Transmitting Chinese-style teaching
Wenger argues that 'engagement in practice involves investing not only in what we do but also in relations with others' (1998, p. 192). In the following section, I will investigate how the three participants view their interaction with Danish students.
Danish students have little knowledge about China and Chinese cultural norms. They show little interest in them and little passion for learning about them. They treat us as equals. They barely recognise the notion of discipline, and they tend to ignore the importance of class attendance. Some students leave the class in the middle of a lesson. They like to ask questions and can sometimes be very critical of teachers. The majority of students accept homework in moderate quantities, but they will say no - or refuse to do it - if we give them too much. (Grace)
Danish students, in general, are very casual and non-disciplinary in terms of their classroom behaviour and learning attitude. The majority have difficulty focusing on learning. They are interest-orientated, which means they learn when they are interested in something. Some of the students can be quite moody. Rather than studying individually, the majority of students prefer group work. (Thomas)
I sincerely believe that the Danish learning atmosphere is so relaxing that there is no study pressure on the students at all. What is more, they hate learning pressure created by teachers in the classroom. In my opinion, Danish students are not accustomed to competition and pressure. And they have absolutely no drive for competition. I once asked the students to assess each other by scoring the other students' spoken performance in class. They did not refuse to do this, but after the lecture, they told me that they did not like assessing each other openly by giving scores. In general, they strongly dislike this teaching method. They claimed it was a Chinese-style teaching method. Since they told me about it, I think, perhaps, I had better accept it. (Rebecca)
When asked about their interaction with Danish students, the participants remarked that some of their Danish students lacked discipline, enthusiasm for China and Chinese learning, and a competitive drive, and were critical of teachers and their methods. Grace asserted that Danish students treat the teachers as equals, which highlights her view of the difference between the teacher-student relationship in China and Denmark. In China, students are viewed as students with proper manners in terms of learning behaviour and attitudes, which means that Chinese students seldom question teachers. They abide to classroom attendance rules and complete assignments; whereas, in Denmark, students are recognised as independent and free individuals, so, in a certain sense, they do not view or treat teachers as authorities. For example, Grace claims, 'they will say no - or refuse to do it [their homework] - if we give them too much.'
Rebecca examines this difference in pedagogical perception by juxtaposing 'Chinese-styled teaching' and 'Danish-styled teaching'. She argues that this dichotomy exists across several aspects. For example, in China, it is believed that reasonable pressure and mutual competition are good for students. However, this pedagogical outlook is not accepted among Danish students. Instead, Danish students directly communicate their teaching method 'likes' and 'dislikes' to the teacher. Such direct teacher- student communication was difficult to accept by the participants: both Rebecca and Grace struggled to adapt to it. However, the participants claim to recognise their Danish students' opinions: as Rebecca said, 'They claimed it was a Chinese-style teaching method. Since they told me about it, I think, perhaps, I had better accept it.' On the one hand, these remarks signal that the participants take seriously the opinions and responses from Danish students; on the other hand, they also signal that the participants are willing to make compromises at the expense of the values to which they are committed.