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Jennifer Dodge, Richard Holtzman, Merlijn van Hulst, and Dvora Yanow

Abstract

The ‘interpretive turn’ has gained traction as a research approach in recent decades in the empirical social sciences. While the contributions of interpretive research and interpretive research methods are clear, we wonder: Does an interpretive perspective lend itself to – or even demand – a particular style of teaching? This question was at the heart of a roundtable discussion we organised at the 2014 Interpretive Policy Analysis (IPA) International Conference. This essay reports on the contours of the discussion, with a focus on our reflections upon what it might mean to teach ‘interpretively’. Prior to outlining these, we introduce the defining characteristics of an interpretive perspective and describe our respective experiences and interests in this conversation. In the hope that this essay might constitute the beginning of a wider conversation, we close it with an invitation for others to respond.

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Anders Sybrandt Hansen and Stig Thøgersen

Recent years have seen a tremendous increase in transnational education mobility. The two trends of international integration and marketisation of higher education have made for a situation in which increasing numbers of aspiring young people worldwide seize the opportunity to study abroad as part of their higher education. No other nation sends more students abroad than China. In 2014, 459,800 students left the country to study abroad (Ministry of Education 2015); and 22 per cent of all international students enrolled in tertiary education in OECD countries in 2012 came from China (OECD 2014: 350). To explore the many dimensions of this huge wave of educational migration we hosted a conference at Aarhus University with the title Chinese Students Abroad: Reflections, Strategies and Impacts of a Global Generation in March 2014. The initial versions of the first three articles in this issue by Heidi Ross and Yajing Chen, Kirsten Jæger and Malene Gram, and Qing Gu were presented at this conference.2 The fourth article, by Naomi Yamada, examines the education of ethnic minorities inside China and thereby throws light on another, but related, effect of the marketisation of Chinese education.

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Karolina S. Follis and Christian R. Rogler

In 2004, Susan Brin Hyatt reported from a roundtable session organised by the American Anthropological Association ‘a dispiriting picture of academic life in the early years of the 21st century’, due to, amongst other things, ‘the casualization of the academic workforce’ (Hyatt 2004: 25–26). Less than a decade later, Joëlle Fanghanel notes that the ‘increased casualization of academic staff [has] significantly affected the evolution of academic work and working patterns’ (2012: 5). Casualisation takes different forms in different academic contexts, from the ‘adjunctification’ of teaching in the U.S.A. to precarious grant-funded postdoc positions common in Europe and the U.K. and the efforts to introduce other forms of temporary academic employment in New Zealand (Shore and Davidson 2014) and Australia (Barcan 2014). Seeking to contribute to these and other current discussions on the future of research and higher education in the era of privatisation and funding cuts, Hana Cervinkova and Karolina Follis convened the panel Anthropology as a Vocation and Occupation, held on 3 August 2014 at the 13th Biennial Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) in Tallinn, Estonia.

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Qing Gu

This article discusses the nature of Chinese students' transnational experiences and its impact on their identities within and beyond national and cultural boundaries. The discussion is located in the theoretical framework of transnationalism and explores in detail the ways in which students adapt, change and develop, both in the host country of their study and also on their return to work in their home countries. Empirical evidence in the article is drawn from the findings of three studies, led by the author, which have investigated the pedagogical, sociocultural and emotional challenges that Chinese students have encountered when studying at British universities, and the perceived impact of their overseas studies on their lives and careers in their home countries. The research findings suggest that there are distinctive patterns of challenges, struggles, adjustments, change and achievement over time – all of which are embedded in the processes of socialisation, enculturation and professionalisation. Such experiences are both transitional and transformational and, most profoundly, they necessitate identity change at and across different layers of boundaries. At the heart of this identity change is a constant, emotional search for a reflexive sense of self as an embodied individual, a member of a professional group and a member of an organisation.

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Heidi Ross and Yajing Chen

Vincent Tinto's theory of academic and social integration provides a framework for investigating perceived problems associated with Chinese international students' engagement at a public research-intensive university in the U.S. Midwest ('Midwest' University). These 'problems' – classroom silence, segregation and instrumentalism – are often understood in cultural terms, and we describe sociocultural values that might influence such behaviour. We also contend that culture, on its own, cannot wholly explain the complexity of student behaviours on college campuses. In a case study of Midwest University's Business School, we show how institutional policies do much to shape Chinese students' engagement. We conclude that popular perceptions of Chinese student engagement are simplistic. Chinese students are not indifferent engagers; rather, their interaction with campus life needs to be understood as embedded within complex cultural and institutional contexts.

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Naomi C.F. Yamada

In both China and in the United States, policies of 'positive discrimination' were originally intended to lessen educational and economic inequalities, and to provide equal opportunities. As with affirmative action in the American context, China's 'preferential policies' are broad-reaching, but are best known for taking ethnic background into consideration for university admissions. The rhetoric of China's preferential policy discourse has remained surprisingly constant but shifts to a market-economy and incorporation of neoliberal elements have resulted in fee-based reforms that discourage inclusion of poorer students. In addition, as ethnic minority students principally from Western China compete to enter 'self-funded' college preparatory programmes, public funding is being directed towards the achievement of 'world-class' universities overwhelmingly concentrated in Eastern China. In contrast, in the United States, the difficulty of defending affirmative action in the face of a neoliberal climate has resulted in a shift in policy. If in China the policy remains even as the 'rule' has changed (Arno 2009), in contrast, in American institutions the rhetoric has shifted away from affirmative action in favour of diversity but efforts to hold on to the rules that promote equal opportunities remain.

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Kirsten Jæger and Malene Gram

This article investigates the views of quality in higher education held by two groups of international students: Chinese students at a Danish university and Danish students at Chinese universities. Given that there are no agreed international 'quality standards' in higher education, we analysed the students' understanding of the 'quality values' of their host institution and their own preferences and priorities. Representatives of the two groups participated in an interview study addressing the experience of academic quality at their study-abroad university. An intriguing trend was identified in the data. Danish students felt confident that they themselves were able to judge the academic quality of programmes, classes and lecturers both at home and abroad. The participating Chinese students tended to express themselves in slightly depreciatory terms regarding the academic quality values of their home universities. Regarding research methods and theoretical knowledge, they adopted the quality values of the Danish host university and referred to these values when evaluating their home universities.

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Asta Vonderau

Drawing upon ethnographic data, this article investigates the effects of a new online campus management system in one of the largest universities in Germany. It shows the various ways in which this technological innovation influenced students', teachers' and administrative personnel's relations and everyday working practices and how it is influential in the reorganisation of university structures. The online management system is regarded as an important part of an emerging infrastructure of excellence, which materialises the changing understanding of qualitative studies and teaching. Findings show that the online management supports standardised and economised study, teaching and administrative practices and silences creativity and flexibility. However, these standardisations are negotiated and questioned by the actors involved.

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Joan Gross

Studying abroad can be a life-altering experience, but not necessarily. I credit the two study-abroad experiences I had as an undergraduate as setting my course as an anthropologist. At this stage in my career, having directed, taught and evaluated five study-abroad programmes in three different countries, I felt ready to create my own based on the pros and cons I had observed. In December 2013, I completed a pilot run of a binational learning community focused on food, culture and social justice in Ecuador and Oregon and would like to share the experience in order to encourage other higher education teachers to invent similar programmes. It is not an easy model to pull off, especially in a large state institution, but it achieved the kind of coherence that I have found lacking in other study-abroad programmes and was a very satisfying teaching/learning experience. I will outline some issues concerning study-abroad programmes and then describe

the programme I was involved in implementing in 2013.

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Davydd J. Greenwood, Gaye Tuchman, and Julia Ganterer

Michael Billig (2013) Learn to Write Badly: How to Succeed in the Social Sciences

Review by Davydd J. Greenwood

Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura T. Hamilton (2013) Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality

Review by Gaye Tuchman

Christy Johansson and Peter Felten (2014) Transforming Students: Fulfilling the Promise of Higher Education

Review by Julia Ganterer