Paper 2: Perceptions of directive and participatory modes of learning among students from different cultural backgrounds
Kenneth Fordyce, Mairin Hennebry, University of Edinburgh
Recent years have seen a trend towards participatory modes of learning (e.g., workshops) being prioritized over ‘traditional’ directive modes (e.g., lectures). This study investigated student perceptions on these modes of learning in a large, international cohort of students on a one year Masters programme in TESOL at a UK university. In particular, it focused on the degree to which modes of learning matched expectations prior to beginning the programme. Focus groups were conducted with seven national/trans-national groups of students (Chinese (x2); Japanese; Korean; Taiwanese; European (non-UK); UK/USA) in order to investigate possible differences in expectations and perceptions among different cultural groups. In general, it was found that students typically hoped for more direct instruction; and this view was expressed by participants from a variety of cultural backgrounds, including the UK/USA group. Whilst many students acknowledged potential benefits of group work, it was noted that without clear guidance, group work can end up being unproductive. Among the East Asian student groups there was a strong sense of wishing to receive guidance from an ‘expert’. The findings suggest that the varying benefits of directive instruction and participatory learning need to be scrutinized to make sure that expectations and preferences of students from different learning backgrounds are taken into account in achieving an effective balance between the two modes of learning.