By Lauren StephenSpecial to CSMS Magazine Different cultures perceive life in general differently. All human beings have a natural desire to learn. However, every culture has different learning styles that work best for them. As an educator, our job is to make sure that we understand other cultures and to use the learning style that will be the most affective for that child. To develop a plan on how to approach a 5th grade class with the following student clientele: 13 Haitians, 4 Cubans, 5 Guatemalan Mayans, 3 Chinese, and 2 Russians is of course a challenging task for any teacher. In order to affectively teach such a diverse student clientele, the educator must be familiar with the cultures cognitive styles, communication styles, and motivational styles. The cognitive style of a culture is basically the different ways of perceiving and processing information. The first cognitive learning style that can vary from culture to culture involves field independence versus field sensitivity. “Field independent students prefer to work independently, are task oriented, and prefer rewards based on individual competition” (Samovar, 2004). “Field sensitive students prefer to work with others, seek guidance from the teacher, and receive rewards based on group relations” (Samovar, 2004). An example of a field independent society is the United States, due to our society being highly industrialized and individualistic. Where as an example of a field sensitive society would be cultures such as Mexicans, Japanese, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. Another cognitive learning style that can vary from culture to culture is cooperation versus competition. Cooperation is taught more in the Latino cultures, African Americans, Asian, Filipino Americans, and Hawaiian Americans. The American culture focuses more on competition due to this culture being very individualistic. As an educator, it is necessary to understand these cultures different learning styles in order to teach affectively to a diverse student clientele (Samovar, 2004). The communication style of a culture involves speaking, listening, and critical thinking. Effective communication is very important, due to this is how learning occurs. The first communication style that can vary from culture to culture is direct versus indirect communication. The American culture is considered to be very open and direct when communicating with another person. However, there are cultures that believe that this direct way is inappropriate. For example, the Asian American community “views directness as a lack of intelligence” (Samovar, 2004). This could definitely be a problem because, as a teacher you do not want your Asian student to think that their teacher is not intelligent. Another communication style that differs from culture to culture is formal versus informal communication. Informal communication with an educator is what is practiced here in the United States; however, there are a number of cultures that believe otherwise. For example, in Taiwan, students rise when the teacher enters the room and greet the teacher in a formal way. The students do not sit down until the teacher tells them to. Egypt, Turkey, and Iran also believe in this formal relationship between teacher and student. As an educator, it is necessary to understand different communication styles that different cultures practice in order to have a comfortable classroom environment (Samovar, 2004). The motivational style of a culture is basically what gets the child interested in learning. The motivational style that can vary from culture to culture is intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. “Intrinsic motivation implies that the locus of motivation is found within. Extrinsic motivation reflects outside forces that impact upon the learner” (Samovar, 2004). For example, European Americans are considered to have intrinsic motivation, due to the desire to succeed academically in order to secure a job and make a lot of money. The American culture also uses intrinsic motivation in order to succeed in life. However, Asian students are motivated more extrinsically, which means that they succeed in order to impress their parents and relatives. As an educator, it is necessary to understand different motivational styles that different cultures practice in order to know how to encourage the student toward success. In order to effectively teach such a diverse student clientele, the educator must be familiar with the culture’s cognitive styles, communication styles, and motivational styles. The cognitive style of a culture is basically the different ways of perceiving and processing information. A culture’s cognitive style can vary due to whether they believe in individualism or collectivism. The communication style of a culture involves speaking, listening, and critical thinking. A culture’s communication style can vary due to whether they believe in being proper or informal. The motivational style of a culture is basically what gets the child interested in learning. A culture’s motivational style can vary due to whether the motivation comes from within or without. I believe that the most important thing to remember, as an educator, is to try many different learning styles and then use whatever ones work best for that specific child. I believe that this idea can be followed whether the student is a mainstream student, an ESOL student, or an ESE student.Note: Lauren Stephen is a retired teacher. She lives in Broward County, South Florida.
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