22 SES 06 D, Doctoral Programs in Various Perspectives
Supervising doctoral research students is an important but challenging task for university educators, and a doctoral student’s transformation into an independent researcher is a key issue confronting many students and their supervisors (Gardner, 2008; Lovitts, 2008). Doctoral students’ intelligence, thinking style, personal traits, and previous education, as well as the type of supervisor and the learning environment, can all powerfully influence this transition (Lovitts, 2008).
This challenge is complicated at Western universities by the growing number of international students in advanced research programs (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 2013), and Asian students in particular. In addition to the general challenges, international students confront new, drastically different learning environments and face hurdles such as acculturation (Curtin, Stewart, & Ostrove, 2013; McClure, 2007) and social isolation (Erichsen & Bolliger, 2011). Therefore, as students adapt to the new learning environment, both constructive and destructive frictions can occur if the students and the teachers differ in their expectations. For example, Western perceptions of the degree of teacher/student regulation of learning (Vermunt & Verloop, 1999) might result in Asian students bitterly concluding that the teachers do not teach and professors becoming frustrated that the Asian students are dependent and passive learners (cf. Chen & Bennett, 2012). Whether these claims are valid is not a point of discussion here, but it is clear that both the students and the teachers experience frictions, likely originating from their cultural (cf. Lee, 2011) and educational (cf. Hu & Smith, 2011) differences. In this light, it is worthwhile to explore how the groups perceive each other and the teaching and supervision processes.
The aim of this study is to shed light on the causes of communication difficulties and misunderstandings between Western supervisors and Asian research students in relation to their cultural and educational differences. We conducted a self-study (Hamilton, Smith, & Worthington, 2008; Loughran, 2007) of our experience, as a Chinese international student and her Dutch supervisor during her doctoral research project at a Dutch university. We use intercultural communication and educational theory to analyze the results. By using a theoretical approach, we also demonstrate how our findings go beyond our individual experiences and are valuable to teachers and students involved in intercultural education as a whole.
Cultural and educational differences between China and the Netherlands
China and the Netherlands can be assumed as representative examples of Asian and Western cultures and educational orientations. China’s masculine culture is success oriented and driven; it is desirable to become as highly qualified as possible; Excellence is openly rewarded, and failing in school can be a disaster. In addition, it is a restraint culture and exhibits high power distance between teachers and students. China’s exam-based filtering system has more structure and teacher regulation in the educational programs. High entrance regulations are used and intense competitions exists among all students. Average study time lasts 8–12 hours each day, five to six days a week, especially in the last three years of secondary education (e.g., Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010; Hu & Smith, 2011; Mathias et al., 2013).
The Netherlands, in contrast, has a feminine culture oriented toward work–life balance and personal well-being. Average achievement is sufficient to pass to a higher grade or to access higher education. Moreover, it is an indulgence culture and exhibits low power distance. Dutch education has more freedom and student initiatives in the educational programs. Students are allowed to play after school, teachers avoid pressuring them to learn, and students have a say in decisions about their education (e.g., Belo, van Driel, van Veen & Verloop, 2014; Hofstede et al. 2010).
References Belo, N. A. H., van Driel, J. H., van Veen, K., & Verloop, N. (2014). Beyond the dichotomy of teacher- versus student-focused education: A survey study on physics teachers’ beliefs about the goals and pedagogy of physics education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 39, 89–101. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2013.12.008. Chen, R. T.-H., & Bennett, S. (2012). When Chinese learners meet constructivist pedagogy online. Higher Education, 64(5), 677–691. doi: 10.1007/s10734-012-9520-9 Curtin, N., Stewart, A. J., & Ostrove, J. M. (2013). Fostering academic self-concept: Advisor support and sense of belonging among international and domestic graduate students. American Educational Research Journal, 50(1), 108–137. doi: 10.3102/0002831212446662 Erichsen, E., & Bolliger, D. (2011). Towards understanding international graduate student isolation in traditional and online environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59(3), 309–326. doi: 10.1007/s11423-010-9161-6 Gardner, S. K. (2008). "What's too much and what's too little?": The process of becoming an independent researcher in doctoral education. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(3), 326–350. Hamilton, M. L., Smith, L., & Worthington, K. (2008). Fitting the Methodology with the Research: An exploration of narrative, self-study and auto-ethnography. Studying Teacher Education, 4(1), 17–28. doi: 10.1080/17425960801976321 Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Hu, R., & Smith, J. J. (2011). Cultural perspectives on teaching and learning: A collaborative self-study of two professors' first year teaching experiences. Studying Teacher Education, 7(1), 19–33. doi: 10.1080/17425964.2011.558347 Lee, Y. A. (2011). Self-study of cross-cultural supervision of teacher candidates for social justice. Studying Teacher Education, 7(1), 3–18. doi: 10.1080/17425964.2011.558341 Loughran, J. (2007). Researching teacher education practices: Responding to the challenges, demands, and expectations of self-study. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(1), 12–20. doi: 10.1177/0022487106296217 Lovitts, B. E. (2008). The transition to independent research: Who makes it, who doesn't, and why. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(3), 296–325. Mathias, J., Bruce, M., & Newton, D. P. (2013). Challenging the Western stereotype: do Chinese international foundation students learn by rote? Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 18(3), 221–238. doi: 10.1080/13596748.2013.819257 McClure, J. W. (2007). International graduates’ cross-cultural adjustment: Experiences, coping strategies, and suggested programmatic responses. Teaching in Higher Education, 12(2), 199–217. doi: 10.1080/13562510701191976 OECD. (2013). Education at a glance 2013: OECD indicators. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2013-en Vermunt, J. D., & Verloop, N. (1999). Congruence and friction between learning and teaching. Learning and Instruction, 9(3), 257–280
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