Thursday, 16 August 2007

Cultural Issues

Last week I was reading about "Cultural differences in teaching and learning" (1986) by Hofstede. It's interesting research that groups countries into a 4-D model by cultural differences. New Zealand is described as having 'high individualism' and somewhat 'masculine' characteristics. It is described as a culture that has a small acceptance of inequality with more relaxed and tolerant characteristics.

Hofstede matches a series of teacher/learner interactions to these various cultural themes and he identifies these as 'extremes', but they offer an insight into the different perspectives of different cultures. (E.g. individuals who will participate in a discussion if asked personally versus individuals who will participate in response to a general request).

I did wonder about the relevance of the article to New Zealand where initiatives in schools are being set up to improve teacher understanding of Maori learning culture. The Te Kotahitanga project identifies how Maori learners perceive teacher behaviour and attitudes and vice versa and how these issues can be resolved for improved achievement.

How does this relate to facilitating an online course?

In any learning environment there are going to be learners from different (external) cultures. To be aware of cultural differences means a facilitator can be prepared for possible problems/opportunities and plan for an 'internal' culture that aids learning.

  • If the environment does not meet our 'expectations' for learning we could struggle to get going. In a previous discussion on the forum the issue of poor retention for online courses was raised. How much does culture play a part?
  • If students are unaware of differences in educational culture may they misinterpret activities in their attempt to fit them into their method of learning? Online this could be an isolating experience.
  • Online communities rely on collaboration so different ways of approaching and completing tasks can be shared. The sharing of varied experiences may enhance learning.

Well those are some of my thoughts on our week 3 topic of culture.