on education

thoughts from a graduate student at the university of mary washington

cross-cultural education. week nine.


This week, we have been asked to look at the differences between cultures and how it will affect our classrooms. The cultural patterns and values of Asian Americans is of special importance. Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the Asian population in the United States grew 46% (United States Census Bureau, 2011). As of the 2010 census, 17.3 million people identified themselves as Asian (United States Census Bureau, 2011). This means a growing number of students in our classrooms will come from this ethnic makeup, and it is important for us as educators to know their cultural backgrounds so that we can be more effective.

cultural patterns of asian americans

It is important to note that “Asian American” actually encompasses many different people that share similar cultural traits. The ethnic group of Asian includes Cambodians, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Mien, and Vietnamese peoples (Uba, 1994, p. 1). While some of the overarching cultural traits are the same for these groups, they also have their own nuances that make each subset of Asian Americans unique. Some of the broad brushstrokes we can apply to this ethnic subset of the population are as follows:

  • They typically do not show intense emotion. In fact, such a display is seen as as a “loss of face” (Elliott, 2010).
  • Social status is important, and one’s place in the caste should always be known. Direct eye contact, especially with people of a higher station or in an authority position, is avoided (Elliott, 2010).
  • They are group-oriented, placing less emphasis on the individual and more on the collective. Identity and status are intimately tied to the status of the family throughout life (Elliott, 2010).
  • They tend to take the long view of things, and are much better at being patient than their Anglo-American counterparts (Elliott, 2010).
  • They are not blunt, to-the-point people. Rather, they tend to talk in circles and may seem evasive when they answer questions (Elliott, 2010).

the impact of gender roles on teaching and learning

According to an article in the Journal of School Psychology, girls are more prone than boys to display learned helplessness, or attributing a failure to a lack of ability and giving up easily on the task (Meece, Glienke, & Burg, 2006). Girls tend to see themselves as excelling in the arts and language, whereas boys see themselves stronger in science and mathematics.

There has been much research on the achievement expectations of girls vs. boys in the classroom. Studies have shown that teachers tend to give much more time to boys than to girls for any kind of feedback, positive or negative, and also for providing time to reach content mastery (Meece, et al., 2006).

Girls tend to view their achievement in terms of effort, and not ability, whereas boys link their achievement to ability. Boys also tend to engage more with their teachers, providing for more interaction. “Whether or not these teacher-student interactions reflect teacher responsivity, the patterns serve to reinforce gender role stereotypes of male authority and competence” (Meece, et al., 2006). This shows that teachers, whether on purpose or not, give more opportunities to the boys in their class than the girls. Add to that the research that shows that girls have a higher rate of learned helplessness, and it shapes up to look like being female puts students at a disadvantage in the classroom.

the role of educational technologies

In our push for 21st century learning, we are often asking our students to become more autonomous, experiential learners. The educator’s job is to set up the learning process, letting the students discover on their own. This usually includes some kind of educational technology, whether it be projectors, computers, or Web 2.0 tools. In our culture, this is what we value. It would be pertinent, though, to understand the cultural value of technology in the classroom for differing cultures (in this instance, Asian). “In some cultures, students are not encouraged to be independent learners, but are expected to honor their teachers and be guided by them in all their learning” (Williams & Rogers, 2009). The attitude with which our students approach educational technology greatly shapes the results that we see in the classroom.

how i will come to know my students

At the beginning of the year (and also as I get new students), I like to start with an All About Me segment. We make posters with pictures about ourselves, including some of our favorite things, places we’ve been, books, poems, and more. I like to spend time getting to know where each of my students is from, and what their cultural heritage is. I like to have “bring a favorite family recipe” day in class, during which students often get to experience multiple cultures through food. In the younger grades, I think that “show & tell” is a fantastic way to get to know a student’s likes, hobbies, and heritage.

As we go along in the year, I learn more about how they learn and how they approach education, which helps me to tailor the way I approach teaching them.

how will the differences between anglo-european americans and asian american students affect teaching and relationships with students and parents? 

The way that these two cultures mesh will be very interesting in a classroom setting. Anglo-European Americans tend to differ greatly from Asian Americans in many regards, making the relationships I make with parents and students different between the two groups. It’s important to always keep them in mind so as not to offend. Some of the major differences are:

  • Anglo-Europeans tend to speak directly and in a linear pattern, often being very frank and to the point. Asian Americans will often use metaphor, allusion, or other rhetorical patterns that walk around the point instead of heading straight to it (Elliott, 2010).
  • Anglo-Europeans tend to see the identity as unique and dealing with one individual. It is not connected to a collective, be it an ethnic group or family, as it often is with Asian Americans. Anglo-European children are raised to be self-sufficient, whereas Asian children lean on family and have their identities intimately tied to those family groups (Elliott, 2010).
  • Many Anglo-Europeans view time as a linear idea, and you can never get back what you’ve lost. They’re obsessed with the idea of wasting time and saving time, and because of this try to do things as efficiently and quickly as possible. This is in stark contrast to Asians, who see time cyclically and tend to take their time with things (Elliott, 2010).
  • Anglo-Europeans tend to look people in the eye, especially if they’re being spoken to. Speakers are also expected to look people in the eye as a sign of honesty and sincerity. Asians see looking somebody like a teacher in the eye as a sign of disrespect (Elliott, 2010).

These major points mean that I have to approach my students and their parents in very different ways in terms of instruction, communication, and assessment. For example, I can’t assume that one of my Asian students is lying to me about completing a homework assignment because (s)he refuses to look at me and explain the situation. Because I come from an Anglo-European background, these cultural norms are imbedded in me; I don’t even think about them. However, to be successful, I need to be very mindful of other cultures present in my classroom, and how they compare with my own.

I found this video on the Teaching Tolerance website. In it, a 3rd grade teacher discusses some of the stereotypes placed on Asian students in the classroom.



Elliott, C. (2010). Communication patterns and assumptions of differing cultural groups in the united states . Retrieved from http://www.awesomelibrary.org/multiculturaltoolkit-patterns.html

Meece, J. L., Glienke, B. B., & Burg, S. (2006). Gender and motivation. Journal of School Psychology,44, 351-373. Retrieved from http://clint.sharedwing.net/research/equity/gendermotivation.pdf

Uba, L. (1994). Asian americans: personality patterns, identity, and mental health. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=1ZV1zIFxadIC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=cultural patterns of asian americans&ots=K_ir0vbc6Q&sig=FFDBvISHhrJ02BGJUsHM331hmOA

United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb11-ff06.html

Williams, D. D. & Rogers, P. C. (2009). Educational Technologies and Cultural Dimensions. In M. K. Barbour & M. Orey (Eds.), The Foundations of Instructional Technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/itFoundations/

posted under EDCI 506
2 Comments to

“cross-cultural education. week nine.”

  1. Avatar October 28th, 2012 at 2:17 pm Olivia Costello Says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog this week! There was a lot a great information on the cultural differences between asian americans and anglo-european americans, information that will be useful when it comes to teaching! I also really liked the video that you posted and thought that the teacher made some very important points. She highlighted the fact that all students are different, therefore, learn at their own pace. It is important not to assume that a child will be good at something based on their race. She also gave useful tips on how to teach students from different cultural backgrounds, for example small groups and flash cards. Great post, very interesting!

  2. Avatar October 28th, 2012 at 4:24 pm Cassie Says:

    You bring up a lot of good points about the culture of Asians and Asian Americans. One of the things I found interesting when researching Asian American culture was a debate over whether or not the term “Asian American” should include a dash. I think this debate speaks volumes about the difference and similiarities between Asian culture and Asian American culture. In my opinion Asian Americans are more like Asians and less like Americans in most ways.

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