Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Some of the most influential research on cultural values has been done by Geert Hofstede. His empirical studies of work-related values have been extended to 74 countries. He has identified five major dimensions along which cultural values vary: high vs. low power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity, uncertainty avoidance vs. uncertainty acceptance, and short-term vs. long-term orientation.
The aim is not to use these cultural generalisations to stereotype and to suggest that cultural groups are all the same or will not be altered at all by experience. These five dimensions provide us with a framework for developing our understanding of particular situations, anticipating cultural conflicts and addressing them through personal dialogue.
In a teaching situation these dimensions help us to understand why some students behave differently in classroom routines, have difficulty meeting our criteria for good academic work. We need to bear in mind that culturally determined behaviours cannot just be changed through talking about them. Values are deep-seated and have developed over time. They cannot be changed just by picking up another set, like a new item of clothing. This has implications for migrant, refugee and international students. Power Distance
• Power distance measures the degree to which wealth, prestige and power are equally distributed in a culture, as well as how much equality/inequality and dependence/independence are desired • High Power Distance cultures tend to be hierarchical, emphasise dependence and conformity (e.g. Malaysia and Philippines), take a top down approach and tell juniors what to do • Low Power Distance cultures tend to be egalitarian, believe that power differences between individuals and classes of people should be minimized and value independence (e.g. Austria, Israel, Great Britain, and the Netherlands). They take an inclusive approach, use gentle persuasion and don't feel threatened by questions.
|Implications for teaching | |High power distance |Low power distance | | | | |Teachers |Teachers | |take initiative i.e. |expect initiative from students (student-centred) | |teacher-centred teaching |admit when they don’t know the answer. Are prepared to | |initiate all communication in class |listen to and learn from students. | |transfer personal wisdom like a guru |Students | |Students |expected to speak up in class, question | |treat teachers with respect even outside class |contribute to quality of learning | |depend on teachers for quality of learning |treat teachers as equals | Individualism
Individualism is characterised by individuals subordinating the goals of the collectives (e.g. family, community and work team) to their personal goals. The smallest unit of survival is the individual. Importance is placed on individual rights, personal identity and independence (e.g. North America, Great Britain, and Australia)
Collectivism is characterised by individuals subordinating their personal goals to the goals of some collectives. The smallest unit of survival is the collective. Importance is...
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