Approaches to learning and learning values: an investigation of adult learners in Malaysia

Tan, Po Li (2006) Approaches to learning and learning values: an investigation of adult learners in Malaysia. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This research was inspired by a pressing question which formed the main aim of the current study--What factors contribute to the differential academic performance of adult learners in the formal setting in Malaysia? It is hoped that by addressing this question, insights obtained may be useful for the Malaysian policy makers in attempting to implement the government's initiative--Malaysia Vision 2020. The current literature informs that in order to achieve the desired goals, Malaysian adult learners, must now more than ever be conscious of the effect of learning values and approaches to learning. Hence, there is a need to develop a more holistic understanding of the interrelated dynamics between learning values and approaches to learning. The current study adopts a transdisciplinary, etic/emic approach, using two culturally sensitive questionnaires, Revised Study Process Questionnaires-2 Factors Malaysia (RSPQ- 2FM) and Learning Values Survey (LVS) on 858 Malay and Chinese adult learners in Malaysia. The study found the significant others can have substantial influence on the 'face value' for both Malay and Chinese adult learners generally, but was more pronounced for the Malay adult learners. This in turn may encourage Malay adult learners to submit to pressure from others in influencing how they perceive the importance of learning and motivation in learning. Because Malay adult learners are constantly driven by external factors to compete with other cultural groups in education or economic achievement, they may tend to avoid challenging tasks such as deeper approaches to learning in order to rapidly achieve their immediate learning goals. Engaging with deep approaches and meaningful learning are effortful and the pressure to save face may result in the likelihood of adopting surface approaches. This coupled with the finding that they do not appreciate the middle way principles as much as the Chinese adult learners suggest that they may be less flexible and/or pragmatic learners. The findings suggest that practice of middle way principles (such as 'Willing to compromise one's own values to suit the situation/issues when I learn') can indeed enhance certain positive learning approaches which implies that Malay adult learners may be disadvantaged in the learning settings due to their lack of appreciation of the middle way principles. It is also interesting to find that Malay adult learners appreciate time factor more than their Chinese counterparts when engaging with Deep Approaches to learning. In contrast, the middle way principle practiced as a way of life by the Chinese culture has made Chinese adult learners more malleable, resulting in a relatively less face conscious cultural group. Being less externally driven and less restrictive, Chinese adult learners are more likely to adopt deep approaches to enhance meaningful learning. In addition, the Chinese culturally ingrained learning approach, Understand and Memorization was found to be more likely to produce positive learning outcome. Unlike their Malay counterparts, Chinese adult learners view work experiences more essential in helping them to engage with Deep Approaches to learning. The above findings are novel and add to previous studies on approaches to learning by introducing the effect of learning values. While previous research has referred to cultural variable in learning, they have not sufficiently explored the effect of culture. Learning values is one significant cultural variable that is considered in the study. The findings underpin the different emphasis placed by the two cultural groups as they engage with professional development activities. It is hoped that by identifying values pertinent to learning in this competitive globalized economy, the study has provided insights for Malaysian policy makers to develop holistic future education plans to assist in achieving Malaysian Vision 2020. Insights gained can also support plans where Malay can be encouraged to become competent global leaders and workers, capable of competing in this knowledge economy.

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ID Code: 16295
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Pillay, Hitendra & Spencer, Fiona
Keywords: adult learning, professional development, Aapproaches to learning, cultural values, asian values, cross-cultural studies, cross-cultural methodology, cultural awareness and training
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Cultural & Professional Learning
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Po Li Tan
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:00
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2013 08:17

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