Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Teachers' Experiential Reflections on Iranian and Malaysian Students' Collaborative Orientations

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Teachers' Experiential Reflections on Iranian and Malaysian Students' Collaborative Orientations

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper is part of a larger study which was concerned with the comparison and description of Iranian and Malaysian students' classroom behaviors in general and their collaborative tendencies in particular. In this paper the core findings of interviews with five teachers who had the experience of teaching both in the contexts of Iran and Malaysia are reported. They all shared the view that the collectivist orientation is tangibly stronger among Malaysian participants than among their Iranian counterparts. The findings are discussed with regard to the macro-cultural dichotomy of world cultures (collectivist/ individualist). The possible pedagogical implications of the study are touched upon as well.

Keywords: collaborative tendency, Iranians, Malaysians, teachers, culture

1. Introduction

There has been a great deal of discussion about the relationship between culture and collaboration (e.g., Carson & Nelson, 1994, 1996; Nelson & Carson, 1995, 2006). Crook (1996) links establishment of intersubjectivity (construction of shared meanings and concepts) to cultural issues. Donato (2004) discusses the notion of collaboration in relation to a community and identity, and reckons the socio-historical and cultural contexts of learners among the very influential variables. According to Berry (2002), it is culture that shapes peoples' values, perceptions and behaviors. Similarly, Markus and Kitayama (1991a, 1991b) have recognized that the cultural orientation of a person could have a strong influence on the individual's communication style, value system and behaviors. Some research studies have looked into the relationship between culture and collaborative tendencies.

Ellis and Gauvain (1992) in their study observed that pairs of nine-year-old Navajo children who were asked to teach seven-year-olds to play a game were much more likely to build on each other's comments than were European-American children. Moreover, while the Navajo children stayed engaged observing their partners when they were not controlling the game moves, the European-American children, lost interest when they were no longer in control of the game; sometimes they even leftthe task. The discrepancy in the behaviors and the intersubjective attitudes of the children was attributed to the culture they were affiliated with. Salili's (1996) study found Chinese students very willing to collaborate and with a better performance in collaborative tasks. In their investigation of interaction in peer response groups, the researchers (Carson & Nelson, 1996; Nelson & Carson, 1998) found similar patterns of behavior among Chinese students: the students had creation and preservation of harmonious group relations as their first and foremost priority and they were reluctant to criticize others' drafts as they did not intend to embarrass the writer. Nelson and Carson (1998) interpreted this sense of consensus and intra-group agreement as part of Chinese students' perceived need for harmonious group relations. Other researchers have reported similar patterns of behavior with Chinese students as well (Hyland, 2000; Hyland, 2003). Nelson and Carson (2006) assert that the behaviors of people in the groups are the reflections of their cultural backgrounds.

As far as the willingness of Iranian learners towards collaborative modality of learning is concerned, no independent study has been carried out yet, and the existing studies in the literature are confined to reporting about certain advantageous aspects of collaborative learning from the perspective of the research participants. For example, in Momtaz and Garner's (2010) study some of the Iranian interviewees commented that group work (collaborative reading) provided them with a relaxed learning environment. Similarly, Pishghadam and Moghaddam (2011) reported a sense of security and enhanced self-confidence on the part of the participants in their study. As for Malaysian learners' tendency towards collaborative learning, a number of studies have already been carried out. …

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