Members of different cultures frequently hold different beliefs and values and engage in different practices. So in international partnerships, people should not assume that practices will be similar; they need to be open-minded towards any different practices and overcome any deep-seated beliefs that their own cultural practices are superior or preferable. They need to embrace the opportunity to learn how practices differ, why they differ and what benefits might lie in the other’s approach. This does not necessarily mean that one has to adopt different practices, compromise one’s own values or that one cannot disagree with the partner’s different approach. However, new thinking does entail being genuinely open towards other practices and to accepting that they might be more beneficial or suitable to the other’s cultural context. The ideal is adaptation not adoption; i.e. the ability to recognise and adapt to different ways of thinking and differing cultural practices, but not necessarily to adopt them to replace one’s own ideals and practices.
Demonstrating new thinking is not always as easy as it may seem, as the Case Study example illustrates.
|Case Study Example: Memorisation and/or Reflection
In one of the projects, the staff reflected in depth on the role of memorisation in the Chinese educational system. They began to realise that memorisation is not necessarily meaningless rote learning, as it is often assumed to be in the West, and yet they had difficulty fully understanding the role of memorisation to Chinese learners.
Our Chinese trainees thought reflection was common sense, it was an innate feature of everyday life. It was a tacit understanding of the term. But the processes of articulating what you are thinking and why you’re thinking it, is not generally practised in China, they felt. There was the issue of face involved in expressing thoughts that are not solidly based in theory and data. And this linked very closely to how they viewed language teaching. We want to learn English, they said, we want to teach bilingually. But what does that mean? Using English to teach. But what does that mean? It seemed to mean using model content in the field that it is in English and being able to share it with their students. But that meant just absorbing and reproducing it, not thinking about how to present it and why I’m choosing this to present.
|Brit 15:||Until we were there and studied the textbooks that they had used, we couldn’t understand their way of learning. When they learned the skills at university, it was “here are the sentences and the vocabulary that you need to learn. You need to memorise them, some of them, you need to learn the dictionary.” … They haven’t focused on the issues that we regard as important, and this relates back to our views of models. For example, how do I construct paragraphs, how do I write complete sentences that flow one into another? Eventually they admitted that, saying we’ve never learned that. It’s there in theory, such as to begin a lecture you should identify the main focus, but it’s not applied in as much detail as in English native speaking countries. … But it’s still very difficult for me to see where it is that their reflection process takes place.|
|Interviewer:||It’s interesting. There’s a Chinese saying that it’s through repeating something 100 times that meaning emerges|
Tip: Take time to talk to your international partner about some key concepts or procedures in your joint professional worlds. Try to ‘dig deep’ so that you can begin to understand the meanings and significances they have for them.