Synergetic Culture of Learning: Researching the Academic Experience of CHC Students Studying Abroad. Dr Anwei Feng Email: [email protected] Seminar for the Faculty of Education, Hong Kong University. Outline. Background Literature on CHC students studying abroad
Many more in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other countries.
The literature grows rapidly because:
1. UK has the most diverse student body in the world (CIHE, 2006)
2. HESA 2004/05 statistics show many from CHC countries:.
This increase is driven both by
Widely agreed: Students from different cultures do differ! Their values, beliefs and behaviours do differ!
To address the differences, some say:
In order to address the issues, they say:
e.g. Confucian culture of learning
Socratic culture of learning
Values and beliefs of quality teaching and learning shared by a particular national group and the norms or behaviours that are built on them (cf. Cortazzi & Jin, 1996)
Philosophical assumptions about the nature of teaching and learning, perceptions of the respective roles of and responsibilities of teachers and students, learning strategies encouraged, and qualities valued in teachers and students (Hu, 2002)
Often through comparative or contrastive studies into the values, beliefs and behaviours of cultural groups under question.
Literature documenting such studies with a focus on East Vs West conceptions of learning includes:
Socratic versus Confucian Conceptions of Learning
Main theories of learning
Learning is a way in which learners interact with the world. Quality learning takes place only when they generate their own knowledge on the basis of the existing and when they engage themselves with higher cognitive-level processes.
Passive Ss’ activities Active
(e.g. Lectures) (e.g. PBL)“Good teaching is getting most students to use the higher cognitive level processes …” (Biggs, 1999: 4)
Memorisation (the lowest cognitive level activity) is strongly emphasised!
In exploring the “paradox of Chinese learners” – rote learning, large classes, expository methods, relentless norm-referenced assessment, etc. but good academic performance – Watkins and Biggs (1996) summarise features of Chinese learners as follows:
N = 135 (Cortazzi and Jin, 1996)
The ‘Bridge’ Metaphor
Is there a contrast?
(Biggs 1999; Kember, 2000; Littlewood, 2001)
Contrasts such as those given before are criticised as an essentialist or reductionist approach to theorising culture (Holiday, et al. 2004)
Culture should not be limited to essential features of a particular social group, i.e., to ‘shared values, established norms and patterned behaviours’.Bhabha (1994) argues that:
Four themes emerged from the data:
“The difference was immediately proved when I arrived. In law classes in China, the teacher is the centre while students are on the receiving end. Group discussions or assignments have to take the teacher’s points as the ‘dominant views’ (主流观点). In England, however, the interaction between the teacher and the students is more prevailing. … The teacher seems to like challenges from students.” (FN – 10, 03/02/05)
Difference expected and experienced
Perceptions of difference in norms expected but not always proved true.
Value of ‘face’ was shown initially, but change took place, partial transformation though.
MA student in education from China,
Trying to negotiate a space, at a risk, but not successfully
“(Some local students) tend to think that all Chinese can’t speak English properly. … They tend to size international students up. Then when we say something pretty intelligent during tutorials, they are stunned. …” (FN–3, 18/02/04)
MA student from Singapore
(He said he was much more active in a UK classroom than he used to be back in Singapore but still struggling with essays)
A new identity for the individual
“… Since I came here, I feel I have become more active and analytical in studying. I research more. I also try to contribute more to the class. I find it very interesting and of course. I have done quite OK, lah, and definitely impressed the teacher …”
Economics S. with experience in HK and Singapore
Active learner taking a deep approach (but showed respect for authority).
“A ‘quiet’ EdD student from Taiwan who was observed closely came up with two quality assignments that showed many features of a deep learner who analyses, relates and theorises competently. When asked she replied she lacked oral competence, but “listened attentively”, took notes, tried to figure out the meaning through all available means, in- or out-side the classroom.
Is this a deep or surface learner?
“… (Memorising is helpful).The students who go through the Chinese system all know how important memorisation is. In China, you get nowhere if you don’t memorise. … Here it seems I memorise less. But I feel the extensive readings I do for each module can help me remember a lot of things.” (FN – 21, 08/11/05)
MS student in computer science
Showing trace of a deep learner, but at the same time, value of memorisation
“Since I came to UK, research study has been my major strategy of learning, for essay writing, to be more specific. … However, a lot of principles, formula, definitions of terms, etc. must be memorised. Otherwise, the knowledge will soon disappear from my brain like ‘flowing sand’. ...” (FN–23, 17/10/05)
MA student in finance from China
“[Research study] is searching for information focusing on one topic. You read a lot and do lots of things in the library or internet to understand the information for your essays …”
Understanding, memorising, and learner autonomy
“My English is very poor. First, I wish to master the language as soon as possible. … I don’t care how others think of me. To improve my English is one of the main purposes of my study anyway. With that [English], I have a great advantage …” (FN-2, 12/03)
A surface learner or a strategic learner?
Participation is mostly context dependent
Close observation of students and frequent elicitation of feedback necessary
CHC Students academic experience abroad
CHC Students Experience in the UK
The data support the claims by third space/place theorists that cultures in contact do lead to something new and something that displace the history, creating very individual, heterogeneous and ambivalent space/place for celebration.
However, the data also show that, in the process of negotiation, one can also see something recognisable, coherent and something that reflects the history(ies) of the parties involved, e.g., Socratic and/or Confucian cultures of learning,.
Furthermore, there is no evidence to show that the change in identity or in values is permanent. Some students might be simply ADJUST their strategy in the situation.
Question: Do commonly cited definitions of third space/place place too much emphasis on ambivalence to render the notion unhelpful in researching or studying cultures in contact?
(Shared, patterned, established) norms, knowledge, values, beliefs, etc. with coherence, seriality, etc.
Synergetic (the modifier)
Contact, interactive, reactive, simultaneous, improvising, cooperative leading to things new, unpredictable, unrecognizable, or greater than the combined two
‘Synergetic Culture of Learning’ can be used to refer to: