An ambiguous object and pictures of different cultural settings are introduced to the students. Students explore them by means of the D.I.E. technique (description, interpretation, evaluation).

Aims and objectives

  • to clarify the differences between description (D), interpretation (I) and evaluation (E)
  • to demonstrate that people tend to begin with interpretation and evaluation, rarely description
  • to demonstrate how personal experience and cultural values influence our interpretation and evaluation
  • to provide practise in describing, stressing the importance of observation
  • to develop skills for a „a life with each other“ instead of „a life next to each other“

Material needed

  • 1 or 2 ambiguous objects
  • Flipchart
  • at least one picture from different cultural settings for each of the working groups

Step by step description

  1. Present the concept of D.I.E. to the students. Explain it by means of an object which is present in the classroom, e.g. a scarf
    – Description: What I see (It is a textile with the colours red and yellow.)
    – Interpretation: What I think about what I see (It is a scarf made of cotton.)
    – Evaluation: What I feel about what I see (I like the stripes on the scarf.)
  2. Introduce an ambiguous object (kitchen gadget, tool from another country, etc.), something you feel confident that participants will not have seen before. Pass the object around and ask participants to tell something about it by means of D.I.E.
    Chart responses on a flipchart in 3 unlabeled columns respresenting Description, Interpretation and Evaluation.
  3. Ask participants to generate alternative interpretations and evaluations.
  4. Place participants in groups of 5 and give each group a picture from different cultural settings. Ask the group to discuss the picture using the D.I.E. technique: describe, interpret and evaluate.
  5. Ask the group to show their pictures and share their responses.

Reflection for the students / questions for debriefing

  • Which description/interpretation/evaluation was the most difficult or easiest one? Why?
  • How did you feel when you were asked to describe without interpreting or evaluating?
  • What did you learn?
  • How might personal and cultural values influence the interpretation or evaluation?
  • How can you use what you learned in your everyday life?

Some debriefing conclusions:

  • People tend to jump to interpretation and evaluation without first describing and also without entertaining alternative interpretations and evaluations.
  • Our interpretations and evaluations are based on our own experience and cultural learning.
  • When we can first describe, then look for alternative interpretations and evaluations, we are likely to be more accurate and more effective cross-culturally.

Reference / original source of the method

This method was used by Gertraud Steininger in her workshop “The methodical roundabout of intercultural dialogue” at the aces Kick-Off Meeting 2008 in St. Virgil, Austria.