The goal of this module is to allow students to gauge what they have learned so far–from the answers to the questionnaires and the corresponding discussions with their exchange partners–against a set of broader and more objective socio-cultural information. Up to this point, the students’ main informants have been their exchange partners. The latter are authentic informants since they know and experience their culture firsthand. However, what they know and experience is strongly shaped and filtered by various factors including their age, their surroundings, their background, and their degree of education, which–as varied as they may be–only present pieces of the cultural puzzle.
It is important to give students the opportunity to place what they have discovered so far against a much broader set of information, namely statistics and opinion polls from both countries involved in the exchange.
Access to nationwide data on statistics and surveys allows students to find facts and opinion polls that will either confirm or contradict some of their earlier findings.
In this module, students have access to two sets of information online: statistical resources and polling institutes. Sources can include data collected and polls conducted by government, media, and research organizations. Below are some data sources that have been used in French-American exchanges.
- USA Today provides news snapshots about a variety of specific subjects, such as how often we check our e-mail, the tools we use at meetings, and voting patterns.
- The US Census Bureau provides data about the census as well as many other topics, such as geography, business, and government.
- USA Statistics in Brief, from the US Census Bureau, provides a good statistical overview of the United States.
La France en faits et chiffres, from the INSEE (Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques), provides French social and economic data, such as the cost of the SMIC.
Louis Harris and Associates
Los Angeles Times
IFOP: Institut Français d’Opinion Publique
BVA : Institut d’Etudes de Marché et d’Opinion
SOFRES : Sondages d’Opinion (Taylor Nelson)
Tips: Since these sources contain an enormous amount of information, the best way to use them is to search for broad categories such as politics, economy, or society. This will lead you and your students to more specific topics.
Students will work with the statistics and the opinion polls in the same way.
Assignment before class
Ask students to review the questionnaires, the class discussions, and the issues raised in the forums and to make a list of the topics about the other culture that they would like to explore a bit further on their own (for instance, on the type of housing the people live in; on their attitudes toward the police; on social issues such as health and unemployment; or the electoral system).
Tell students to select a few websites and look for statistics and/or opinion polls on three topics that interest them. Ask them to:
see whether the statistics or opinion polls either confirm or contradict something they might have seen or observed.
write a commentary on each topic to bring to class.
Follow-up class activity
Ask students to share their findings with each other. Students can write on the boards.
At the end, make sure to have a general class discussion about what students have discovered.