Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 5, No. 1 (2008)

‘Fitting in’ in a ‘stand out’ culture: an examination of the interplay of collectivist and individualist cultural frameworks in the Australian university classroom.

Alison Owens, CQU


Australian university students originate from increasingly diverse cultural backgrounds most of which are defined as collectivist communities. As Australia is defined as a strongly individualist culture, understanding the interplay of the different values, beliefs and practices of either cultural framework is increasingly significant to Australian university teachers and learners. This paper examines cross-cultural perceptions about student motivations for study and perceptions about classroom behaviour (or non-behaviour) within the context of the collectivist/individualist dimension of cultural difference. Beneficial pedagogical principles and practices are identified for facilitating successful educational relationships and experiences for individualist/collectivist teachers and students. Collectivist students benefit significantly from personal relationships with their teachers especially in their first term of study. Teachers are better able to develop good relationships with their students if they can recognize culturally-different motivations for study as legitimate. In addition to a strong interpersonal relationship with their teacher, collectivist students benefit from appropriately designed collaborative mixed-culture group work activities. This paper aims to identify and justify pedagogical approaches related to teacher-learner relationships and group work that can enhance teaching and learning experiences in collectivist/individualist classrooms.

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