Respecting the complexity of cultural differences in multicultural horticulture instruction

Türk Ş.

Acta Horticulturae, vol.832, pp.131-136, 2009 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)


Information for improving instruction in universities represented by an assemblage of contrasting cultures may not be readily available to horticulture educators. We convey two factors important to defining cultural values, and discuss them within the context of multicultural horticulture instruction. First, the level of collectivism that defines one’s culture is of critical importance in characterizing classroom interactions. Learners from collectivist cultures avoid activities that draw attention to the individual, and are eager to encourage the performance of peers. In contrast, learners from individualistic cultures are comfortable with pursuing self-interests and invest less into compliance with group demands. Second, the level of power distance instilled in one’s values defines the student’s initial view of classroom relationships and the sorts of changes that are required to alter those initial views. Students embracing low power distance values may address a teacher informally and disagree with their teacher without hesitation. Students embodying high power distance values avoid doing things that suggest a challenge to the teacher’s authority. These students refrain from asking questions, and their behaviour is governed by a personal assessment of differences in socioeconomic and cultural status between themselves and their classmates. Collectivist and status-based issues should be integrated in the learning approach when horticulture classroom demographics are defined by a mix of cultures. The nature of assignments, the instructor’s approach to building rapport with individual learners, and expectations of student-student relationships during class are some issues that must be modified in order to fully respect the complexity of a multi-cultural horticulture class. Teaching horticulture in a cross-cultural setting demands respect for these issues concerning cultural value systems, but also the pursuit of what special advantages each culture represented might contribute to the learning process.