Independent learning crossing cultures: learning cultures and shifting meanings

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Spiro, Jane, Henderson, Juliet and Clifford, Valerie Anne (2012) Independent learning crossing cultures: learning cultures and shifting meanings. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 42 (4). pp. 607-616. ISSN 0305-7925 (print), 1469-3623 (online)


This paper contrasts the notion of ‘independent learning’ as perceived by two informant groups at a UK institution of higher education: (1) teachers, educators and providers of education and (2) their students or ‘consumers’ of education. Both informant groups are staff and students studying in a culture different to that of their first education. They are identified in their receiving institution as ‘international’, or have identified themselves as such. The experience of transition into a UK University was explored with both informant groups, through interviews and focus groups, over a cycle of two years. ‘Independent learning’ as rhetoric and practice emerged for both groups as an issue in their transition from familiar to unfamiliar learning culture. Three key insights emerged. Firstly, a mismatch is identified between teacher perceptions and student interpretation of ‘independent learning’ expectations and practice. Secondly, it emerges that student experience of the learning culture is in a state of continuous flux, evolving between first arrival and end of programme through cycles of bafflement and empowerment. Finally, both students and teachers identify a number of strategies for dealing with this experience of ‘transitional’ independence. The paper concludes by recommending a notion of ‘phased scaffolding’ that might inform educational practice and by reflecting on the implications for the educator in revisiting received educational discourse from the perspective of participants negotiating a second learning culture.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1080/03057925.2012.663607
Official URL
Subjects Current > Division/Research > Other
Historical > FOR Classification > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy
Historical > SEO Classification > 9301 Learner and Learning
Keywords ResPubID24395, ResPubID25717, higher education teaching, tertiary education, international students, student experience, multiculturalism
Citations in Scopus 7 - View on Scopus
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