Networked learning : Cross-cultural learning : Creativity & Innovation

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07 August 2003

So blogs really ARE dialogue tools! Here's Roy's - not Ray's, sorry Roy - response to my posting of his reply to a little thing I wrote about culture and elearning. This time, I make no comments at all, but just added one link in the first line. Read on and enjoy...

In response to Patrick Dunn’s equally passionate response to an earlier post of mine (by the way, it is R-o-y, and please not Ray), I would hope to clarify one or two things. As Sir Thomas More once stated, “I have no window to look into another man’s soul.”, but if Mr. Dunn felt that, I was being intellectually dishonest in my response to his own vague referencing to cultural research, I will leave him to his judgements. However, I will attend to the unmentioned weaknesses of his understanding of cultural value research. There is no, to my understanding, neutral position above culture from which to view our world, society – and more importantly, in this case, eLearning.

Patrick correctly pointed out that I also used the Martin & Jennings article as a base for my response. However, what he does not point out as clearly (“…an important source for my own research”) is the fact the he also took their arguments ‘lock, stock and barrel’ in order to support his previous comments on the cultural aspects of eLearning. Therefore, as this was not clearly stated in his original post, I took aim at the Martin & Jennings summary. I am also not aware of any of Patrick’s contribution, and would have expected a bit more than just a hyperlink to the report. Hence, I did not cite the source because he also took rather large liberties in being ‘inspired’. I stand corrected, and wish to offer any apologies for any perceived wrongdoings if this was considered insufficient referencing or citation standards.

However, as I understood his article as a summary/comparison of the Martin & Jennings article, I then felt it necessary to try to break down the arguments because the Martin & Jennings article and what he understands of cultural value research made his point. However, both of his sources are pretty much, as I can determine by the critical reasoning demonstrated and his lack of contribution to either researchers’ work, are attributed to Mr. Dunn own expertise. My point was, and remains so, that would be fine, IF, one were to truly understand one’s sources and build a valid argument. It was on this “…very passionate about this subject, because i) it matters ii) there's a lot of rubbish written about it” point that I take issue with Patrick’s arguments in his previous article.

One wonders if Mr. Dunn is aware of the facts of Mr. Trompenaars’ work in any detail other than buying his books and reading them. The Trompenaars’ database consists of participants in Trompenaars’ own cross-cultural workshops, others employed in 30 firms in 50 countries. 75 % of the respondents belong to management, while the remainder are general administrative staff and female. In his original work, Trompenaars did not even declare whether his questionnaire was in English, and if it was translated, how it was done in accordance with standard back-translations – as is now the standard. This does not speak of a representative sample.

This demonstrates that this research, in itself, is a form cultural bias because we, in “Western societies”, are taught certain things. We cannot chop these things into pieces, discard parts, as we will, which a culture regards as a whole or diffusely organised – as Mr. Dunn incorrectly asserts with his strong referencing to the cultural research from Hofstede and Trompenaars.

In fact, Trompenaars’ research is largely based on his own dissertation research (Trompenaars, 1985), which consisted of a 79-item, across 653 respondents, divided over nine countries and two industries (oil and hosiery), and seven job categories (from unskilled to managers of managers). The seven subscales correspond to the seven dimensions of Trompenaars’ later work and demographics distribution.

Hofstede’s research could be seen as an Aristotelian logic category of A and non-A; if you are individualist, you cannot be a collectivist. Culture should not be measured in such a linear form or mutually exclusive as Mr. Dunn argued (“It makes perfect sense that a culture, like the US, that is highly individualistic, has a short-term orientation and relatively masculine views of gender roles (from Hofstede’s data) should embrace behaviourism so completely, and be so reluctant to let it go; … So looking at Swedish elearning providers (try Celemi) it’s not surprising that they have so few similarities with US companies in the same sector..”) and his subsequent summary of learning styles and success rates. For example, why is that Americans form more volunteer associations/organisations than anyone else in the world? This form of work requires teamwork, teams and closely allied members, i.e. collectivism. His argument is in direct conflict with his “USA= highly individualistic” comment. There should be more of an answer than just laying it off on Hofstede’s research.

I see culture as more curvilinear or net-centric than Mr. Dunn’s interpretations because of the infinite possibilities for exceptions, singular adaptations resulting from organisational, individual, religious and education al differences.

The survey questionnaire from Trompenaars used four subscales that were entirely taken from existing U.S. social science literature (Stoufer and Toby, 1951) and included some longer “dilemmas” that Trompenaars’ created himself. His thesis concluded that countries could be divided into “Left Brain” (USA, Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and Greece) and “Right Brain” (Venezuela, Spain, Italy and Singapore). “Left Brain” countries were categorised at the same time were individualist, universalist, specific, attributing status by achievement, future-oriented and dominating nature, and “Right brain” countries were the opposite.

I am afraid for what this says in response to Patrick’s comment, “It will be a sign of elearning’s maturity when north American methods of learning and views of knowledge are but one colour in a broad palette, rather than the industry’s substrate.”, when he himself is using these same North American-based management, sociology and psychology measures (but from the 1950s and 60s…) in determining his current stance on the cultural aspects of eLearning.

Interestingly enough, Trompenaars’ 1993 book removes all references to the “Left/Right Brains”. Smith, Hofstede and Bond separately attempted to duplicate his research but could not do so. There exists a great cloud of doubt over Trompenaars’ research because of simple methodological errors. In fact, his ‘Time Orientation’ model has never been correlated by anyone other than Trompenaars. His significant country-level correlations, for instance, universalism and attributing status by achievement indicate only that both orientations are high in a particular national culture, and not that they are endorsed by the same individuals or within the same organisations. Many in my field of cross-cultural/sociological value research would argue that this is a truism, but as an argument for highly correlated dimensions at a national culture-level, it is a non sequitur. In fact, Trompenaars simply confused conceptual categories with dimensions. Conceptual categories are a part of the mind of the researcher: they belong to the culture of the person who designed the research. In the case of ‘dilemmas’ by Trompenaars, these largely belong to the minds Parsons and Shils’ 1951 research, Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s 1961 value orientations.

I suppose my biggest difficulty in accepting the earnest, sincere reply of Mr. Dunn is that this type of blind dependence on cultural value research statistics in order to better “sell” his expertise as a mindful, culturally-aware eLearning instructional designer reminds me of the “Drunkard’s Search” principle, i.e. a scientific axiom that illustrates the importance of good sense in scientific research: if one were to lose something, then do not go looking under the lamppost because the light is better.

…where is your lamppost, Mr. Dunn?, where are you really looking?, and how are you searching?

Enjoying this vigorous discussion which aims to raise the bar of understanding and application of cultural value research...




3:41:43 PM    Any comments?  []

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