Cultures of learning – vital feature of international education



it is easy to take learning styles for granted we do it all the time through our experiences at school we all have expectations of how students should learn and how teachers should teach however in a different learning culture the approaches of students and teachers to learning can be surprisingly different people will usually be comfortable with their familiar ways of learning and may be puzzled or feel threatened by alien ones with perhaps a negative effect on learning a greater awareness of cultures of learning by both students and teachers can produce positive outcomes for everybody it helps us to create new ways of teaching and learning let's explore three steps to achieve this the first step is be aware of different expectations of learning an international student in a class in another country can observe some unexpected behavior but we need to be careful about how we interpret these differences the student may think these students are just talking and the teacher is not even teaching I came here to learn from an expert not from my classmates they don't know any more than I do I will sit quietly and try to listen to the teacher like a good student whatever we students say won't be as good as what my teacher says can this really be a good teacher however the Western teacher may also be concerned this student is very quiet she isn't participating with others doesn't seem to be interested in learning perhaps she can't follow the discussion because her English is poor or maybe she has nothing to say is this a good student both are rushing to conclusions in making wrong judgments because they have different cultural expectations of good teaching and good learning so to avoid problems we first need to identify what they each expect for example in the Chinese learning tradition real understanding is achieved by deep thought and quiet reflection you learn by listening and you only say what you know when you know it not before students may feel they can't express a useful opinion until they know what teachers or famous academic have said they will often memorize these views to show respect however in a British learning culture understanding is achieved by talking and listening to others talk students develop their own thinking by giving opinions on what others have said and are encouraged to express their personal views even on great academic works step one then is about becoming aware of our own ideas of teaching and learning and to be aware that there are different cultural expectations the second step develop a dialogue to learn about each other's expectations where cultural expectations of learning are so different from each other there may be unfortunate consequences that are often left unexpressed a student who is struggling to adapt to a new learning culture may be reluctant to speak up because if he seems to doubt the teacher he is not showing respect it is dishonouring the teacher international students and their teachers need to talk to each other to find out about their expectations of the student and teacher roles think about how you learn what do you expect good teachers to do what is traditional learning modern learning what's the benefit of learning in this way or that way we try to understand other people's experiences of learning from their point of view rather than imposing judgments based on our own cultural expectations a Western teacher says oh so you expect teachers to give you a well-prepared explanation you listen understand and then practice the idea with some exercises theory before practice an international student says I see as a teacher you want me to talk and solve problems by discussion you listen and help us later with the theory we can develop understanding and avoid problems by step 2 being explicit about expectations and past experiences of learning and teaching the third step value the exchange of cultures of learning and learn reciprocal II both Western and Asian learning styles and others although very different have developed over thousands of years to be highly successful so in the modern internationalized world of Education we have much to learn from each other for teachers and academics and international context developing a teaching style that accommodates different cultures of learning will extend their teaching repertoire it's great for their professional development for international students learning by active participation learning by talking extends their learning repertoire learning about cultures of learning is great for their future work if a group is forced to adopt ways of learning which seem foreign or uncomfortable to them without discussion or negotiation this will likely create barriers of resistance and stress but when both students and teachers value alternatives they impact each other both our teaching and learning both can learn from other cultures of learning this is international and reciprocal learning synergy these three steps help us to make cultures of learning and teaching explicit we talk about them and work towards cultural synergy you

5 thoughts on “Cultures of learning – vital feature of international education

  1. very interesting…every new way to view teacher-student exchange (or why there is none) can only be helpful!

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