Teaching about Tolerance with Stories and Arguments
This study investigated narrative and propositional approaches to teaching about controversial moral and political issues. The subjects included 149 graduate and 27 undergraduate students, most of whom were pursuing degrees in education. They viewed one of four videotaped teaching analogues in which a male teacher discussed two questions: (1) Should the government restrict the rights of citizens who engage in homosexual behaviours? (2) Should the government restrict the rights of citizens who engage in offensive public speech? Students viewed one of the four teaching analogues in which the teacher used narrative or propositional reasoning to explain conflicting viewpoints about restricting the rights of homosexuals or restricting the rights of those who engage in offensive speech. In the narrative conditions, the teacher presented stories about people who have been either positively or negatively affected by "homosexuality" or "offensive speech". In the propositional conditions, the teacher explained pro and con arguments on the issue. Statistics analysis was performed to determine if there were significant differences in students' ratings of teacher influence in the four experimental conditions. The approach to teaching (narrative or propositional) and the kind of issue (moral or political) were crossed so that there were four conditions in the study. Results indicated that students gave the teacher higher approval ratings, perceived the teacher as more attractive and remembered more about the presentation when he explained conflicting positions on an issue using stories than when he used arguments. Students perceived the teacher as most attractive and remembered most when the teacher used stories to explain pro and con positions on whether there should be laws to restrict the rights of homosexuals. Finally, students gave the teacher higher approval ratings and perceived him as more trustworthy when he explained conflicting positions on the rights of individuals who engage in offensive speech than when he explained conflicting positions on the rights of homosexuals.