Edev_501 Response wk1_7

A major, but challenging, aspect of intercultural interactions is the degree to which we are products of our culture and to which we are individuals within that culture. You explain clearly this dichotomy in your depiction of the general and the individual. Japanese students, like the Taiwanese ones you mention, can be seen as silent and unforthcoming in class. Goto Butler argues that communicative teaching methodologies are hampered by ‘ differences in cultural values towards learning and teaching, given the Confucian cultural heritage of East Asian nations’ (2005), a view supported by Altbach who compares the different traditions in the West as being influenced by Platonic and Aristotelian ideals and those in the East by Confucius (Altbach, 2006). For a good overview of Confucianism and how it impacts on education, see Yang et al. (2006). However, a good antidote against colouring the whole with the same brush comes from Cortazzi and Jin. Their study compares three groups of learner, Chinese, Japanese and British, and asks them what defines a good student (Cortazzi and Jin, 1996). The responses show a highly variable attitude that often contradicted the expectations of the authors (p. 51), pointing to the need to reconsider the role of Confucianism more closely. An interesting example (p. 47) is the degree to which a student ‘develops independent thinking’ is valued across these three cultures.





A good student develops independent thinking




Table 1. From Cortazzi and Jin (1996). Good students and independent thinking

Chinese students rate independent thinking higher than the others, and there is a marked difference between the two Confucianist cultures. Indeed, Miller (1995) implies that independent thinking is a ‘trait[s] that the Japanese admire most … sasshi, the ability to glean messages from a minimum number of explicit cues’ (p. 36). These references are around twenty years old, but even more recently writers draw on the Confucian argument to define broad characteristicstypical in Eastern educational contexts (see for example, Mehmet, 2008 and Weaver, 2009). Clearly, a lot more work is required to unpack the effects of culture on the individual. This is something I’d like to know more about.


Altbach, P. G. (2006). Research and Training in
Higher Education: The State of the Art. Higher Education: A Worldwide Inventory of Centers and Programs. Sense Publishers: The Netherlands.

Cortazzi, M. and Jin, L. 1996: Cultures of learning: language classrooms in China. In Coleman, H., editor, Society and the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 169–206.

Goto Butler, Y. (2005). Comparative perspectives towards communicative activities among elementary school teachers in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.Language Teaching Research 9[4]. pp. 423–446.

Mehmet, S. (2008). Intercultural competence for language teachers in Japan: Melding theory to practice. In K. Bradford-Watts (Ed.), JALT2007 Conference Proceedings. Tokyo: JALT.

Miller, T. 1995: Japanese learners’ reactions to communicative English lessons. JALT Journal 17(1). pp. 31–53.

Weaver, C. (2009). Trends in research on willingness to communicate. In A. M. Stoke (Ed.), JALT2008 Conference Proceedings. Tokyo: JALT.

Yang, B. & Zheng, W. & Li, M. (2006). Confucian View of Learning and Implications for Developing Human
Resources. Advances in Developing Human Resources 8[3]. pp. 346-354
DOI: DOI: 10.1177/1523422306288427

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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