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Learning to Lead

Challenging Girls in Rural Chinese Schools

Heidi Ross and Lei Wang

Leadership training is often described as an important component and goal of girls' secondary education and also a crucial step for realizing gender equality. This paper explores the possibilities for and barriers to effective leadership training in one "Spring Bud" girls' education project conducted in a poverty-stricken area of Shaanxi Province since 2001. Following a review of the Chinese and international literature on girls' secondary education and leadership training, the authors explore different understandings of "leadership" (and empowerment) among various project stakeholders and indicate the urgency of a mutual understanding of "leadership" and how it might be mentored in girls in formal educational settings. Authors draw upon interviews, observations, student writing, as well as the results of a 2006 survey of nearly 1,000 participating girls and their homeroom teachers, in their discussion of how to connect the concept of "leadership training" with the resources and constraints that shape girls' lives and future educational and career expectations and aspirations. The paper concludes with policy implications.

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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.