Year: 1993

Author: Houghton, Jan, Yerbury, Hilary

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

It has been recognised for some considerable time that cultural differences impinge on educational processes and outcomes. These differences relate to age, gender and ethnic diversity, the latter being increasingly obvious as greater numbers of students from different ethnic backgrounds have been appearing in Australian universities. However, there has been relatively little concern in the literature of higher education about the effect of the assumptions and expectations of Australian university education on students with other assumptions and expectations. One of the expectations of the Australian tertiary education system is that students will take an active role in the development of their own learning and understanding with the related assumption that they can and will want to do this. For various reasons this approach may be difficult for some students - immaturity, frustration with the process, hostility or resentment and so on (Boud,1981;Yerbury & Kirk,1990) . For students whose previous educational experience has been quite different, this expectation may be in direct conflict with their own cultural and value systems and therefore they may be disadvantaged by teaching activities and assessment practices which seek to put the student at the centre of the learning process (Ballard & Clanchy,1991). The programmes of professional education offered through the School of Information Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney aim for the development of autonomous information practitioners, capable of independent thought and action and practised in creating new professional knowledge through the application of the theoretical knowledge of the discipline and the application of principles of reflection to problems of practice (Yerbury & Kirk,1990). Our experience since 1986 has provided a great deal of information on individual student differences in the process of developing autonomy and the factors that might have contributed to these differences.