Term Paper: Comparison of Learning Between USA and France

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¶ … Adult Learning Styles in the United States and France

Today, the United States and France enjoy a longstanding relationship based on many of the same fundamental principles of democratic thought and pluralism, and both countries are among the leading economies of the world. There are some distinct differences involved in how educational services are delivered and received between these two countries, though, that can affect the effectiveness of one educational approach over another that must be taken into account in curricular development initiatives. Not surprisingly, there is a growing body of research concerning how such differences can be identified and what learning styles are most effective in different cultural settings, and researchers such as Geert Hofstede and educational theorists such as David Kolb have provided a useful framework in which to discern and respond to these cross-cultural differences in learning styles. To this end, this study used a critical review of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature concerning Hofstede, Kolb and others to identify discrete cross-cultural differences and similarities between adult learning styles in France and the United States today. A summary of the research, salient findings and recommendations for educators and policymakers alike are provided in the concluding chapter.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Statement of the Problem

Research Questions and Hypothesis

Importance of Study

Rationale of Study

Overview of Study

Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature

Chapter 3: Data Analysis

Chapter 4: Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

Comparison of Adult Learning Styles in the United States and France

Chapter 1: Introduction

Research concerning different learning styles among adults is centuries old, and dates back to Hippocrates' discussion of temperaments (Guild, 1994). Likewise, mental health practitioners long have been interested in individual differences in how people go about learning during their later life and have identified various patterns in people's personalities (Guild). According to this author, "Since the late 1960s, these theories about individuality and learning have been infused with new energy and insights, and the phrase 'learning styles' has been used to describe them" (Guild, p. 8). Clearly, recognizing what learning styles are preferred by adult learners can help educators design instructional approaches that are most effective, but there are some important cross-cultural differences involved that must be taken into account in the process. To this end, this study examines how adult American and French learn in a corporate setting. For this purpose, a discussion of Kolb's learning styles and Geert Hofstede's five dimensions is followed by an analysis of discrete cultural differences comparing how French and Americans learn differently.

Statement of the Problem

There are two requirements involved in the effective delivery of educational services to adult learners, one involving the teachers tasked with providing these services and the other involving the adult learners themselves. In this regard, Sims and Sims (1995) advise, "Educators must have more knowledge and understanding of the learning process, particularly how individuals learn. This will help them immensely in both the design and implementation of teaching that enhances learning. If educators relied upon models of how individuals learn, they would be better able to enhance their students' ability to learn" (p. 1). While this represents a good start in the provision of adult educational services, there is a concomitant responsibility on the part of the adults as well. For instance, as Longworth (2003) emphasizes, "As a principle guiding the learning careers of individuals, Lifelong Learning means that people should possess a positive attitude towards intellectual, aesthetic, moral and social growth so that they gather the understanding they will need during their lives in different functioning environments" (p. 33). Depending on the prevailing national culture, though, these two requirements may differ in profound ways that will ultimately affect the effectiveness of one educational delivery style over another. Moreover, as people continue to live longer lives, it is reasonable to expect that the number of adult learners will further increase in the future, making an understanding of these requirements all the more important today.

Research Questions and Hypotheses

Based on the foregoing statement of the problem, this study was guided by the following research questions:

Do same training tools create a different perception between United States and French groups of adult learners? If so, how can learning styles and cultural dimensions explain such differences?

Is there a relationship between each learning style and the culture where training is delivered?

Do cultural dimensions affect the learning style preference in each culture?

Do learning styles and cultural dimensions explain the perception difference caused by different training tools?

The hypotheses that these research questions sought to confirm or refute are as follows:

American and French trainees do not perceive the same training tools in the same way. Americans give more value to simulations and practice while the French give more value to theories. Americans will be ready to apply skills learned if they could use them during the training and if the trainer appears to be credible from her attitude and personal experience. French will be ready to apply communication skills learned if they have evidence based on research that they work, and if they feel that they will not be judged by their peers, sounding or looking awkward.

American trainees are more activist in their learning style, while the French are more theorists.

American trainees are more individualistic, disregard power distance, are more comfortable in a high uncertainty avoidance environment, and communicate in a lower context than their French counterpart They will not mind the judgment of others in their implementation process as the French do.

The preference of learning tools (role plays, games, videotaped exercises, theories, demonstrations) is related to the preferred learning style and to dominant cultural dimensions.

Importance of Study

In increasingly multicultural societies such as the United States and France, identifying opportunities for improving the delivery of educational services just makes good business sense. Furthermore, adult learners continue to account for an increasing percentage of all learners in both of these countries, making an investigation such as this one all the more timely and important today.

Rationale of Study

Because resources are by definition scarce and no "one-size-fits-all" approach is effective for educating all adults, it is important to identify what educational approaches work best for some adults and why. In this regard, Foley (2004) advises that there is a growing consensus that besides the "scientific" or "positivist" frameworks, in education, there are also two other prevailing paradigms: (a) the interpretive (sometimes called communicative, practical, humanist, reformist, liberal or progressive, or a mixture of these terms); and (b) the critical (variously named emancipatory, transformative, strategic, socially critical, liberatory, radical or revolutionary). According to this author, "The interpretive paradigm sees knowledge as both subjective and socially constructed; its fundamental assumption is that different individuals understand the world differently. In education and other social activities, it is argued, it is futile to try to discover universal laws. It is more useful to study the different ways people make sense of situations, through language and other symbolic systems. It is possible that the interpretive paradigm is now dominant in Western adult education" (Foley, p. 13). Furthermore, adult learning has long been a major area of attention for many researchers interested in understanding the process of learning and its implications for educators and more recently trainers in selecting appropriate pedagogical methods in order to improve classroom instruction. Adult learning today is regarded as being one of the most important individual processes that takes place in organizations, higher education, and training programs (Sims & Sims).

Overview of Study

This study used a four-chapter format to answer the above-stated research questions and confirm or refute the above-stated hypotheses. To this end, chapter one introduced the issues under consideration, provided a statement of the problem, research questions and hypotheses, the importance of the study, as well as its scope and rationale. Chapter two of the study provides a critical review of the relevant and peer-reviewed and scholarly literature concerning adult education, and chapter three presents an analysis of the data. Chapter four presents the study's conclusions, a summary of the research and salient recommendations for educators and policymakers alike.

Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature

Background and Overview.

Today, a majority of full-time education which is started in childhood continues into adult life in many developed nations of the world. According to Calder (1993), "In most countries those who are fortunate enough to undergo higher education do not complete their studies until they are in their middle or late-twenties" (p. 69). Increasingly in advanced countries the minimum age for leaving school is 16 and the majority of young people, as in the United States, remains until they are at least 18 years old; thereafter, a growing number pursue a course of general post-secondary education or the initial preparation for an occupation requiring several years of study after leaving school (Calder). In this environment, understanding what adult learners need and want from an advanced education has become an essential element in the debate over the role of a nation's schools and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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