Tag Archives: learning style

Be Brave: Speak Up in Class

By Masae (Emily) Yamanaka

An Overview

In many Asian cultures, it is very common for students to not speak at all in a classroom setting. They are merely in schools to absorb as much knowledge as possible from the teachers. Absolute obedience is viewed as a virtue. “I don’t want to waste other people’s time.” “Nothing I share can be that important to interrupt the flow of the lecture.” “Teachers know best.” Almost all the Asian international students I have had resonated similar sentiments.

On the contrary, in a traditional American classroom, you will find the teacher picking on students to voice their opinions. With that being said, it does not mean blurting out anything you can think of in class. Your responses should be relevant and contribute to the topic under discussion. This system strives to build young independent leaders and focus on sharpening critical thinking skills of the youths.

The Two Systems

A main difference between Eastern and Western educations lies in its prime focus. Asian systems utilizes teacher-centric classes where the teacher serves as the main authoritarian figure and answers questions directly from the pupils. Lecture is the main mode of instruction. Students are often dissuaded from exchanging ideas with each other.

The American system employs a student-centered setting where students share ideas with each other and actively participate in the learning and teaching process. Originality is greatly stressed upon and valued. Since each student is unique and no two students have the exact ways of thinking, students can learn from each other and stimulate self-understanding by listening to others’ questions.

Personally, I think Eastern educational institutions offer a wider breadth of knowledge, as teachers who specialize in specific topics get more time to instruct without disturbance. However, being given more content does not equate to the amount of substance pupils actually absorb on average. This one-way direction hinders solidarity as youths are taught to unquestionably oblige to what is given. A more collaborative setting not only promotes critical thinking but serves as a built-in check-and-balance within the classroom since teachers would need to take into account inquiries of everyone and could not simply recycle previous teaching material. At the end of the day, humans are individually unique and each class’s batch of students are different from another.

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The Selfish Learner

By Dominique Murdock 

So there you are in class… the lecture has started, pens and pencils are diligently scribbling all around you, heads nod up and down in agreement with the lecture, and everyone seems to be in sync… except you. There you sit, worried, confused, and nervous because you feel like the bus left without you. At this point, you may look something like this…

Photo by Lucélia Ribeiro on Flickr

You begin to panic. You can literally feel your heart beating in your throat. You know that if you could just ask one well-worded question, you would have a better understanding of the lesson. You think about raising your hand, but the idea of interrupting the flow of class for your “stupid question” seems annoying and counterproductive to the learning environment. You feel stuck and frustrated… what do you do?

Photo from clipart-library.com

First… you TAKE A BREATH. That’s right… step one to becoming a selfish (and in turn, more informed learner) is pausing your brain and taking a relaxing, clarifying breath. Kind of like this guy here…

See how his nostrils flare with confidence as he prepares himself to take on the world? Or rather the class? Yep, a deep breath can calm the receptors in your brain and allow you to achieve the clarity you need to focus.

The next step is to recognize your power. Yep, crazy thought but here, in our educational system, students have this beautiful thing called power, or more specifically, the ability to focus the class into the direction that best fits the needs of the students. As a learner, your main goal is to do just that… LEARN. As a paying college student, your #1 right is to attain information using the means that work best for your style of learning. What does this mean? It means that you have the absolute right to ASK QUESTIONS. No matter how big or small they may seem, questions are how we clarify understanding so that we can then move on to the next bit of consumed information. There is absolutely no way to learn without questioning, so you are encouraged and expected to do so. 🙂

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