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Monthly Archives: April 2009
The year was 1997. During a graduate school take-home exam in abstract algebra, one of my fellow students emailed the questions to AskDrMath.com and received answers before the exam was due.
Fast forward to 2005. One of my international graduate students showed me a website hosted in his home country (in a language not based on the Roman alphabet, therefore not easily searched by most westerners). Students post homework, exams, and solutions for many North American universities, indexed by class and professor.
I was happy to see that the Wall Street Journal wrote about these issues in their 9-April-2009 article “Do Study Sites Make the Grade?” by A.M. Chaker, pp. D1-D2.  If you aren’t aware, online study sites give students access to homeworks and exams posted by hundreds of thousands of registered users. They are the old sorority/fraternity files in the Internet age. According to the article, solutions to 225 textbooks are also now on the web. Furthermore, students post and answer questions from fellow users around the globe.
In a recent article in the International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Kolb and Joy (2009) investigated whether there are cultural differences in learning styles. Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI) was tested on participants from seven nations. The inventory provides scores for two dimensions: (1) from abstract conceptualization to concrete experience and (2) from active experimentation to reflective observation.
The following cultural factors were found to impact learning styles. Collectivism, future orientation, and gender egalitarianism correlated with a preference for abstract conceptualization over concrete experience. The effect of culture was significant. The seven nations are situated on the scale as follows:
A preference for reflective observation over active experimentation was correlated with the cultural factors of uncertainty avoidance and assertiveness; the effect, however, was only marginal. Age and area of specialization had more impact.
The authors argue that, in the first years of higher education, before discipline-specific conditioning has taken root, culture-based differences may be especially pronounced, and that instructors should make sure to design learning situations that take into account cultural differences in learning styles.
How do you teach to each?
Joy, S., & Kolb, D. A. (2009). Are there cultural differences in learning style? International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 33(1), 69-85.