Adult Micronesian perceptions of college classroom environments
Barber, Leroy Robert
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The purpose of this study was to understand how culture shapes adult Micronesian college students’ perceptions of college classroom/learning environments. The research focused on the experiences of adult Micronesian students attending the University of Guam that identified: social/cultural factors shaping the perceptions of classroom environment, influences within the classroom environment that either promote or inhibit learning, and factors other than culture outside the classroom that influenced perceptions of college classroom learning environments. This study was a qualitative interview study. Thirteen adult Micronesian University of Guam students were interviewed using a semi-structured guided interview process. This study utilized a purposeful sampling procedure in order to obtain the broadest possible range of Micronesian cultural perspectives on college classroom environments. Four areas of Micronesian social/cultural norms were identified by the participants as shaping perceptions in the classroom environment: Communal nature of knowledge transfer, indigenous methods of knowledge transfer, social hierarchy based on age, gender and status, and the prominence of group membership and relations. Participants identified four factors in the classroom environment that promote learning: A supportive instructor, a hospitable learning environment, interactive and experiential instructional approaches, and a relevant curriculum. Three factors in the classroom environment were identified as obstacles to learning: Cultural communication protocols; lecture as the only instructional approach; and an incompetent instructor. Only one factor outside the classroom environment other than culture was identified as influencing their perceptions/behavior, money. From the findings the four conclusions are evident: 1) Micronesian students’ cultural heritage encourages behavioral expectations that are incongruent with some underlying assumptions of U.S. college classroom environments. 2) A supportive instructor can overcome the self inhibiting pressures students feel from Micronesian cultural communication protocols. 3) There is a role for measures of the level of experiential learning in classroom environment instruments. 4) Classroom environment instruments should include scales that are sensitive to the cultural orientations of collectivist, relationship nurturing, and high power distance societies.