The Role of Culture in Relation to the Learning Adjustment of Students from East Asia Studying in the Social Sciences and Humanities at an Australian University
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There is a general need for Australian universities to obtain some conception of the cultural expectations and cultural adaptation experienced by East Asian students when they come to study at these institutions. In view of the large number of East Asian students currently studying at Australian universities there is a need to establish some understanding of these differences and to promote measures that will allow them to develop full value from their studies. This study specially focuses on four students from East Asia, studying in education, environmental education and modern Asian history, areas which emphasize opinion formation and generally require greater language skills than the mathematics and science areas. Interviews were held with the four students over approximately one year in which selected topics were used relating to approaches to knowledge and preferred learning styles, relations with teachers, expression of opinion and written and oral skills. Some use was made of the students’ responses to a quantitative questionnaire which had been translated into the students’ home language. Interviews were also held with four of the students’ teachers and some analysis was made of the students’ writing skills. The data were analysed using the framework indicated by Miles and Huberman (1984a; 1984b), by which specific theories and concepts were applied to organize and to establish features of value in the data for the research. The analysis also made some use of the phenomenological approach in which some attempt is made to understand the students’ view of reality as perceived from another culture. The multiple case study was selected as the most suitable approach where students’ views could be linked and compared and thus present greater validity for the research than would be available from a single case study. The assumption was made at the beginning of the research that cultural factors do play a significant role in the students’ adaptation, as distinct from language difficulty. The students were encouraged to describe their own pattern of learning and also their difficulties in the course work. Certain theories relating to the role of the individual in the collective society and hierarchy and modes of learning and some consideration of Asian values were applied to the students’ responses in the attempt to interpret their behavior. Some discussion was held with the students about these factors as well as their educational progress. While allowing for the differing experiences of each student in the study, the results gave some indication that cultural factors were present in the students’ expectations and study experience and needed to be taken into account in relation to their adjustment needs. The long-term significance of the study may lie basically in its capacity to map out the individual responses together with value judgements of the students which can be developed in further studies. Accepting the role of culture, educators at Australian universities need to consider the role of schooling in those countries, the concept of the teacher and the interpretation of “value” in knowledge, factors which follow from the present research.
Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Doctor of Education (EdD)
School of Cognition, Language and Special Education
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