Experience of young learners

Osborn et al. (2003) conducted a study comparing the experience of young learners in England, France and Denmark in order to examine the relationship between national educational cultures, individual biographies and classroom practices in creating the context for learning. As part of their study they looked specifically at the classroom context as a reflection of national values. One aspect of this was examining teacher–pupil relationships. Before discussing their findings, how are these three countries characterized according to Hofstede’s cultural model? How might these dimensions of national culture shape the classroom environment and the teacher–pupil relationship in particular?

Denmark has a PDI score of 18, France 68, and the United Kingdom 35. In terms of individualism, the UK is the most individualistic with a score of 89. This is followed by Denmark with a score of 74 and then France with a score of 71. Finally, the most masculine of the three is the UK with a score of 66, followed by France with a score of 43 and then at the bottom is Denmark with a score of 16 (Hofstede et al., 2010).

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Osborn et al. (2003, p. 115) found the following:

  • The distance between teacher and pupils was at its greatest in France.
  • There was more inequality between teacher and pupil status in France than in England or Denmark and more formality (pupils used the vous from to address teachers, teachers used tu to pupils).
  • The non-involvement of teachers in France with the affective domain of children’s learning led to a relationship which was mainly restricted to the intellectual development of pupils.
  • Interactions between French teachers and pupils were mainly restricted to the classroom context.
  • The role of the French teacher prioritizes subject expertise and pedagogic skill at transferring knowledge to pupils. Knowledge equates with power in the French classroom.

Answer the following key questions:

  • How can Hofstede’s model of national cultural dimensions be used to help explain Osborn et al.’s findings? Which dimension is more relevant when looking at pupil–teacher relationships?
  • How might Hofstede’s model also be used to explain other differences, such as assessment practice, attitudes to learning, the organisation of schools and motivation to learn?

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