Even though I have no experience yet teaching english
, I have acquired several years of teaching experience at US Universities teaching mathematics as well as marketing. Due to the relatively large percentage of foreign students at US Universities, inherently I also acquired experience teaching and dealing with students from various cultures.
Following are what I consider the most important aspect to teaching based on varying cultural backgrounds:
• Level of class-structure students desire
• Willingness of students to engage in classroom conversation
• Willingness of students to be critical in the classroom
• Level of sensitivity of students to feedback and critique
• Level of patience
• Level of trust in the teacher
The following is a discussion of the above mentioned factors as I have experienced and analyzed them, and should by no means be treated as results of much more objective research endeavors. I do believe they might provide some valuable insights, as I have not seen many comprehensive articles on this topic.
The US system is typically provides little structure. The philosophy behind this approach is if you throw information at students and let them figure out how it all fits together, the learning effect will be better. I cannot possibly speak about the contrast to all countries, but based on my experience south-east Asian countries and certain European countries represent the opposite extreme. Pertaining to teaching english
as a foreign language one therefore should keep in mind that certain students respond better or worse to different levels of structure provided while presenting material in the classroom.
I once had a PhD-seminar on Consumer Behavior, with an enrollment of fifteen students. This is a large number of students for this kind of class, which usually has somewhere between five and eight students. Many of these students came from china
and South Korea. In a seminar of this kind learning is supposed to happen via discussion about research on particular topics, hence participation is of essence. The professor, who is recognized throughout the united states
for his contributions to pedagogy and teaching, used various techniques in the first class session to “break the ice” and get everyone to participate – a success that lasted throughout the entire semester. Among the techniques were purposeful prompting, clear explanation that some students were from background were high degree
s of participation were not required but that it was essential for this course, prolonged periods of silence following questions
that no one felt comfortable answering (someone WILL eventually respond), as well as “safe” environment were all contributions were appreciated.
On the topic of critical thinking the cultural dynamics are somewhat different. Southeast Asian students do, in my experience, voice critique, even though in contrast to Anglo students typically in a much more polite manner. Much more hesitant to speak out critically are Hispanic students in my experience, even though I this does not hold true for the elite students from that background. Hence to extract constructive feedback about one's teaching style might require adaptation to the particular cultural background of the students in the class.
The reaction to and receptiveness of critique and feedback also varies quite drastically based on cultural background. Students from countries such as Russia, Germany, or australia
are used to very direct and sometimes harsh critique and feedback. However, even though I went through such schooling for quite some time, I have no yet discovered any benefits of overly harsh criticism. Independent of culture, I believe a motivational approach is usually much better received and provides better results.
Students' patience is becoming an increasing issue in various places around the world, least so in Southeast Asia and japan
. However, teaching a foreign language, especially based on the ESA approach, provides lots of tools so that students don't have to exercise extended periods of patience. The teacher
s' lesson plan can make all the difference here.
I believe it is a big misconception of some teacher
s who think that one should never admit to student that one doesn't know something or that one was wrong about something. Students these days have plenty of methods to check the validity of what a teacher
is teaching, and they make use of it. I have never experienced a loss of student respect resulting from the above mentioned confessions. With respect to teaching students' with different cultural backgrounds I believe it is fair to say the students from india
, Southeast Asia, and Hispanic students generally have a higher degree of trust in teacher
s than Anglo and black students.
As outlined, there are various differences to consider when teaching students in a different culture of when teaching students from different cultural backgrounds. Quoting the forefather of exploring cultural differences, “The burden of adaptation in cross-cultural learning situations should be primarily on the teacher
s.” (Hofstede, 2002)