The lecturer-student relationship.

In conversation with: Swetha Akhnoor (Institute of Work Health and Organisations), Samer Alkassar (Nottingham University Business School), David Clarke, Chris Ennew, Dariusz Wanatowski. Produced: November 2009; Duration: 5 minutes : 14 seconds.

Swetha Aknoor:
If you look at the Indian culture, technically, our teachers supposed to be as God for us. We have this thing, you know, the father, the mother and the teacher are all God. So yeah, our teachers, we do have to have a lot of respect for them, we can't take them very casually but then, with time, it's changing again.

There's certain professors in my college whom I couldn't speak to. I mean, there were like, really, people whom I could just have a formal relationship with.

There were some professors and teachers who were really friendly, got involved with everything that we did, and, you know, even if it was something that was student, like a student festival or something, the teacher would be involved with it, because it was a fun thing to do, get to know your students, have a good time, and for the students to get to know the professor and the teacher and then it's a lifelong relationship.

It depends on person to person again. Some students might feel, just because you're an international student, you know, you're different from everybody else. Probably your teacher will not understand you, that's why you share more formal relationship with them, you know?

You go and say, Professor so and so, well, students who are from here are used to the system go about very easily communicating with the professors. So, I think it's more got to do with, you know, getting into the system.

Chris Ennew:
But it's very easy to fall into the trap around say the frameworks that you get from people like Hofstede. And so we talk about high power distance, low power distance, cultures, we talk about collectivist versus individualist cultures and Hofstede obviously characterised particular countries, along those dimensions. And so we start off thinking, Oh well, China's very collectivist, it's high power distance, therefore it's going to, the students are going to display this kind of behaviour, and while there is truth in that generalisation, it's always dangerous to assume that it applies to everybody. And I think you do constantly encounter, you know, quite diverse patterns of behaviour across students from very similar nationalities. So I think there is a need just to kind of step back and bit and, you know, yes, this person might be from quite a collectivist culture but I shouldn't assume that they are going to behave according to a stereotype.

Chris Ennew:
One of the things that I found quite interesting and I think it reflects sometimes how we oversimplify culture, is, I was teaching a Malaysian group and a Singapore group at the same time, and the Malaysian group met weekly and started to build up a good rapport and they were much more willing to engage in active debate between each other than was the case with the Singapore group who, I think didn't know each other as well. Now, culturally, those two groups are probably quite similar but their behaviour was quite different and some of that, I think, was about the trust they'd built up within themselves and that was something that I thought was quite distinctive about the Malaysian group, because they knew each other, because they work much more closely than the Singapore group.

Chris Ennew:
And one of the things I think was interesting about that is, it suggests that the way in which groups behave is far more complex than just culture. It's also about other aspects of social interaction.

Dariusz Wanatowski:
If they don't ask question or if they don't discuss their own ideas with me, then, I think it's more difficult for them to learn, and it's also difficult for me to notice what they actually learn. If someone is open and discusses everything and even if I make mistake, it's not afraid to tell me, oh, you are wrong here. Maybe it should be like that. Then, of course, it's very good, and, for me, it's very interesting.

And I'm open to discuss those issues with them because I was an international student in Singapore which is completely different culture to Polish culture, and I know that it can be, it can be factor that could affect their study and their learning so I'm quite open to discuss this.

Samer Alkassar:
Here there is this kind of feedback, always constant feedback, there is this easy relationship between you and your supervisor you and your lecturer, you can always approach them, they are out there to help you, ask questions that you want to ask, but make sure that they are informed questions, do not ask what we call wishy washy questions, you know, just be informed, do your reading, the last thing you want to do is to ask a question without you having done your reading that doesn't make things look good on your behalf.

David Clarke:
I think a lot of what we try to do in getting students to think differently about their learning is common to home students and international students, I don't see the difference really as being between those two groups as between, if you like, school students, school pupils, and university students. So it's a question of gradually, in a sense, withdrawing tutorial or teacher effort and leaving them as more independent learners.

Short paper

Communication and the roles of politeness and face outlines a theoretical perspective on a common everyday experience most people would be able to identify in the work situation: that of "face" and the role of politeness. People present an identity with positive social value and seek this to be validated by other people. However, in the presence of others, we are sometimes exposed to "face-threatening actions" which may include impositions or criticisms. To maintain face, we engage in "face-work" which helps to maintain each others' identities through communication. Based on observations of three language cultures, Brown and Levinson outline a typology of linguistic politeness strategies which are usefully remembered when interacting with cultural difference.
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