.
- Initially I found it challenging to follow the pace, as to get my head around the soundclip was really fast, but I had got to grips with the activity once it had actually begun.
- Maybe the chance to listen to the soundclip twice, or have set instructions written down to follow.
- I think the session was very well organized.
- I felt the session went well. There was just enough time to understand the language and how to use it, so any shorter and that would have been a problem.
- Remembering all the culture rules initially was difficult but as the process went on it became easier. We also found (In the alpha culture) remembering to touch each other was unusual and so difficult and could feel awkward to the people from the other culture who didn’t understand.
Question 9: What else would you like to add about your BaFa' BaFa' experience?
- I think after the initial session we should then be able to continue as we were in our initial groups and do further activities like group discussions and other stuff.
- After two or three sessions, try and divide the groups and mix them again. Would the impact be stronger?
- A brilliant experience that has opened my eyes!
- Overall, I found the session very enjoyable and it has been one of my favourite lecture experiences so far at DMU.
Nadia Svirydzenka, PhD FHEA
VC2020 Senior Lecturer in Psychology
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
De Montfort University