Why are students so reticent in class? According to a recent study conducted by researchers from National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) and Taipei Municipal University of Education (TMUE), students are reluctant about asking questions or responding to questions in the classroom because they fear losing face. The study also found that Taiwanese students are culturally conditioned to learn passively, without asking or answering questions verbally.
NTU professor Fwu Bih-jen says that the advantage of Taiwan’s teaching methods is that students learn by memorizing and practicing, which gives them a firm foundation. This competitive edge is most apparent when looking at how Taiwanese students rank in overall educational performance in international evaluations, including the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Fwu says, adding that this advantage also provides capable talent to the original equipment manufacturing (OEM) sector. For the future, however, she says that Taiwan will need more innovators, people who can think critically and analytically. Taiwanese students typically do not perform as well in areas covering these higher cognitive skills in TIMSS and PISA, which explains why they show less overall proficiency in those areas.
The National Science Council commissioned researchers from NTNU, NTHU and TMUE to study university students in the classroom. The results of the study showed that 83 percent of students were accustomed to recitation and rote learning, while only 28 percent were willing to interact with teachers during class and 36 percent were willing to participate in class discussions and ask questions. The main reason for this paucity of participation is ostensibly because Taiwanese students are generally afraid of losing face and because the majority of their past learning experiences consisted of teachers lecturing without students asking questions during class.
Wei Chih-fen, head of TMUE’s Department of Psychology and Counseling, says that the more afraid a student is of losing face, the less inclined that student is to answering questions, but that students are much more willing to ask questions in class if they feel confident that they have a worthy question that could gain them affirmation from teachers and students by showing their potential.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)