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East meets west : culture and approaches to learning Colling, Lisa Michelle

Abstract

The Confucian-Socratic framework proposed by Tweed and Lehman (2002) was revisited in reference to Eastern and Western cultural influences in modern day learning. More specifically, those students born in China were hypothesized to follow a more Confucian approach to learning manifested by effortful, pragmatic learning marked by behavioural reform. It was hypothesized that Caucasian students born in Canada, on the other hand, would follow a Socratic approach to learning evolving around the public and private questioning of material, evaluation and rating of others' ideas, and in the generation of personal hypotheses. Of particular interest was the approach to learning taken by Canadian Born Chinese students, as these students arguably fall within both cultural influences when compared to the other cultural groups of interest (i.e., Chinese and Caucasian). Lastly, acculturation levels of students were also assessed in an attempt to understand the potential placement of a bicultural student within the framework, as this may be someone who captures and utilizes both learning approaches within their education, therefore possessing a learning advantage over peers. Participants (N = 243; 75 males, 158 females, 10 unreported) were recruited from two British Columbia community colleges and grouped into three potential categories for data analysis (Chinese, n = 119; Canadian Born Chinese, n = 24; Caucasian Canadian, n = 100). Results on the self-report measures indicated considerable cross-cultural overlap within the approaches to learning as defined by the Confucian-Socratic framework. These findings therefore call into question the overall utility of the framework within Western educational institutions. Furthermore, the Canadian Born Chinese students challenged the linear hypothesis of the framework on many accounts, scoring significantly higher or lower than their Chinese peers on measures they were hypothesized to score significantly on in the opposing direction. Level of acculturation was also found to be a key predictor in determining approaches to learning with the Chinese students as established in the linear regression. Possible explanations for the above findings are discussed, as well as the potential theoretical, applied and research implications in cross-cultural teaching and learning today.

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