"I Don't Want to be Stereotypical, but..."

Norwegian EFL Learners' Awareness of and Willingness to Challenge Visual Stereotypes

Keywords: Stereotypes, Critical visual literacy, EFL education, Intercultural communication


This article reports on a study that investigated Norwegian upper secondary pupils’ visual stereotypes, as well as their awareness of and willingness to challenge these stereotypes before and after participating in an educational intervention. In the intervention, critical visual literacy was introduced as one approach to teaching about culture in English foreign language (EFL) teaching. Over the course of 16 weeks, the pupils were engaged in tasks that required them to reflect on visual stereotypes embedded in commonplace ways of representing the world, the origins of these stereotypes, their socio-political consequences, and ways of promoting social justice through taking informed action. Focus group interviews conducted with 30 pupils before and after the intervention comprise the main data set for the current article. These were supplemented by texts produced by the pupils during the intervention. The results of the study showed that the pupils were less inclined to explicitly stereotype based on ethnicity or religion after the intervention. The pupils also displayed an increased awareness of stereotyping as a process, which led some of the groups to challenge specific stereotypes and one group to challenge the process of stereotyping in general. These findings are encouraging for EFL teaching, where one of the aims is to encourage greater understanding between people with different cultural backgrounds.

Author Biography

Cecilie Waallann Brown, University of Stavanger, Norway

Cecilie Waallann Brown is a PhD fellow in Literacy Studies at the Department of Cultural Studies and Languages, University of Stavanger, Norway. Her research interests include English as a foreign language (EFL) teaching, critical (visual) literacy, culture and intercultural communication.