Teaching across Cultures: Building Pedagogical Relationships in Diverse Contexts
Otherwise no real learning occurs Haley spoke enthusiastically about a novel method of teaching that she had initiated. I use their family life as a platform to teach. I get them to see how this theory or idea might help them achieve their goals. Theme 3. Alternating and adjusting teaching to address student needs.
John, an African American Muslim teacher who had lived and taught in Saudi Arabia for 28 years, stated:.
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All one needs to do is to make adjustments in your teaching methods. I think textbooks should be written by those who have had significant teaching experience in intercultural settings. Cultural differences were encountered by these teachers as they engaged with the traditional values about education and with attitudes towards expatriate workers in KSA.
Wendy highlighted that she and her students. After all, in the classroom we are all human beings Coming from a Chinese culture, I expect students to be polite with me The teachers tried to maximize their connectedness with all students and with their cultural, social, and natural contexts and to promote communities of learners. Saudi Arabia has gone through an extremely severe culture shock over the past 70 years. The current generation of students is disconnected from the traditions of their elders and is somewhat adrift in uncertainty.
Many respond with passivity to the challenge of education in the absence of strong mentors to guide them in culturally appropriate ways to respond to unprecedented life changes. This situation does not bode well for socializing students for the nuances of a knowledge-based economy. The teachers were aware of discrepancies between the endorsed instruction and their pedagogical practices and of how they engaged with these differences. There are so many Saudis who are graduating from American and European countries. Why am I employed to teach Saudi nationals?
I feel that this is influencing the sense of confidence in a nation The expatriate teachers encouraged students to learn collaboratively and with responsibility for others. Group work was a particular difficulty encountered by participants. Religious and cultural divides create political roadblocks to group work and other class functions. Clearly, these strategies could lead to conflict with the traditional methods, but the teachers believed that this was necessary in order to produce educated persons for the 21 st century and a knowledge-based economy.
Theme 6. The major ontological and epistemological assumptions about knowledge and knowledge production should be reflected in what is taught and how it is taught.
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Inquiry-based instruction assumes that students need to be actively involved in constructing understandings about target ideas as this will introduce them to the disciplinary enterprise and to the fact that knowledge is a human production. These teachers viewed knowledge as being dynamic, not static.
As Wendy said,. I am a different person when I finish my contract and leave I am going through permanent dynamic change When I am in class for 20 hours per week with the same group of students, something must have gone through them and me These teachers believe that knowledge must be viewed critically and not passively. Why are you not following Muslim ways of learning and knowing? There is no focus on learning This disinterest reaches a point where a student would come to class with no pen or a notebook. I am curious why Saudi students are not reading In Islamic Arabic history, [there are] so many poems and famous writers They have been much neglected in schools I am a college student.
I insist that they have to read and read and read The differences do not need to be viewed as a potential source of conflict but instead can be viewed as a rich resource.
6. Honoring Student Experience
These teachers viewed the challenges as opportunities for learning and teaching. The teachers in this study realized that their perception of self was not the same as their perception of the students and that these perceptions needed to be incorporated into their pedagogical framework and teaching strategies. John, for instance, felt that he was receiving as much as he was giving to his students. Wendy also felt that she was learning much about Saudi ways of living while she taught her students to live with and accept her as a facilitator instead of as knowledge transmitter.
Students from the same cultural background tend to share the same learning styles Almutairi, ; Alsafi, As discussed above, in Saudi Arabia there traditionally has been an emphasis on absolute knowledge, which entails a belief that truth is fixed and never changing, and an emphasis on learning by rote; this approach tends to differ from what expatriate teachers have encountered in their own culture and from what will be needed to ensure success in a knowledge-based economy.
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A knowledge-based economy will only emerge when students are global learners who are also comfortable with their own culture while also encompassing learning processes that will enhance creativity and innovation—two major aspects of a knowledge-based economy. The courses that have been offered thus far seem to have done little or nothing to challenge the deeply embedded tradition of rote learning or to help foster a culture of innovation and research.
Most often teachers teach based on their own learning style: if the teacher is a visual learner, then he or she teaches based on that method, and so on. Therefore, innovative courses critical thinking, problem solving, communications, and leadership need to start where the students are and to scaffold their development and growth based on different ways of knowing and of dealing with unfamiliar epistemic domains. Supportive, low-risk learning activities need to be used to allow uncertain students to explore non-traditional skills and knowledge, to experience success, and to develop more positive identities.
Despite their 10 to 20 years of teaching experience, some participants had never before experienced teaching in Saudi Arabia or even in an Arab culture. These characteristics may cause discomfort to teachers who are new to Saudi Arabia and who require knowledge of innovative pedagogical techniques to engage students to use their experiential resources and develop foundational abilities.
Johnson identified teacher-structured social relations as another driving CRP principle for achieving academic success. These approaches to teaching require public dialogic interactions and shared responsibilities for knowledge construction and private reflection in order to integrate the public knowledge into their personal conceptual networks. Several teachers have used strategies and curricular and extracurricular activities to encourage interpersonal connections between teachers and students as well as among students.
Furthermore, their traditional view of knowledge dovetailed with teacher-directed delivery of knowledge. Like all qualitative studies, its generalizability is limited and the reader needs to consider the similarities between these contexts and the potential application context.
Issues of accessibility may have given rise to a gender bias in the results, as there were only two male respondents. As a female researcher in Saudi Arabia, it is a challenge to engage men in research studies because of local customs. The pervasiveness of gender segregation made it impossible to attract more men with a wider variety of backgrounds and disciplinary expertise. These teachers generally expected students to abide by and conform to Western ways of knowing, overlooking Saudi Arabian learning styles.
Nevertheless, one participant, Tara, who was the most critical and most conscious of the importance of understanding the learning culture in the country in which one is teaching, did not try to force students to conform to a Western model.
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After all, the aim of education is not to grow and raise students who are disengaged from their communities but rather people who are willing and able to fully participate as productive citizens. Although the small sample of participants in this case study does not allow for generalization, it seems that some of the Western professors at private universities do not have the training required to teach from a multicultural perspective. Lee and Fradd suggest that successful teachers must have knowledge both of their discipline and of diversity, including the ability to mine the rich experiences that students bring to the classroom based upon their home languages and cultures.
Thus, becoming a CRP-oriented educator requires the investment of additional time and energy.
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In the Saudi Arabian context, this would mean that the expatriate teachers would have to engage with the local society and with the traditional communities where students live, as well as to become familiar with ways of knowing and learning that might be different from what they had read and learned about Saudi Arabia and its people prior to living in the culture.
Over the last decade, Saudi Arabia has experienced a sharp increase in the number of university teachers from abroad and especially from Western countries. A primary finding of this study is that expatriate teachers who are starting to teach in Saudi Arabia, where the cultural context likely differs greatly from their previous experiences, would benefit greatly from exposure to the concepts of CRP.
Some teachers in this study showed an in-depth understanding of how students are asked to embrace pedagogies and concepts foreign to them, and of the process of shifting students from the margins to the centre of the learning process. This is the focus of the new paradigm shift in education and is in line with CRP. The best teaching practices, as demonstrated in this research study, are those that acknowledge the differences inherent in academic, cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic diversity Santamaria, Criticisms about teacher preparation with regard to CRP have been fuelled by reports that indicate that many expatriate teachers in higher education have not been trained as teachers and have little awareness of the challenges of teaching in diverse settings.
Recruiting departments in Saudi institutions need to consider CRP principles when selecting foreign English-speaking nationals. Regrettably, the recruitment of expatriate professors has contributed to excessive turnover rates. The high percentage of non-Saudis teaching at public universities and private institutions underlines the need for professional development. Public universities usually offer professional-development programs during the summer, but this is not the case at many private institutions.
While universities worldwide are obliged to engage in activities that promote lifelong learning and social transformation, this is not the case in Saudi Arabia and particularly not in its private institutions. This lack of community involvement can be explained by the fact that most expatriate faculty members prefer to leave the country for their 3 months of paid vacation M. Alkhazim, 18 th September personal communication. It is hoped that the results of this study will encourage culturally relevant pedagogy, and initiate discussions about how Saudi Arabia might provide more effective teacher recruitment and professional development that would focus on appreciating and learning about the Saudi cultural context and priorities, as well as about the learning styles of Saudi Arabian students, for the benefit of teachers and students.
AlLily, A. On line and under veil: Technology-facilitated communication and Saudi female experience within academia. Technology in Society , 33 1—2 , — AlHashr, A. Women behind Haramlak: Nesaa khalaf Aswar Alharamalk.