Working with Students from China – A Cross-Cultural Perspective Sherri Xie International Student Services University of Alberta March 7, 2007 Agenda • Three generations of Chinese Students • The Millennium Generation • Social background and characteristics • Learning environment • Challenges in Canadian institutions • Cultural behavioral patterns • How can we be more helpful? Chinese students in Canada 33801 35580 30807 22.3% 22.3% 18.9% 24572 13.8% 16593 8.9% 8930 6.2% 5351 2078 2166 3019 3.9% 2.9% 2.9% 2.9% 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/pub/facts2005/temporary/10.html Three generations of Chinese students studying abroad 1) Pre-Tiananmen Square Protests: 1978-1989 2) Post-Tiananmen Square Protests: 1990-1999 3) Millennium Generation: 2000- (born in 80’s) Millennium Generation: Social Background • Rapid economic development • “It’s glorious to become rich.” – Deng Xiaoping • “Shift from a subsistence economy to consumer economy with the emergence of a large middle class.” • Communist ideology was replaced by the entrepreneurial spirit, nationalism and pragmatism • “Black or white, as long as it catches the mouse, it’s a good cat.” – Deng Xiaoping • Globalization and penetration of Western culture have great impact on the society Millennium Generation: At the Crossroad • Financially well-off – most from upper middle class family • Politically naive -- Grew up with the booming economy and rising nationalism with no experience in the political turmoil • Culturally open – struggle to break up with tradition in face of the “modern”, different and novelty Millennium Generation: A Lonely Crowd • Socially lonely – one child in a family; lack of social interaction • Academically stressful – highly competitive to get into the “key” schools • “I want my child to accomplish what I could not.” • Psychologically vulnerable –pressure from family and society • “I wish my parents don’t make me their project.” Millennium Generation: Learning Environment • Curriculum is prescribed, highly structured and formalized • Teacher centered • Final exam centered • Emphasis on imitation, practice, and memorization • Memorization– “a path to understanding” • Emphasis on individual efforts, no peer-group work Millennium Generation: Challenges in Canadian Institutions • Disoriented: from “dependent” to “independent” • Disappointed: feel not supported the way they expected • Disadvantaged: classroom discussion, group projects, presentation, critical thinking • Lost in translation: language barriers, slang Millennium Generation: Challenges in Canadian Institutions Different Writing Styles: -- Cultural rhetoric patterns • Indirect (vs. Direct) • Inductive (vs. Deductive) Millennium Generation: Challenges in Canadian Institutions Plagiarism? “Are you kidding me?” -- Cultural view of knowledge • Not knowing of referencing • Referencing is not formally taught in school • Knowledge is considered as the common property to be shared Millennium Generation: Cultural Behaviors • Group Oriented • One relates to others • Relationships – Roles – Obligations • Family • Friends (“cheating or cooperation?”) Cultural Clash ---- “Why did she ignore me?” 1. Mike Ho arrived in Canada a few days ago. He was waiting to see the graduate secretary while she was talking to another student. After about 10 minutes Mike wanted to get her attention but she was fully occupied in the conversation with the student even though she knew he was there. After another 10 minutes, Mike left and felt upset. He came to you now complaining that the secretary ignored him and unfriendly. Cultural Clash ---- Is it Cultural or Are they just inconsiderate? 2.1 A small group of Chinese students were talking loudly in the lobby while there’s a workshop going on. They showed no sign of lowering their voice. 2.2 A Chinese student squeezed past you in the bus without saying “excuse me”. 2.3 A Chinese student was standing much closer to you in line than you would feel comfortable. When you moved ahead a bit, he followed you right away. Cultural Clash ---- Is it Cultural or Are they just inconsiderate? Millennium Generation: How can we be more helpful? - Understand where they are from and be effective in offering advice. Be directive at can be very helpful. - Appropriate goals, appropriate process. - Advise beyond what they came in for. Catch the “teachable moments” - Facilitate decision making but instill a sense of ownership of decisions. Millennium Generation: How can we be more helpful? • What are the issues? • How do you explain the behaviors in the cultural context? • What would be your advice? Scenario # 1 Group work A first-year Chinese student came to tell you her recent experience with her group work… She said it was hard to participate in brainstorming for ideas with her group of Canadian students. “They were talking all the time,” she said, “I didn’t even have a chance to talk.” She said she didn’t want to say no to any ideas they put forward, so would just move along with whatever they decided. She also found out that she was rated not so good by peer evaluation and she was frustrated. Scenario # 2 When seeking advice… After the advising session with you, Jack Gao went to see another advisor, Sarah, whom he had seen before, and talked in their mother tongue. Sarah printed out something for him afterwards. The next day, Jack went to see another advisor, Joe, for the same issue. Scenario # 3 Meatloaf At the dinner, the host mother cooked meatloaf as a main course. Jim Tang didn’t like meatloaf at all, but when his host mother asked him if he liked it, he nodded and said, “Yes.” The host mother gave him half of the meatloaf. Before finishing his dinner, Jim told the host mother that he had to make a long distance call and then took his plate with the meatloaf to go to his room. The next day, the host mother was cleaning the kitchen. She found out that the half of the meatloaf was in the trash can wrapped in foil. She was very upset and angry. She called you and complained that Jim should not lie to her and waste the food. Scenario # 4 Best Friends Tim Guo and Fred Song are best friends and they both took English 130. Fred was sick for a week and asked Tim to let him copy his homework. Tim felt obligated. The professor found out and said it was plagiarism. They both failed the class and received a warning from the Dean. Tim came to see you and he was very upset. Meanwhile, he showed you two completed tax return forms and asked you to check for him and Fred. You found out that Fred didn’t sign on his form. Tim said he would sign for Fred because Fred is in another city visiting his brother. Thank you!
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