July 10, 2013

O2SWPTrain: Engaging Adult Learners

Module 2: Instructional Skills

Proximity is an interesting and rather complex skill. I have found that teaching some students from a different cultural background to myself, proximity was interpreted in a particular way.

If I stood up the front and talked, the message was: Listen to me, I'm the Lecturer/Instructor
If I stood close to them to converse = listen closely, but this is a more casual conversation
If I sat down beside them in close proximity = more friendly and we will work together and learn better

However I have had these same types of techniques interpreted quite differently when teaching in another country with a different cultural perspective. In the South Pacific I was very careful to ensure that I would only have close proximity in the classroom with the same sex (female), stand directly in front of the student if I wanted their direct attention and ensure that I did not "box" anyone in by my position in the classroom or else they may have felt intimidated.


Definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxemics

There are two main areas here that affect how proximity of a Lecturer/Instructor might impact a student's learning ability. Personal Space and Territory. Territory issues are usually addressed by getting the student to leave their 'normal' work environment and come to a 'training space'. This allows the student to release these feelings of territory and realise that everyone in that learning situation is sharing the territory. This awareness can be used to enhance student learning. For example: In Module 1 when Debra talked about dividing the class up into different groups and physically shifting them, it is making students own a particular territory in the classroom and have them relate to that space for different activities.

Personal Space on the other hand is quite complex. The above site suggests there are different distances for Personal (76cm), Social (2-3mt) and Public (7mt). As a Lecturer of a small to medium size group...how do you use this successfully?

Lewis Model

Introduction of the Lewis Model
(requires Java, courtesy of http://www.crossculture.com/services/cross-culture/)

The Lewis model in pictures: Linear-active, multi-active and reactive variations.
http://bestcareermatch.com/cross-cultural-communication/ (viewed 10/7/2013)

Where do you see yourself in this triangle?
Do you think it is accurate for your country?

I have taught students from three different corners of this triangle and opposite corners from my country! I think this would also be more pronounced if you travel to another country to teach. I am from Australia and I think it is probably fairly accurate for second (or more) generation Australians. By being aware of this both for myself and my students I can then have a more effective Instructional strategy for the classroom.

What I have learnt by this area is that the more I understand about the students (background/culture/experience) the better I can use Proxemics to make the classroom time effective for the student to learn. Proxemics is complex but well worth understanding because it can be as harmful as sharp words if used in the wrong way.