A classmate gave me interesting feedback after reading my last blog post Learning is not one size fit all. She commented that she would like to see a following post on how learning in a Middle Eastern culture is different from what we consider normal in American culture. If you read my last post you would know that I come from a Middle Eastern background and have had the experience to be part of various international dialogue forums to promote cultural exchange. Though I have been in many conversations on how our cultures can be different, I never compared how a Middle Eastern culture can have a different effect on learning compared to the American culture. After all, they have various similarities.
Answering this question is not very simple! Culture adds depth and complexity to any experience, and learning is an experience after all. I would start with how the teacher is perceived, where I come from the teacher plays the role of the sage on the stage, students look at the teacher as the trusted source of knowledge leaving little space for evaluating the new information, or speaking up their own opinion if it was different. This brings us to the most popular used teaching style which is the authority style, and second by the demonstrator style. Learners follow set curriculum leaving them with less control over their learning experience. Students are mainly motivated to study to pass exams and get good or passing grades. Most of the school work is done independently, and the focus is not fully on the student. These are some of the differences I noticed. Culture is not the only reason for these differences, school systems, type of school private or governmental, grade level, all play a role.
However, I realized that the gap between how learning is in the Middle East compared to America is decreasing over the years, and the main reason is globalization. It is difficult nowadays to ignore citizens who belong to a global culture, a culture that was built due to the integration of different people, cultures, products, information, media, and technology.
With this concept in mind, it is important to think of the similarities just as important to think of the differences. So, when to look for the difference and when for the similarities? Cultural differences or qualities are important to analyze when we are designing a learning experience targeting local learners from a specific area, region, state, or country. While the similarities are important to consider when designing instructions for global learners or citizens.
“Education gives us a profound understanding that we are tied together as citizens of the global community, and that our challenges are interconnected.”Ban ki-moon – UN former Secretary-General
In my view, I encourage developing global citizens who are aware of global issues and problems happening in the world. This can happen not only by developing learning interventions for global learners but local ones as well. As an instructional designer, I see the importance of working with educational and corporate institutes on raising awareness of global matters, and how can we develop local learners with global awareness. Current global issues that are affecting every culture and country – such as the ones stated by the United Nations SDGs – need local citizens with global minds. Besides, many of today’s work environments are multicultural who have their difference but share similarities with others.
I find it important for us to be able to develop instructional material and learning experiences for global citizens because eventually, more and more educational platforms are opening to the world with learning resources such as online programs, MOOCs, and hybrid or blended education. From the time the world wide web became more common, and people around the world were brought closer by traveling and communication technologies, we transformed to global citizens who can belong and add value where ever they are.
This is a big topic and I have only touched the tip of the iceberg, but I encourage you to look into the topic of global citizenship education, and available frameworks that we can utilize as instructional designers.
For now, I leave you with this question: do you identify yourself as a global citizen. If so, do you find it affecting how you design instructions and learning experiences? While I will be working on a following post that would explore this educational approach in more detail.