Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cultural Identity

My cultural identification is New Zealand European. I’m second generation NZ born on one side of my family and third generation NZ born on the other side. My family ancestry is Scottish on both my Mothers and Fathers sides. So…I’ll always back the Scots if they’re up against the English.

Hofstede’s Theory of culture
talks about their being five different, but interconnected dimensions of culture. These dimensions are:

Individualism/Collectivism – the degree that individuals are expected to look after themselves versus remaining integrated in groups.

Power Distance – The degree that less powerful members of an organisation accept or expect an unequal distribution of power

Uncertainty Avoidance – The extent that individuals from a culture feel comfy in unpredictable situations.

Masculinity/Femininity – The distribution of emotional roles between genders with the masculine role being seen as “tough” and the feminine role as “tender”.

Long-term versus short term orientation – The extent to which members of a culture expect immediate rather than delayed gratification of their material, social and emotional needs.

Cited in Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2004). Work in the 21st century. An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

At the OISA we work with students from a wide variety of cultures. The dimension that I think influences my teaching the most is that of “power distance”. This consideration is important to take into account when I expect students to contribute to discussions in class or to think/discuss issues critically. If students are not used to ‘speaking up’ or thinking critically then I need to appreciate and allow for that in my teaching.

From my understanding, when Hofstede referred to culture he was referring to ethnicity type factors. However, in the teaching environment I think it’s also important to appreciate that the degree to which several of these “dimensions” are apparent within individual students would also be influenced by their families as well, irrespective of what “ethnic culture” they are from. I guess I’m referring here to a persons “family culture”. These familial experiences are likely to have a big impact on what it takes for a student to feel comfortable in a learning environment, which will obviously influence their ability to learn and contribute. For example, if a student is from a family where there is/was a “children should be seen and not heard” (Power Distance) environment then it may be very difficult for them to feel comfortable contributing in discussions or critically analysing the work, theories, etc of ‘superiors’. It seems we are not in a position to assume much at all about those we teach.


  1. Hi Gary
    I recently came across reference to an article critiquing Hofstede's model in relation to education in the latest Teaching in Higher Education Journal. I haven’t read it but thought you might be interested
    Cheers Heather


  2. Brilliant! Thanks Heather, I'll check it out.