Cultural Perspectives on Teaching and Learning: A Collaborative Self-study of Two Professors’ First Year Teaching Experiences

Apr. 02, 2011

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 7, No. 1, April 2011, 19–33.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors used self-study to present their views of teaching and learning.
The authors were interested to examine how their different cultural backgrounds influenced the formation of their perspectives.
Furthermore, the authors wanted to explore how their exchange of views of teaching and learning supported their teaching practice.

The authors were both female new assistant professors hired by East Carolina University.
The first author, Ran Hu, grew up in China and was a high school English teacher in Beijing before she moved to the United States for graduate study. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor specializing in Reading Education.

The second author, Judith Smith, was an elementary school teacher and family literacy administrator in American public schools for 28 years. She is now an Assistant Professor teaching in Elementary Education.

Data Collection
Data sources in this self-study included personal journals from fall 2008 to summer 2009, eight transcriptions of the monthly support group meetings, Student Opinion of Instruction Surveys (SOIS), and peer evaluations of teaching.

Findings and Discussion

The authors used the exchange of views on teaching and learning to rethink how they learned to teach and identify useful knowledge for improving their instruction.

Ran, the first author, learned from Judy that having an interesting and inviting environment is one key to motivating students’ active learning.
The first author also learned the importance of providing a variety of formats such as digital platforms to motivate learning. As a result, students gained content knowledge and technology applications, necessary skills for twenty-first century teachers.
Finally, the first author also learned from her colleague that students in the US value working at their individual academic level and speed, and teachers advocate differentiated instruction and methods of praise.

Despite her American background in education, Judy embraced the eastern views of learning: diligence, respect, and virtue. She shared these values with her American students.
Judy felt that Ran’s influence of learning and sharing together gave her a new global awareness and perspective that enhanced her teaching and in turn inspired her students.
In addition, Judy also learned that an understanding teacher can also be a strict teacher in terms of establishing a positive and serious learning environment. She found that having her students adhere to strict policies of attendance and stringent due dates for completing assignments developed responsibility in her students


The authors conclude that differences in their teaching perspectives demonstrated the different points of view in the educational systems in the two countries.
However, through this collaborative self-study experience, the authors obtained a better understanding of the teaching values of their own and another culture.
The authors recognized the differences between the two cultures, and they became more aware of the power in each culture and applied the strengths of each to pursue teaching excellence.

Updated: Sep. 24, 2012