Features and problems of pedagogical discourse in polycultural environment

Often communicants belonging to different cultural systems have a small «crossing region» even if they use English for communication. However, knowing basic discursive models peculiar to this or that culture it will be possible to substantially optimize the process of communication. To a large extent, the reason for this will be in the ambiguousness of the role of the teacher and the trainee in different cultures. As it has been already noted above in Eastern cultures the teacher is a «guru» and his/her pedagogical discourse represents a narrative consisting of «quīnta essentia of wisdom» which the trainee should «absorb» without reservation. In Western cultures the teacher is most likely a certain attendant — «the tutor» and «the coach» whose function predominantly relates to the activity of targeting the trainee and «to train» him/her to solve problems individually. In the pedagogical discourse of any culture it is possible to emphasize objectives, values, strategies, subtypes and genres (Karasik, 2002).

Please note that values of pedagogical discourse will not be of universal nature for all cultures. In every lingual culture there will be some specific values forming the basis of cognitive worldview. In individualistic cultures values are expressions of own, personified position. In community cultures vice versa discourse should reflect harmony, some fusion with a group, collective. Strategies of pedagogical discourse are often consist of communicational incentives customizing the main objective of the human socialization: explaining, estimating; controlling, assisting, organising.

It shall be also noted that there is a difference between individualistic and community cultures in the context of frequency of use of discourse strategies. In our opinion organizing and explaining strategies for example will be more frequently used in community cultures; assisting and controlling strategies will be used in individualistic cultures. Western communicative strategy in education is formed according to the following model: first the answer goes and then its motivation. In eastern culture vice versa first reasons for the answer go and then the answer itself. In cultures with high index of individualism more attention is paid to the contents of the message and the context in this case plays secondary role. As has already been noted above cultures of this type are called low-context using cognitive style of information exchange. In community cultures called high-context people are addicted to laying great emphasis on how the massage was said. Therefore, we can take up the position that the emotionality level directly depends on the affiliation with this or that culture.

  1. Triandis emphasizes differentiated communication strategies for different cultures. According to the opinion of the researcher the Americans usually use short phrases. In the majority of high-context (eastern) cultures this form of communication is not approved. People in the discourse of the majority of high-context cultures (Brazil, Armenia) often practice exaggeration («the most horrible», «the most terrible»). Low-context cultures are characterized as moderate and reserved.

Discourse structures in different cultures will have significant differences. Triandis notes that cultural specifics will determine the structure of the informational message. For example, in Anglo-Saxon cultures argumentation is formed linearly. They specified facts which were the basis of conclusion (induction). In Arab cultures there is a general provision with confirming examples (deduction). In the opinion of Triandis the Semitic principle of argumentation (including Arab cultures) is an aggregate of parallel arguments connected with each other using one or several prepositions.

As far as harmony is important for representatives of community cultures; then the communication dominant primarily will be kindly atmosphere but not the problem of reality. Representatives of individualistic cultures value facts. According to our supervision representatives of individualistic cultures predominantly use individualistic-oriented type of discourse. Representatives of community cultures prefer status-oriented one. It means that western discourse will have the structure of «fact-fact-fact-conclusion». In the eastern discourse conclusion will dominate immediately without perceptible logical evidence. Representatives of individualistic cultures generally demonstrate great flexibility when choosing discourse strategies of communication depending on the context.

Nisbet points out that eastern students being trained in the West cannot use principles of classical rhetoric. They do not participate in discussions. Sphere of language and literature furthers the preservation of cognitive differences: grammar of Indo-European languages furthers the concept of the world built of atomic blocks while Asian languages give an idea of the world as a continuous and interpenetrative item. Eastern languages are high-context. Qualitative differences in reactions confirm propositions that when solving the same issues representatives from the East and the West will activate different cognitive processes.

It is obvious that specifics of academic writing in different cultures will not be universal and be a direct consequence of accepted communicational models in the system «teacher-student» and, also, peculiar to cognitive models of this cultural group. Let’s begin with the fact that different genres of academic writing are used in cultures with high index of individualism – essay – expression of individual position is a matter of discussion with recognized authorities in this sphere. In cultures with high index of collectivism it is usual to develop the material based on authoritative sources and generally for these texts absence of distinct discussions when stating is peculiar. Different attitude to adoptions: in cultures with high index of collectivism it is usual to copy the style of stating of «authorities», in cultures with high index of individualism it is usual to value the originality. The training process of academic writing in different cultures is organized in different ways:

  • In cultures with high index of individualism this process is organized in special centers or components of the curriculum
  • In cultures with high index of collectivism this process is organized in the process of communication with the research supervisor

One of paramount problems connected with cross-cultural educational environment is a problem of quality and adequacy of

feedback (timeliness of responses, degree of drafting precision of objectives and tasks by teachers (tutors)) what to a greater

degree is also conditioned of the cultural context.

As can be seen from the above there are following development tracks of cross-cultural didactics:
  • understanding of objectives and values of education of different cultural groups;
  • features of national psychology (national character, specifics of thinking, epistemology, behavior and activity)
  • specifics of communication in the system «teacher-student»
  • specifics of representation of the educational content
  • specifics of relevant methods, materials
  • specifics of pedagogical discourse and academic writing

See more: Cross-cultural multimedia didactics is a new direction of online pedagogy

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