Overview: This lesson provides students with a model for processing new and different experiences in their daily lives. Students will learn to differentiate between observations and judgments, as they practice slowing down their thought process and thinking critically to draw more accurate and culturally relevant conclusions.

Activity (Methodology): Large Group Activity/Worksheet

Time: 15-25 minutes total depending on the discussion

Materials Needed: 

Applicable Content Areas: Any content area where there is a need to think critically, evaluate and derive meaning from a situation based on context clues or other types of evidence (i.e., English Language Arts, Science, World Language, Social Studies, and more).

Learning Objectives:

By the end of the activity, students will be able to…

  • Define each step of the DIVE Model in order.
  • Distinguish the differences between observations and evaluations/judgments.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking and analysis skills through describing, interpreting, verifying, and evaluating.
  • Describe at least 3 reasons how this this model can be useful in both every day and intercultural interactions.

Getting Started: Choose two images from the DIVE Image Samples and Explanations.


Part 1: Introducing the DIVE Model

  1. Begin by sharing one of your chosen images with students via Power Point and ask them: “What can you tell me about this image?”
    NOTE: The wording of this question is important as it will solicit the most natural responses from students. Rephrasing the question at this step would likely skew their responses and make the overall activity less powerful.
  2. Provide students 2-3 minutes to answer the question out loud, being sure to write down every response on the whiteboard or Flip chart paper.
  3. After time is up, ask students to review the list of responses and determine whether each one is either a Description or an Interpretation. Write a “D” next to each Description and an “I” next to each Interpretation.
    NOTE: If students have difficulty distinguishing between Descriptions or Interpretations, you may choose to share the following information:
    – Descriptions are concrete, objective, observable facts. For example, “The person has their eyes closed”
    – Interpretations are subjective thoughts or hypothesis about what you think you are observing “The person is asleep”. While closed eyes could indicate that someone is sleeping, it may also point to someone who is daydreaming, thinking deeply, meditating, has a headache, praying, or even afraid etc.…)
  4. Once all responses have been categorized, pass out the DIVE Worksheet (one to each student). Direct their attention to the DIVE Model at the top of the page. Explain that the DIVE Model is an effective strategy to help understand and process both familiar and unfamiliar experiences and observations. Most people tend to observe briefly, then quickly make assumptions and judgments about a situation based on our individual cultural norms, values, and beliefs.
    NOTE: This point is likely evidenced in the students’ original list of responses to the present images by more Interpretations listed than Description. There may also be responses that reflect our tendency to jump to positive or negative evaluations/judgements of a situation (i.e., good, “looks like fun”, bad, dangerous, “I would never do that”, etc.).
  5. Explain to students that using the DIVE Model, can help to slow down the critical thinking process and a gain a fuller understanding of a situation before making judgments or evaluating what our response should be a given situation. DIVE stands for:
    1. DESCRIBE: What do I observe with my senses (i.e., sight, sound, touch, taste, smell)? These are neutral observations that describe the scene.
    2. INTERPRET: What do I think about what I am observing (i.e., who, what, when, where, why, how)? These are your subjective, personal thoughts and opinions what you are observing. Based on your observation, hypothesize various ideas about what could be happening.
    3. VERIFY: How might you verify what is happening? What can others tell you about what you are observing? You might talk with someone involved in the situation to get their perspective or even speak with a cultural informant (someone who is from or has knowledge of the specific group or culture involved) to add more context to the situation. Sometimes verifying with multiple people can also be helpful as different individuals might be able to provide different information and perspectives.
    4. EVALUATE: Now that I better understand what is happening, how do I feel about the situation? How does this behavior compare with your own cultural norms and values? Where do your opinions/bias come from? What should my response to the situation be?
  6. Next, tell students that you will now act as their cultural informant for your chosen image to help them verify what is going on and confirm which of their interpretations may be correct. Share the corresponding explanation aloud.
    Explanations for all images can be found directly beneath the image on the DIVE Images Samples and Explanations.
  7. After verifying the image, ask students to reflect on how their thoughts about what is going on have changed and why.
  8. Allow for 2-3 minutes of discussion before moving on to Part 2 of the activity.

Part 2: Practicing the DIVE Model

  1. Share with students that in the next part of this activity, they will get a chance to practice this on their own with a new image using the DIVE Model Worksheet.
  2. Then, reveal the second image to the group and provide 3-5 minutes for students to write their responses on the worksheet. Be sure to remind them to go in order of the model— Descriptions first, Interpretations second, Verifications third, and Evaluations last. For the Verify section, instruct students to brainstorm different strategies they could use to help them gain more context about what is going on (i.e., what questions would you want to ask and to whom, continue to observe, google it… etc.)
  3. Once time is up, review the students’ responses in a large group and serve as their cultural informant once more by sharing the corresponding explanation aloud before continuing to the follow-up discussion.


This short lesson is intended to demonstrate the difficulty of slowing down our natural thought processes especially when experiencing new or different situations. Consider using the following questions to debrief the activity:

  • What is the difference between Observations and Evaluation/Judgements?
  • What were your initial thoughts to the images presented?
  • Where do these automatic opinions/reactions come from?
  • What is “cultural relativism”?
    Cultural Relativism is the idea that a person’s beliefs, values, and practices should be understood based on that person’s own culture, rather than be judged against the criteria of another. When looking at another culture’s practices it’s important to not judge based on what you think is “normal” or “acceptable” but rather what people within that culture feel is normal or acceptable in their own context.
  • How can the DIVE model be useful in your everyday interactions with others? With those from a different culture?

Virtual Implementation:

This lesson can easily be replicated using virtual platforms like Google Slides, Google docs, Padlet, and Flipgrid. For example, you could share the picture and have students respond to the very first instruction asynchronously (in writing or video response), and then follow-up synchronously to introduce the DIVE model and discuss. You may also consider organizing a Padlet organized by each of the DIVE categories and have students complete Part 2 asynchronously instead. To access the video recording of webinar detailing one way to run this lesson virtually, please click here.

Content Areas Extensions:

While many multicultural image samples and explanations have been provided to you with this activity, you may also choose to use images from your content area or target culture. For example, a Japanese class could use images of Japanese cultural practices and discuss what cultural values are represented in the situation presented. Or, for more advanced learners you may consider completing the activity in the target language for an added layer of complexity. For art classes, you could show a picture of a work of art and have students complete the activity with the idea that what is considered art (or beautiful) is also culturally relative. For Physical Education you could complete the activity with images that evoke a conversation about what is considered ‘healthy behavior’ in different cultures.

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