culture and adult learning

Did a facilitation of the Adult Learning class yesterday night with JC. It was great to work with her again and we managed to have an interesting 1 hour lesson. We had some readings selected (we had split it up and JC read some and I read some). Below the summaries of the articles I had found and read through. I have also added some of the articles that JC had prepared and some more that I found interesting but didn’t use/read (yet).  

Effects of Cultural differences on Self-esteem

King, D. (1996-1997). The Effects of Cultural Differences on Self-Esteem and Learning in Students. Pennsylvania Action Research Network [PAARN] 1996-1997. 

D. King did an action research amongst adult learners how self-esteem and cultural differences affect learning. The reason for the research is the notion that “Adults with high self-esteem learn in order to help themselves and others. […] Adults who have repeatedly experienced failure and have a low self-esteem often feel intense fear.” “The instructor who is aware of student’s feelings of inadequacy can help culturally different students become integrated into the educational system, thereby encouraging in student feelings of self-worth and motivation to succeed.”Two principles are identified to facilitate the development of self-esteem:

  1. development of a trusting climate
  2. instructors must attend to how learners experience learning

Conceptions of Self

Pratt, D. D. (1991). Conceptions of Self within China and The
United States: Contrasting Foundations for Adult Education.
International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Vol. 15, pp. 285-310, 1991.

Dan Pratt wrote a paper on the differences in conception of Self in the U.S. and
China. The notion of self is influenced by cultural traditions and values. He quotes that there are private, public and collective conceptions of self. The main distinction he finds on the conception of Individual Rights and Individual Uniqueness. American society is based on the belief in “naturally endowed” rights and the desirability of nurturing self-reliance, autonomy and independence. The individual is more important than the society at large. There is a constant need for affirmation or validation of self-worth.
Chinese conceptions are based on the belief that individual rights are derived from society and are subordinate to social interests. So, the society is more important. The self seeks fulfillment through the performance of duty 

Conceptions of effective teaching

Pratt, D. D. (1999). Chinese Conceptions of ‘Effective Teaching’ In
Hong Kong: Towards Culturally Sensitive Evaluation of Teaching.
International Journal of Lifelong Education, Vol. 18(4), 1999, pp. 241-258. 

Dan Pratt compares the conceptions of effective teaching within the Hong Kong
University’s HK-Chinese students and teachers and the Expat-Western teachers. The HK-Chinese students and teachers epistemic beliefs favor memorizing and foundational knowledge as an important first step. The teachers are viewed by them as an authoritative source. The Expat-Western teachers belief is based on problem-solving and critical thinking skills and the basic knowledge is less certain and of less importance. Ownership of the learning is with the students and not with the teacher. Looking at the teaching process, this is based on drill and practice for the Chinese whereby the teacher gives feedback to point out weaknesses or errors in the student’s thinking. The Western teachers are promoting a qualitative change in student thinking and try to facilitate the learning by creating a safe environment.

Confucian and Socratic Approach to Learning

Tweed R.G. and Lehman D.R. (). Confucian and Socratic Approaches to Learning.
University of British Colombia.

Tweed and Lehman are exploring more in general the differences between the Confucian and Socratic approaches to learning, whereby Confucian is the basis for the current Chinese societies and the Socratic approach is the foundation for the Western societies. In short, Socrates believed that knowledge is already present, it needs to be recollected by the students, using the appropriate questions. The students are encouraged to evaluate and engage in dialogues with the teacher and there is a focus on error in order to evoke doubts. Confucius however believed that knowledge is “absorbed”. Students are supposed to respect and obeying authority figures like teachers. Truth is already known and available to all who submit to a worthy master. Learning can be established by putting in enough effort, not so much linked to individual ability. The Confucian based learning is submissive versus assertive in the Socratic society. 

More interesting reads on culture 

Ziegahn, Linda (2001). Considering Culture in the Selection of Teaching Approaches for Adults. Eric Digest no 231 

A summarising paper, good as an intro and using references for further reads. I love the Eric Digest’s – they are concise and to the point. 

Diouf, W., Sheckley, B., & Kehrhahn, M.(2000). Adult Learning in non-Western Context: The influence of culture in a Senegalese farming village. Adult Education Quarterly, Vol. 51 No. 1, November 2000, p32 – 44. 

This might be useful to help with my ideas for the learning centre in Hambantota (yes, still need to write a proposal for that).  

Pratt, D. D. (). A Conceptual Framework For Cross-Cultural Studies of Teaching. 

It’s very short and highlights key aspects of cross-cultural studies of teaching. 

Griggs, S. and Dunn, R. (1996). Hispanic-American Students and Learning Style. EDO-PS-96-4. 

Something I still need to read, but it gives a different perspective perhaps from the Confucian / Socratic distinction. Will be interesting to explore in future.   


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