Cultural adaptability of the CLES: A Korean perspective

Year: 2001

Author: Lee, Sunny, Taylor, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In many cases of learning environment studies conducted in non-English speaking countries, translated questionnaires are administered. These questionnaires have their origins in Western cultures such as the Australian science education community. This paper addresses the issues of translated questionnaires, illustrated by an example of problematic usage of the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES) in a Korean context. A doctoral study was conducted in which the CLES was administered to teachers and students in Korean senior high schools. We noticed that respondents struggled to make sense of items. Interviews revealed a serious mismatch between local cultural practices of Korean teachers and students and the cultural practices of the Australian CLES designers. The issue can be considered in two ways. First, even if several studies have obtained reasonable findings when using a translated questionnaire in cultural settings different from the place where the original questionnaire was developed, the findings do not guarantee that the translated items are semantically equivalent to the original items. Second, English-speaking researchers tend to presuppose unduly that cultural contexts embedded in the original questionnaire can be readily understood by respondents in non-English speaking contexts. We argue that translation of learning environment questionnaires for use in non-English speaking contexts should be extended beyond initial linguistic ‘back-translation’ procedures. An important next step is to ensure that the questionnaire exhibits meaningfully aspects of their own lived experiences. As an outcome, we suggest a way of adapting the CLES to the cultural context of Korean senior high schools.