24 June 2014

Hey diddle diddle, the median's the middle

And this is why you don't want to have geek parents.

"Hey diddle diddle
The median is the middle
You add and divide for the mean
The mode is the one that appears the most
And the range is the stuff in between."

Happy study guys!

23 June 2014

When is "cheating" really collaboration? How good design can help Asian students adjust to Western education.

When is "cheating" really collaboration? How good design can help Asian students adjust to Western education. 

Often times Western educators look at their Asian international students and wonder how they can overcome this massive cultural barrier that divides the classroom in visible ways. They are often quite, often rely on memorisation, and can be found studying in groups. This can be frustrating when you would like to initiate a classroom discussion, and it becomes infuriating when you discover plagiarism. But this isn't to say that these students are disengaged. Far from it, they are often very diligent and put in long hours, but they somehow their outward achievement isn't meeting the teacher's expectations. What's going on here?

So what's causing this, and what can be done about it?

To the teachers, it's pretty clear that the cause is the cultural background. Race is totally irrelevant. There are plenty of ethnic Asian students who were born in Australia and they have no problem meeting the teacher's expectations. Let's face it, I fit into this category myself.

The standard approach is that "they must be doing something wrong", which indeed, many of the affected students submit themselves to because part of the expectation of Confucius Heritage Cultural (CHC) backgrounds is that you respect authority and the teacher is probably right anyway. So Western Educators will naturally try to pressure their Asian students into becoming more Western. They have to do more group work (seriously, even I hate that stuff). That group work should be a mix of people they don't necessarily like (great, so now it's awful by design!). Students should be forced to talk up in class and graded for it (can you imagine if we picked on some other cultural habits and applied grades against our German students because we didn't feel they had enough emotional connection).

These sorts of cultural imperialism is suffers from the "West is Best" syndrome that even much of Asia is guilty of believing in.  Rather than trying to ignore the phenomena or I've tried to re-design my teaching in a way that will accommodate the need to get across my key important topics while still maintaining the cultural dignity of learners. I don't believe we should actively oppress culture any more than we should oppress race.

Sure, education in Asia tends to be pretty different to Western Ed. Some of our objectives don't quite align. But as we expect our students to 'come around' to our way of doing things, I also believe it's about time that educators started to understand how their students are operating.

Watch the video below to find out how I did this.

This presentation follows on from my previous work here:

This presentation was made at Thai Nguyen University as part of the Engaging with Vietnam Conference held in December 2013.