Inclusive pedagogy is a huge topic and I am going to reflect some changes during my learning process when my classmates have different background, culture, and point of view and the classroom environment is completely strange. Studying abroad gives me the chance to expose to people I would not otherwise meet and to the culture that I am very unfamiliar to. Especially, it gives me a new look at things that have not been questioned before.
I am adjusting my view about subjects
Before, my classes were divided by two main categories “primary classes” (science classes) and “secondary classes” (social science classes). Therefore, I spent most of the studying time for those science classes (same as other students), which was encouraged by my parents and my schools. Now, I still enjoy math and chemistry classes a lot and they have helped me a lot for other classes as well as my research. But I see two new things. First, I might remember the definition or a chemical formula better than my friends but they seem to know how to apply that piece of information into a real life problem much better than me. Second, my fellows know a lot about history, art, geography, and much more. And they care a lot of current social events that might affect the community. I am so embarrassed to say that I should have known much more about my home history and culture. No class should be classified as “secondary” compared to other classes.
I am changing my learning habit
In general, I am a product of a passive education system. I was taught in a way that students get all knowledge from teachers, listen to teacher’s lecture as a truth and without questions, take note, memorize information, and reproduce memorized information in exams. Now, I am trying to become an active learner since I am the one who plays the major role in my learning process, instead of the teacher. I have always preferred to study by myself. But this semester, I start trying to study with others in a small group. Beginning feedbacks seem to be positive.
I have learned some very new concepts. For example,
“Privilege”: for the first time, I understand the meaning of this word and clearly see my privilege in different contexts. I am so surprised that I might not experience the same environment as others. Then I think about my country, yes, I had seen how a city teacher and a countryside teacher received different reactions from students and their parents. Privilege exists in my country too. It just has not been defined in my home or I just do not realize it.
“Microaggression”: the same word, the same sentence, but for different people, it might have very different meaning. Suddenly, I think about an international instructor or an instructor of a multicultural classroom, who might face microaggression more frequently. Since they are in a powered position, their saying and action might have more effects on students.
Thanks! When I read your post, the education system you describe in your home country is quite the same as mine. I don’t know why our education systems are so passive compared to the western ones. Well, a stereotype of Asians is lack of creativity. So I think we should make a difference not only for ourselves, but also for our next generation to have a better education system.
You are not the first visiting student to mention that they grew up in a “passive education system” where the teacher’s word is law. I have several friends in my graduate-level cohorts who sincerely struggled with the graduate-level course work because it demanded active learning and discussion. They told me it was difficult accepting that it was no longer a “be taught” kind of world”. I wonder what would be the best of both worlds.
I admired that you are able to reflect upon your experiences with both a passive and active educational system. I know that I have taken some courses that are more passive. I learned in these courses that memorizing the ways of how things are done will allow you to do very well in those courses. However, when I took the subsequent courses, I cannot apply what I have learned in the previous courses because I only memorized how to do something rather than truly understanding it. I feel like I can remember something better if I try to understand it rather than memorizing it.
Thank you for sharing this, Hanh. I resonate with it so much because I had a similar educational upbringing. Coming to Virginia Tech certainly opened my eyes to new things, my mind to new ideals. I share in your sentiments about becoming a different learner, and I think that for anyone who wishes to become a professor in the future, this is a crucial step to take.