restricted access 13. Intellectual Styles and Their Implications for Multicultural Education in China
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Within the realm of multicultural education, much emphasis is placed on the unique characteristics of particular cultural groups. In contrast, this chapter places its stress on some of the commonalities as well as acknowledging the unique characteristics of students from different cultural settings with regard to their intellectual styles: that is, their preferences for information processing, both at individual and group levels. It highlights the fact that multiculturalism, more broadly, and ethnic minority education in China, more specifically, cannot be viewed as a one-size-fits-all system and pedagogy. It further demonstrates that the identification of different intellectual styles can facilitate a better understanding of the complex ways in which different communities and individuals respond to diversity within the curriculum, while assisting in promoting better learning outcomes at both the individual and community levels. The chapter is divided into four parts. The first defines the key concepts in the chapter: culture and intellectual styles. The second part explores several influential models of culture and puts forward a research hypothesis on the relationships between culture and intellectual styles based on the nature of intellectual styles and on the characteristics of each of the four cultural dimensions proposed by Hofstede (1980). The third part provides research evidence that both supports and refutes the research hypothesis. Finally, the chapter concludes by discussing the implications of the research findings in relation to multicultural education in the PRC, a nation-state that comprises fifty-six officially recognized ethnic groups or minzu (民 族). 13 Intellectual Styles and Their Implications for Multicultural Education in China Li-fang Zhang 280 Li-fang Zhang Culture and Intellectual Styles What is culture? What do we mean by “cross-cultural”? What constitutes a “multicultural education”? There have been many insightful definitions of culture. Following Hofstede (1980: 25), the author defines culture as “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one category of people from another.” This chapter restricts its survey of cross-cultural studies of intellectual styles to cultural distinctions anchored in countries and regions or ethnic groups within countries. Furthermore, embracing Banks’ (2010a: 3) notion of “multicultural education,” that is, “the idea that all students, regardless of their gender, social class, and ethnic, racial, or cultural characteristics—should have an equal opportunity to learn in school,” this chapter argues that students, irrespective of their cultural backgrounds, should have an equal opportunity to capitalize on their preferred intellectual styles and to develop the styles that would prepare them for tomorrow’s world. Intellectual Styles An intellectual style refers to one’s preferred way of processing information and dealing with tasks (Zhang and Sternberg 2005, 2006). It pertains to both individuals and cultural groups formed along different socialization variables, including age, gender, academic discipline, ethnicity, and occupation. The term “intellectual style” is used as a generic one that represents the meanings of all style constructs postulated in the past several decades, with or without the root word “style.” These include, but are not limited to cognitive style, conceptual tempo, decision-making and problem-solving style, learning style, learning approach, mind style, perceptual style, thinking style, and teaching style. In the “threefold model of intellectual styles” proposed by Zhang and Sternberg (2005, 2006), styles are grouped into three broad categories: Type I, Type II, and Type III styles. Type I intellectual styles denote preferences for tasks that provide low degrees of structure, that require individuals to process information in a more complex way, and that allow originality and high levels of freedom to do things in one’s own way. These preferences correspond to those often expressed by highly creative individuals or groups. Type II intellectual styles suggest preferences for Intellectual Styles and Their Implications for Multicultural Education in China 281 tasks that are structured, that allow individuals or groups to process information in a more simplistic way, and that require conformity to traditional ways of doing things and high levels of respect for authority. These preferences are consistent with those frequently observed in people with lower creative potential. Type III styles may manifest the characteristics of either Type I or Type II styles, depending on the stylistic demands of a specific situation. Largely based on two criteria (popularity and empirical evidence), Zhang and Sternberg (2005, 2006) organized ten existing style models/constructs in terms of the threefold model of intellectual styles: field dependence-independence (Witkin 1962); mode of thinking/brain dominance (Torrance 1988); reflectivity-impulsivity (Kagan 1965); adaptation-innovation (Kirton 1976); thinking style (Sternberg 1988); personality type (Jung...