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Learning across cultures: Opening our minds as well as our doors Dr. Janette Ryan, Monash University, Australia Jude Carroll, Oxford Brookes University,

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Presentation on theme: "Learning across cultures: Opening our minds as well as our doors Dr. Janette Ryan, Monash University, Australia Jude Carroll, Oxford Brookes University,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Learning across cultures: Opening our minds as well as our doors Dr. Janette Ryan, Monash University, Australia Jude Carroll, Oxford Brookes University, UK Both: Teaching International Students project ( )

2 Ideas there are differences in academic cultures and in learning approaches identified by comparison and contrast. One example: Confucian and Western education learning from flows of people and ideas across cultural academic traditions? ….. a new approach, transcultural Use examples from critical thinking and academic writing / plagiarism to illustrate transcultural teaching and learning


4 An aside: The temptation to reflect upon this presentation as a clear example of one way in which information can be analysed, critiqued and conveyed ….. Did you noticed the structure and tone already? … or was it so common as to be invisible?

5 Choosing the lens Difference, contrast, surprise Language and culture? Language or culture? Dangers of complexity What assumptions am I making that are wrong?

6 Academic cultures vary Culture …. systems of human practice Ways of knowing and being, ontology, epistemology, methodologies and intellectual practices ideas about writing, analysis, evaluation Performativity [how you act out these ideas] We all have one …. or several

7 Reversing the lens…. …. the same critical eye on our own assumptions and beliefs? Become self-aware? One prompt is experiencing differences …. Academic cultures: Same words ….. different meanings, different practices

8 Not simply differences Imbued with judgments on quality Usually seen as binary …. quickly leads to opposition

9 Western Critical thinking Independent learning Student-centred learning Adversarial stance Argumentative learners Achievement of the individual Constructing new knowledge Deep learners seeking meaning Confucian Follow the Master Dependence on the teacher Respect for the teacher Harmony Passive learners Achievement of the group Respect for historical texts Surface or rote learners

10 Partial and biased Much of the evidence produced for the way Chinese students behave in classroom settings has been drawn from reports and perceptions by Western instructors, thus filtered through their own values, expectations and standards Clark and Grieves, 2006 p. 60 As much variation within as between

11 Binary and hierarchical West is Best Western European [wide actual geography … US, NZ, etc ] Anglophone [or at least in the sources I read] Winners described through idealised characteristics. The ideal treated as real.

12 Flow between academic culture / contexts … what happens on arrival? ….. an international student [international staff?] Attract a large literature Trigger much discussion

13 Learning and teaching responses Phase One ( 1990 …. ) fix the student Phase Two: ( ) fix the teacher Phase Three: ( ? now ) fix the institution

14 1. Students must change (1990 +) remediation, gaps students as deficits. Students as expressions of deficit systems. ….common discourse for all students. But for international students, the assumption seems to be that they come with nothing of worth. They can finally start learning….. once they have their gaps filled.

15 2. Teachers accommodate and adapt (c ) Making allowances Making learning practices more explicit Rules of the game. Assisting international students to become skilful players Reviewing classroom practices for inclusion, trying to remove exclusion ( ) Teaching International Students project

16 TIS activities Website with teaching Resources Bank Research database Outreach activities and partnerships Series of events (27 this year)

17 3. Internationalise the institution Beyond assertion? largely located in the policy domain and generally ignoring the cultural dynamics of teaching and learning (Huisman, 2010) Studies of the impact are small scale, scattered and a-theoretical

18 An undertaking of prodigious intellectual and practical endeavour. McTaggart, 2003 ….a transformation of prodigious intellectual, practical and emotional endeavour Carroll, 2010

19 A new way? third space or bridge metaphors traffic is not all one way ….. not all towards the winners. Not all from teacher to student. Working with students as a source of mutual adaptation Not just legitimisation of Western knowledge

20 Requirements for third space? Genuine dialogue. Recognising and valuing others academic and cultural practices. Bearers of culture, not bearers of problems Generalise with care…… Self-awareness. Moving from invisible to conscious. Based in reality, not the ideal. Rules of the game. Making the context explicit Owning your own point of view

21 Challenging assumptions and stereotypes Chinese Learner Largest group Stereotypes inaccurate, out of date, unhelpful Gap is narrowing Rapid changes in China

22 Stereotypes of Chinese/CHC students Western views of CHC students filtered through eyes of teachers observing international students, struggling in culturally and linguistically different learning environments Western and Asian or CHC scholarship and learning described in binary terms: deep/surface, adversarial/harmonious, independent/dependent Construct Asian or CHC students in deficit terms [ the antithesis of Western academic virtues ]

23 Chinese-ness …in effect, deviance within Western norms, and generally being interestingly different within mainstream, that is Western, psychology (Watkins and Biggs, 2001) Summing up most commentators on the differences [note: I am not linking the view to W and B]

24 Essentialising goes both ways Here is Gu, a very influential Chinese educator, looking across academic cultures: American teachers seldom place very high demands on students ….. American students do not have a sound foundation in reading, writing and arithmetic (Gu, 2001)

25 the paradox of the Chinese Learner Watkins and Biggs, surface approach but deep learning surplus theory. cooperative, diligent, hard working, invariably have a high regard for education (Lee, 1996) Murphy (2005) the model minority

26 Primary importance of social context It is aspects of the social context, rather than cultural heritage per se that affects student learning ….. we need to consider teaching and learning, not just Chineseness of students or teachers Rao and Chan, 2009 in a huge review of CHC learning cultures

27 Changing contexts Rapid and profound physical, social and cultural transformations in China Much diversity within China eg. developed coastal vs less-developed inland regions (Hu, 2003), Chinese learners little different from Western counterparts (Shi, 2006) Education reform in China over past 5-10 years – move to student-centred learning and autonomous learners

28 Beijing No. 4 Primary School



31 Life science curriculum in Shanghai middle schools

32 DNA extraction & observation


34 The Chinese learner Will be very diverse, BUT… Will be an only child (3 onlys; 6 adults per child) High parental expectations and extrinsic control Competitive nature of Chinese education. Largely exam based (changing up to High School) Hard working (ability vs effort) A lot at stake (consequences of failure)

35 Chinese students expectations More pastoral care from teachers – relationship with teachers is paramount Home students should initiate contact More structure, less prepared for more independent study (but can think critically) Silent in class but want to ask questions after class Talking inhibits understanding Will need to clearly establish and model your expectations (eg you are open to criticism)

36 Clear differences in prior experiences [from UK students] Example: writing amount of writing ways in which text is constructed ways in which text is organised ways of catering to readers needs perceptions of readers needs ways of incorporating knowledge of others

37 Difference is not deficit It is particularly infuriating to hear problems with rhetorical styles attributed to imagined inadequacies in the students education in their home country. I have often had conversations in which it has been suggested that Oriental students come from backgrounds in which originality and critical thinking are valued less than acceptance of orthodoxy. Apart from the lack of critical thinking apparent in the use of the category Oriental, such analysis is misleading because it confuses differences in style of expression with a lack of academic rigour. What it fails to understand is that a prizewinning English academic essay translated word for word into Japanese is likely to be received as clumsy and ill thought out. (Yoshino, 2004, p. 10)

38 Keep looking ….. Turn the lens Chinese students cant criticise or Am I clear about what I mean? How else might it show? Am I expecting it too soon? [A half empty bottle makes the most noise] Am I expecting it in a certain format? Is the copying and restating a personal expression of the students thought?

39 Operationalising transcultural teaching 1. Local teachers are self-aware. They avoid essentialising and check their own assumptions. They make the context clear. They make the boundaries explicit…. [Move from be critical to this is how we recognise and define criticality here…. not because it IS criticality but because it is how we do it……]

40 Transcultural teaching 1. Self-aware and meta-aware 2. Negotiate and communicate what is negotiable. Teach the rules of the game. Try and understand different ways. Look for possibilities of new understandings, new knowledge.

41 Transcultural teaching 1. Self-aware 2. Negotiate the negotiable. 3. Flexible and variable demonstrations of learning. 1 in 5 [1 in 4] will return to very different contexts. All will apply learning in a diverse global world.

42 How I have been trying to do this with plagiarism 1. Self-awareness Moving beyond the fetishising of citation. Many meanings of a copied text – not just the marker of cheating or the sign of substandard learning. Not acceptable, but not a moral issue……. Not equating a particular way of showing your own work with learning

43 2. Negotiating and sticking Teach what is non-negotiable Uphold values and insist on improvement use other peoples ideas use other peoples work give credit when your work draws upon others work authority credibility

44 3. Be open to ways of demonstrating non-negotiable skills and knowledge Authentic, transferable, useful If simulating peer-reviewed journal articles is needed, then teach it. Dont confuse a single discourse style with academic writing

45 Why might this be worth doing? Definitely tough to operate this way. Definitely triggers very strong responses

46 The burden of not knowing My culture, my background, everything is different from them, so I have, not risk, but I have too many things, too many MORE things, that I have to think about than other students. I think I lost so much confidence of mine. Im thinking I have so many. Im talented, I want to think like that, but whenever I go to tutorials, I feel like I cant do anything, so Im not respected. (Viete and Peeler 2007, 181

47 Good teaching and learning are the common treasures of humanity Dr Kang Changyun, Beijing Normal University

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