A closer look at a capability: perspective-taking

Perspective-taking is identifying and understanding an idea, action or challenge from other perspectives.

Students have traditionally been given few opportunities to interact with diverse people and ideas; assessments are based on the individual, and students tend to be surrounded by peers of similar abilities. The purpose of the inclusion of perspective-taking in the curriculum is to help students to do things such as:

  • create content (e.g. written report or advertising) for a specific audience
  • understand creators’ intent in literature and media and appreciate their ideas
  • understand different cultural and societal views
  • know what technology or consumable products are demanded
  • grasp why people hold differing viewpoints
  • critically assess what should be in an inquiry.

Use of KCs in perspective-taking:

  • relating to others: taking a different point of view when faced with a challenge, situation, or action sequence
  • managing self: students must listen and be open to others’ views, taking care not to have their own views dominate their thinking
  • thinking: critically evaluating other perspectives
  • participating and contributing: many contexts of inquiry and action necessitate an awareness of different perspectives
  • using language, symbols and texts: allows students to understand how the creator of knowledge plays a role in its validity and how it is expressed across different learning areas.

Ways that teachers can encourage perspective-taking:

  • provide tasks that will invite a range of viewpoints from students
  • include the teaching of knowledge on a given problem that involves perspective-taking to help students find solutions
  • provide perspective-taking activities where students are actively engaging with one another to find solutions
  • create groups of diverse students (e.g. students of different abilities)
  • encourage diverse ideas
  • provide opportunities for students to create collective ideas
  • encourage students not to see their ideas as fixed by giving them opportunities to change their viewpoint on issues (Hipkins, Bolstad, Boyd, & McDowall, 2014, pp. 45-80).

The Ministry’s Te Kete Ipurangi website5 includes a good example of a classroom task to build students’ perspective-taking through a focus on key competencies. A brief summary follows.

Should Waitangi Day be kept as our national holiday?

A social studies class was studying the Treaty of Waitangi. The teacher gave students newspaper articles and other sources of information showing different perspectives about keeping Waitangi Day as a national holiday.

At the beginning of the topic students participated in simple perspective-taking activities such as creating a ‘for and against’ graphic. Towards the end of the unit the class debated ‘Should Waitangi Day be kept as our national holiday?’. Students went into this debate equipped with the knowledge to inform their points of view.

The teacher arranged the debate using the Philosophical Chairs Model: students were divided into groups based on their views, with the for and against groups facing each other and a neutral group in the middle.

Students were awarded points for:

  • relevant comments
  • asking a question that evokes further discussion with others
  • supporting their argument with evidence
  • making a concession.

Points were deducted for

  • not paying attention
  • interrupting and stopping others participating
  • not providing appropriate evidence when presenting a ‘fact’
  • personal attacks.

This activity developed students’ perspective-taking capabilities by providing a controlled space in which they could exchange viewpoints, while developing self-control to listen and make sense of other perspectives.

The focus key competencies of this exercise were: relating to others and thinking (critical and values clarification).