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Teaching at Wuhan University /
HOPE School of Nursing
• This presentation was prepared to provide
background information on the cultural and
educational nuances American faculty may
encounter when teaching in China. Incoming
faculty members of the Wuhan University, HOPE
School of Nursing should be prepared to offer
students the best learning environment in which
they can maximize their potential. By
familiarizing oneself with the learning styles
prevalent in China and becoming educated in
basic Chinese culture, faculty will be better
prepared to teach/mentor their students.
Wuhan, China
• Wuhan is a city of more than 8 million people, in
central China on the Yangtze River, about 600 miles
west of Shanghai.
Background Information
• To better relate to your Chinese students it
is important to begin by gaining an
understanding of China’s history and its
Ancient Chinese Civilization
(2200 – 221 BC)
• The Xia Dynasty (2200 – 1750 BC)
– Considered to be the beginning of known
dynastic history in China. The writing system
developed by the Xia heralded the system of
the succeeding Shang Dynasty.
Ancient Chinese Civilization
(2200 – 221 BC)
• The Shang Dynasty (1750 - 1040 BC)
– Was characterized by its system of writing on
oracle bones, advanced bronze-working,
ancestor worship, highly organized armies,
and political or religious human sacrifices.
Ancient Chinese Civilization
(2200 – 221 BC)
• The Chou (Zhou) Dynasty (1040 – 221 BC)
– Seen as a time of great advancement and the
beginning of the consolidation of the Chinese Empire.
During the Zhou Dynasty, the term “the Middle
Kingdom” vs. the outer lying “barbarians” arose as the
Chinese way to refer to China. Taoism, Confucianism
and Legalism, a middle class and scholars as a
popular social group, developed during this period.
The Zhou maintained control over the multiple
principalities for a number of centuries, but began to
decline between 771 and 221 BC.
Consolidation of the Chinese
Empire (221 BC – 1644 AD)
• The next two thousand years of Chinese
history was characterized by a
consolidation and unification of the
Chinese Empire into the China we know
today. The Qin Dynasty began this period
by installing the first Emperor and starting
the Great Wall of China.
Consolidation of the Chinese
Empire (221 BC – 1644 AD)
• The Han Dynasty (20 BC – 221 AD)
– Boasts the development of the administrative imperial
bureaucracy that was used systematically by all
succeeding dynasties. This administrative model was
based on Confucianism principles that gave
bureaucrats “an ideological reference point for proper
behavior.” This period also gave rise to the first
systematic recording of Chinese history,
achievements in art, sculpture, astronomy, and
inventions such as compasses, sundials and the
wheelbarrow. Nevertheless, barbarian raiders from
the north and population growth from the south led to
its downfall.
Consolidation of the Chinese
Empire (221 BC – 1644 AD)
• In the succeeding Three Kingdoms
dynasty, Buddhism spread as a new
religion that competed with Confucianism
and incorporated aspects of Taoism.
Consolidation of the Chinese
Empire (221 BC – 1644 AD)
• The Tang Dynasty (618AD – 907AD)
– China extended its borders, the political system
maintained that the Emperor was the supreme ruler,
and government officials were elected to their posts
on merit and education. Under the Tangs, China
enjoyed commercial and cosmopolitan cities, strong
Buddhist influence in art, and inventions of printing
and papermaking, shipbuilding, and firearms.
– Unfortunately, because of an internal rebellion and
peasant uprising due to unfair taxation, the Tang
Consolidation of the Chinese
Empire (221 BC – 1644 AD)
• The Sung period (960 – 1279)
– Landscape painting was popular, porcelain was the trading item
of choice, improvements were made in agricultural technology
urbanites romanticized nature, and Confucianism gained greater
force as the state “doctrine” in various forms.
– Under the Sung, the status of women declined because of the
concentration of people in the cities where women’s work
became less crucial to familial survival. This era is characterized
by the “practices of concubinage and of binding girls' feet to
make them smaller.” These practices were finally banned in 20th
Consolidation of the Chinese
Empire (221 BC – 1644 AD)
• The Mongol (Yuan) Era (1279 – 1368)
– China was ruled by the invading Mongols who
had conquered everything from Austria to
Manchuria and was also dominated by Neo
Confucianism. By the mid 1300s, the Ming
period had begun and was also characterized
by Neo Confucianism, achievements in
architecture such as the building of the Great
Wall as it stands today and the Forbidden
City, and increasing isolationism.
Modern China (1644 – present)
• From the mid 1600s to about 1911, the Chinese Empire
was ruled by the Manchus who founded the Qing
dynasty. Under the Qing, literature, art, philosophy, and
culture blossomed. Politically, China tried to retain its
isolationist tendencies; however, the development and
industrialization in Europe challenged that at every turn
over these three centuries.
• The latter end of the dynasty was plagued with various
rebellions (Taiping and Boxer), encroaching western
powers with the thirst for economic dominance, the
Opium Wars with Britain and unequal treaties from losing
these and other conflicts.
Modern China (1644 – present)
• By 1911, a significant shift in ideology was fomenting and would
become modern China’s political and cultural legacy to her people.
During World War I and World War II, China was for the most part in
disorder and ripe for the rise of Communism as the political doctrine
of the state.
• Between 1912 and 1949, a republican system of government was
established and ruled mostly by Sat Yat-Sen and Chiang Kai-shek,
but was unsuccessful because of the disillusionment of the populace
with the Nationalists deficient strategy for fighting the Japanese in
World War II.
• By 1949, the Nationalists had fled to Taiwan and Mao Zedong
declared the creation of the People’s Republic of China.
• Population and Life Expectancy:
– 1.3 Billion.
– There are no zoning
– People live in both highly populated and congested
urban areas, as well as less populated rural areas.
• Due to China’s massive population, a
governmental policy of one child per family
has been imposed.
• Exceptions to the one
child per family policy
exists for families of the
56 minority groups,
farmers and families
whose first born is
• The average estimated life expectancy
is 71.96 years:
– Women: 73.7 years
– Men: 70.4 years
• Major Languages:
• Mandarin: official
• Cantonese
• Local Dialects
• Ethnic Groups in the Country:
– Han: 92%
– Chinese ethnic groups: 8%
• From an anthropological point of view, several
hundred identifiable minority groups exist, of which
only 56 have been officially recognized by the
• Major Religions:
– Atheist (Official religion): 94-96%
– Taoist, Buddhist, Islam: 1-2 %
– Christianity: 3-4%
• In order for a religion or place of worship to exist
within China, it requires governmental approval.
• Dominance Patterns:
– Family is more important than the individual.
– Marked role differences are based on generation,
age, birth order, gender and social status.
– When making decisions, the young defer to the
old, and both parents make decisions about
– Older adults are not segregated from others and
have a high status in the family and society.
– Older Chinese parents take pride in being
supported and cared for by their children.
– Devotion to parents includes caring for them
physically, psychologically and socially.
• Communication Patterns:
– Direct eye contact is common, but staring is
– Nodding or smiling by many Chinese may simply
reflect their cultural value for interpersonal
harmony, not agreement with or an understanding
of what you have said.
– Introductions involve a nod or a slight bow.
Dietary Practices
– The Chinese food that Americans traditionally eat
in the USA is NOT like Chinese food in mainland
– Americanized Chinese food is more Cantonese
than Mandarin.
– A typical meal consists of rice with meat, fish and
– The style of food varies
depending upon the location
within China.
• Work and Time Issues:
– Chinese have a concept of time that is
inexact and broad, and involves patience.
– Chinese are highly motivated and energetic and
spend long hours at work, but sleep from 12 noon
to 2 (winter) or 2:30 (summer) pm.
Cultural Dimensions/Differences
• Fons Trompenaars and Charles HampdenTurner have studied cultural differences around
the world and determined that there are
dimensions that can better explain the
differences between cultures.
• There are fours dimensions that are of particular
interest when looking at Chinese learning.
Trompenaars’ Dimensions
Communitarianism (China)
vs Individualism (USA)
The idea of a communitarian society is to leave a legacy to
their community, and for members to have a larger purpose than
individual selves.
Cultures that are communitarian tend to have high levels of
productivity and people are likely to bind together for common goals
that are better for overall society.
Chinese students expect professors to achieve harmony on
which long-term relationships are built on. What a professor says to
the student is less important than how it is said (context-based).
Relationships are very highly valued.
Trompenaars’ Dimensions
Ascription (China)
Achievement (USA)
The educational structure in China has its roots in cultural and
historical emphasis on examinations as a precursor for any
promotion or advancement.
Chinese students traditionally concentrate on memorizing
material without asking questions or discussing the content.
There is utmost respect for age and hierarchy, which is based
on the Confucian concept of li. Everyone in society has a specific
position in society. Elders, hierarchy within society and the
government are traditionally respected.
The ideal educator can be seen as a benevolent autocrat.
Chinese students expect to be told what to do, and it is not rare for a
Chinese professor to lecture right out of the textbook.
Trompenaars’ Dimensions
Diffuse (China)
Specific (USA)
Chinese people are detached except when outsiders enter their
private lives, and then they are open.
The dimension of specific vs. diffuse refers to the degree of
intimacy people feel comfortable with when dealing with others.
There is an important distinction between the public and
private person in regards to the amount of space that is allowed.
Those in a specific culture are outgoing and allow a lot of public
space but guard their private space.
Trompenaars’ Dimensions
Affective (China)
Neutral (USA)
Chinese students will be more likely to express their emotions
naturally. Reactions are immediate through the use of mimic and
body signals.
Affective cultures usually do not avoid physical contact.
Chinese may use more intuition compared to those in neutral
cultures. Those that are classified as affective may have the
tendency to overreact to certain issues.
American vs Chinese
Educational System
• In addition to understanding the
dimensions of Chinese culture – you need
to be aware of Chinese learning styles in
order to better convey content to your
Chinese Learning Styles
• Chinese students display 5 characteristics which can
be taken to summarize Chinese thinking and behavior:
– Emphasis on perception of the concrete
– Non-development of abstract thought
– Emphasis on particulars not universals
– Practicality as a central focus
– Concern for reconciliation, harmony, balance
American vs Chinese Education
• The differences between American and
Chinese education can be found in three
core areas of the educational system:
– Main Purpose
– Instruction Mode
– Curricular Orientation
American vs Chinese Education
Main Purpose
• American
– Focus in individual
– Develop individual’s
full potential
– Transmitter of cultural
• Chinese
– Focus on loyal
– Develop literate
– Transmitter of past
cultural heritage
– Helps select future
American vs Chinese Education
Instruction Mode
• American
– Learner centered
– Stresses
application and ability
– Use of educational
– Learner active
• Chinese
Teacher centered
Stresses recall of facts
Use of rote learning
Examinations as
– Learner passive
American vs Chinese Education
Curricular Orientation
• American
– Present-future
– Development of whole
– Social interaction
• Chinese
– Past-present oriented
– Strict exams to
develop academic
– Concepts first then
Teaching Recommendations
• In order to account for the differences
between Eastern and Western
teaching/learning styles you should take
into consideration the following when
preparing your course materials:
Teaching Recommendations
• Group Discussion
– Issues of status, saving face and shame may
limit the openness of discussion thus faculty
should be aware of the hidden messages
behind what is disclosed by students and be
sensitive to such “constraints” on Chinese
Teaching Recommendations
• Ideas to encourage class participation:
– Offer extra credit points to students who ask
questions in class
– Have students form groups and ask questions as a
group rather than an individual
– Encourage group discussions outside of the
classroom. Assign questions for the students to
discuss outside of class and have them report back
as groups to the rest of the class.
Teaching Recommendations
• Use of case studies, role-play games, etc
– Such approaches are heavily reliant on
abstract thinking and could pose hazards for
students not used to open discussions and
opinion expressions. To be effective, such
methods have to be introduced slowly with
clear instructions and guidelines as well as
adequate preparation time.
Teaching Recommendations
• Student participation in classroom
– To facilitate participation, it is important to allow the
students the opportunity to define their roles at the
outset, provide unambiguous instructions as well as
allow students more time to think about the topics
under discussion. Long silences in the classroom may
not simply be indications that students are refusing to
participate, but that they may be thinking about the
answers and require more probing and
Teaching Recommendations
• The applicability of Western concepts to
– Care must be taken in producing supporting
materials with Chinese examples instead of
western ones. Also care should be taken
when translating English into Chinese as the
mere translation may not have the same
cultural reference as it does in America.
• Chinese students are very eager to learn
and motivated to do well. Take this
opportunity to teach/mentor them and give
them the best arena in which to maximize
their potential.
For further information on the topics covered in this guide, please
consult these references:
Adamus, Rebecca. “IRCC Leads the Way in Innovative Teaching Methods.” Community College Week. November 21, 2005.
Author unknown. “Affective Versus Neutral Cultures.” Via-Web.De. Last accessed March 26, 2006, available online at:
Bing, John W. “The Use of a Cultural Inventory in Global Leadership Training.” ITAP International. Last accessed March 26, 2006,
available online at:
Chan, S. “The Chinese Learner – a question of style.” Education and Training. Vol. 41, 6/7, 1999.
Handy, Charles. “The Handy Guide to Gurus of Management: Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden Turner.” BBC.
Huijser, Mijnd. “Cross-Cultural Management Education in China.” CMC/Global Associates/AER. 2002. Last accessed March 26, 2006,
available online at:
Kennedy, Peter. “Learning Cultures and Learning Styles: Myth-understandings About Adult (Hong Kong) Chinese Learners.” International
Journal of Lifelong Education. Vol. 21, No. 5 (Sept-Oct) 2002.
Luthans, Fred. “Doing Business in Central and Easter Europe: political, economic, and cultural diversity.” Business Horizons. Sept-Oct
Ouellette, Dr. Robert. “Learning Styles in Adult Education.” Printed February
27, 2006.
Pierik, Rebecca Pollard. “Learning in China – Free Market Style.” HGSE News. Last accessed March 25, 2006, available online at:
Ross, Douglas. “Culture as a context for multinational business: a framework for assessing the strategy-culture �fit’.” Multinational
Business Review. Spring 1999.
Trompenaars, Fons and Hampden-Turner, Charles. Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Global Business.
McGraw Hill: New York. 1998.
Williamson, Dermot. “Managing the key cultural dimensions of control and risk.” European Business Forum. Last accessed March 26,
2006, available online at:
Zhenhui, Rao. “Matching Teaching Styles with Learning Styles in East Asian Contexts.” The Internet TESL Journal. Vol. VII, No. 7, July
2001. Last accessed March 25, 2006, available online at:
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