Wednesday, November 4, 2009

PDI and Outliers

Although the title of chapter seven, “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes” appears disengaged from the previous ones, as Malcolm Gladwell begins to narrate the activities of a tragic Korean Air flight, readers get a sense of how the interactions between pilots and co-pilots relates to the larger discussion of cultural legacies. Gladwell posits that some airplane crashes can be linked to the modes of communication, and lack thereof, among the officers within the cockpit.

In addition to pointing out that airplane crashes are the result of a combination of several factors, Gladwell identifies Geert Hofstede’s concept “Power Distance Index" (PDI) – a measuring system “concerned with attitudes toward hierarchy, specifically with how much a particular culture values and respects authority” – as a crucial issue for understanding why, for example, pilots from some nations may have been at a cultural disadvantage for effective and essential communication in an airplane cockpit.

For those us concerned with academic failures and not only airplane crashes, perhaps we should take a closer look at communication problems and PDI in our immediate context. What is one important way that PDI or a distinct mode of communication comes into play positively or adversely concerning how students here at SIUE interact with professors or the university in general? What makes the issue you address so important to academic success of failure?


Paris Owens said...

A nursing professor of mine asked her students to address her by her first name instead of Dr. or Mrs. So-in-so. She went on to add how nursing is constantly changing, people are changing. And because of this, we are peers. We will learn together through each other.

This low DPI made us (my clinical group) feel more comfortable. This seemed to quell our nerves a bit.

When low DPIs are used in educational interaction, I feel more comfortable. This did take some getting used to. We were not hesitant to ask questions. Answers were never handed out, but she gave us a compass to point us in the right direction.

In Outliers, Gladwell notes that the countries with the lowest pilot DPIs also happen to be the countries that have experienced the fewest plane crashes.

The low DPI that my professors employ fosters my education. I absorb more knowledge. Therefore, my academic success has flourished, especially in those classes.

H. Rambsy said...

Thanks Paris. I like the idea of "a compass to point us in the right direction" as opposed to just simply giving folks the answers.

Samantha Martin said...

In general, I believe that a lot of professors are more than happy to communicate with their students through emails or office hours for example. Whether or not they are open to feedback is a different case altogether.

In my freshman year, I had a professor who will remain nameless that did a less than satisfactory job teaching the class and the grades reflected that. When one student did speak up in the lecture hall in front of everybody about his unfair methods, it was brushed aside, and the class average continued to be low. This professor clearly didn't care about how his teaching methods could have lead to academic failure for the class, but seemed to be more concerned with how his methods had no effect on the trouble the class was having.

I think that it is in the power of the professor to keep the lines of communication open and welcome feedback, but it is up to the student to utilize the professor as needed. Academic success depends on this. Like the plane crashes, failure does not consist of all large things, but small, seemingly minor things, and not communicating with professors can be seemingly small but make all the difference.

H. Rambsy said...

I'm right with you (and Gladwell) Samantha concerning the idea that failure is the result of several seemingly small things.

At some point, maybe we'll need to even come up with a checklist. Perhaps we can encourage folks, new students, for instance, to check things off the way pilots do when they are preparing for a flight.

Kamrey Mcnutt said...

I truly believe that in order to achieve academic success students must confide in their professors. In other words, students need to be open and communicate with their professors for any reasons needed. Of course professors should encourage communication and feedback amongst themselves and students, but it is up to the students to consider their own futures. I have a teacher who is very sarcastic, intimidating, and rather hard to talk to. At times this professor really makes the students feel dumb or incompetent. However, I know that every professor is not going to be easily approachable; and that’s okay. I realize that I am human and that I am not going to understand every piece of information thrown at me. If I want to succeed I can not stay in the dark about something I am not grasping. More than likely it will come back to haunt me. With that said, I have to be brave and approach that professor whenever needed. The professors already have degrees, and it is up to us students to do whatever we have to do to get ours. Not communicating with professors when experiencing problems will very likely lead to academic failure. However, if teachers make themselves more approachable and display low PDI, then students will feel much more comfortable communicating with them. This will then lead to academic success among many of our SIUE students.

Brent Hitchens said...

There is no better way to learn than to ask questions. No one is born knowing the material. One needs to be studying consistently and perhaps be a little arrogant when it comes to asking the teacher to explain the material over and over until you get it. Communication is the key for a better understanding and knowing, for that is when error becomes minimized. Faculty here at SIUE do just that. In my opinion, they do the best in order to establish communication with their students. This is a crucial part in the learning process and education as well.

Anonymous said...

Teachers here at SIUE absolutely love communicating with their students. Many of my professors even encourage us to come in during their office hours even if we don't need help.
By encouraging my classmates and I to come in during office hours, my professors have given us a low DPI.
This low DPI makes students feel comfortable, even if were are just sitting through a lecture because we can trust and understand our professor. Sometimes a class conversation or debate can become a easy-going and enjoyable conversation.
Because our professors give us a low DPI students can enjoy college more, and when learning is more enjoyable we actually learn more.

Anonymous said...

I think that just as low PDI systems are extremely beneficial to success at the university, high PDI systems are extremely detrimental to success. As others have commented, being surrounded by low PDI makes for a more comfortable, inquisitive environment in which students can learn. On the other hand, high PDI surroundings ultimately hinder students' ability to learn by creating an authoritive complex. After all, we are all adults, and therefore should be treated as such. Respect can still be maintained even if professors don't require being referred to as "Professor this" or "Mr. that." The teacher certainly has the responsibility to present the knowledge and information to his or her students, however; it is the students' responsibility to make sure he/she understands the material.

Kayla Phouangmalay

Anonymous said...

Ashley O
PDI is has the tendency to create a distance in the relationship between professors and their students because in some cultures children were raised to fear any person in authority. This fear was also a sign of reverence as well. When students come to college with this mindset they are unable to connect with a professor on a more personal level, this connection is often necessary for a students academic success. If this relationship is strained, the student becomes hesitant to ask for help or even ask for recommendations. However, when a PDI is lowered it can have both negative and positive outcomes. It always comforting when a teacher is approachable and friendly it is always easier to talk to them, but when they are too friendly it might make a student uncomfortable because they want keep a professional relationship and not step any boundaries.

Amanda Monla said...

I believe that students will feel more comfortable with going and talking to their professors based on how the professors present themselves. For example, if a professor says it is ok to call them by their first name rather than Mr, Mrs, or Dr, a student would feel more comfortable approaching them. When professors are strict and have a lot of rules, then the student is less likely to approach them and when they do everything is more formal. For example, when a student emails a more strict professor the student might take a while to email the professor because they have to make themselves sound more formal than they sound any other time. I believe that the communication and comfort levels between students and professors is completely based on how the professor presents themselves.

Kelly Quon said...

The way professors present themselves makes a big difference whether a student feels comfortable asking questions. My speech professor and I are on a first name basis. Although we are professor and student, I feel more comfortable talking to her, because I do not feel like I am at a different level than her. I also pay more attention to professors that I feel connected to. Although I come from an Asian background, I feel that the low PDI culture is better than high PDI cultures. As a young child I had trouble communicating with my teachers, because it was implied that I be quiet when I was around adults. As I got older, I could not rely on my own skills to succeed in school so I had to learn how to communicate with my teachers. Growing up in a high PDI culture gave me a lot of difficulties with communication.

I believe Gladwell is correct in that communication plays a big role in success and failure.

Tricia Johnson said...

I think that teachers with a low PDI definitely make things easier on the student and easier on themselves. It's nice to have a down to earth teacher to learn from; it makes me feel like they respect me as an adult and as a student when we interact. It is also a lot easier to come to them outside of class for any issues or questions that may come up. Also when professors have such a relaxed, positive attitude with the class it rubs off. Students like to come to class and pay attention and be interactive in class, and professors love that. So it's like a win-win situation.
Gladwell is right when he says communication plays a big role in success and failure. The more communication between the professors and the students, the more information that will be exchanged, and the higher the probability that the students will be successful.

Daniel Shields said...

I agree with Tricia. When Teachers have a low PDI, it most deffinantley leads to a higher success rate in classes. Instructors seem more relatable and actually earn more respect from students that way. Teachers that have a high PDI make students not want to come to class which makes them enthusiastic about the actual class subjest. When taught by another techer with a low PDI the student would look at the subject in a whole new light. Communication is the key to ny relationship especially
teacher/ student ones.

I do believe that a lower PDI helps students, but if an instrustor has a high PDI, it is up to the student to make the steps to break down that wall and reach out to the teacher.

Chardae Gray said...

I feel that communication is a big aspect of the educational environment.I have had numerous teachers who have given their students their personal numbers if they needed them for anything.One of my teacher's even said she had a student text her at midnight before with a question.The class agreed that that was taking it too far,but I feel if teachers are more personable and open with the students it makes the class experience much better.I can honestly say I haven't had too many issues with teachers in that aspect during my three years here at SIUE which is what I love about this schools academic side.

Joe Hines said...

I agree communication between the student and professor is a key component of success. Those who have some level of a personal relationship with their professor feel much more comfortable in answering questions with the chance of being wrong, as well as ask questions.

One of the very obvious fears that i see every week in organic chemistry is people being afraid to answer questions in class because they might be wrong and "look dumb."

So I believe the initiative needs to come from the student simply because its their education, and also because when you have classes where there are 80+ students present the professor will take the time to learn who every one is and build a relationship.

I also believe the communication between students is very important to success. I've never heard of anyone who's gone through their entire college career and never had to interact with a student for something pertaining to class. The way in which students interact with each other also is very important, for getting extra information, assistance, missed notes, etc. and if someone is an introvert (their communication skills are bad) then they can miss out on all kinds of help and pertinent information.

Amber Lewis said...

I had this professor, whom I will not speak the name of, who in fact talked the whole class period. No one asked questions, and no one seemed like they were interested. She gave an exam in which more than half of the class failed because of the negative affect of the professor to the student. We then, asked her what materials she would be going over be announced if it was going to be on the next exam or not. She never paid that attention.
One of my classmates went to her office and asked her what she should do in order to pass the next exam and she(the professor) told her to just drop the class because she just was not getting it. The student then began to get enraged in the office because she was thinking about how dare she tell me that when I am taking time out of my schedule to talk to you about my grade? The professor seemed to not even care about if the class as a whole was passing or failing because obviously she was only lecturing to those who understood the materials.
I believe that some professors would love to have both positive and negative feed back on their lectures while others like the one I described, does not. They believe that if they have been teaching this way the majority of the time, then it's only right to keep teaching in that matter.
If students want to have academic success then the professor and the student has to sit down and figure out a plan to get the success, not to just shut the student down. If the professor lightened up her attitude and became more passionate then she, as well as the students would see a huge change in academics.

Tina Messenger said...

I think here at SIUE there are professors who are very willing to be made available for students that need extra help and I have also seen professors that aren't as willing to be available. But I think that both types are important for us to experience because in the work force we experience the same things. There are times when we will have been people above us that will be very open, supportive and want to help us every inch of the way and then there are those that expect us to find our own way and take the initiative to figure it out.

Morris Pearson, Jr. said...

I think PDI can be a big determinant for academic success or failure. Many of the professors on campus have an open door policy that allows a student to just come in and talk with a professors about any concerns they may have about their class. Many students do not utilize this benefit even though it could could be very rewarding.

For example last year I was struggling with Human Anatomy and Physiology and I decided to go talk to my teacher. My teacher was very surprised that I came since no one ever came to see her even those struggling in her class. I talked with her about the class and she gave me extremely helpful tips about how to study and prepare for her tests. She even gave me tips on test taking strategies and how to withhold massive amounts of material over an extended period of time. In the end I was able to raise my grade high enough so that I was able to get into Pharmacy School. I know if I never talked to her I would not be where I am today.

Roanda Maldonado said...

Interaction within students and professors plays a big role in the success of each both the professor and the student. The professor is constantly learning from the student different ways or approaches the class should be taught. If its not working out depending on the feedback the students are giving the professor, the professor might try to switch up his teaching strategies. As for the student, we tend to grow more as we interact more with our professors. Low Power Distance Index will probably make the student feel more comfortable in class and be more open minded to approaching the professor and asking more questions and getting more involved.

Jermel L. said...

As a whole, I feel that professors here at SIUE are more than willing to speak with you via emails or office hours. Some even will rearrange their own schedules to make sure they will have time to talk to you. Communication and feedback is, in my opinion, the most effective way to ensure academic success.
Students have to swallow their pride and be able to talk to teachers when needed. I think that some students do not want to give off the image that they do not understand the material presented. This is a sure way to achieve academic failure. If one is not willing to have communication with the teacher, how can one have academic success?
At the same time, teachers need to have an open mind to feedback. They have to be versatile in their teaching methods. If I come to a teacher to ask for help, then he/she should be able to explain it to me in a different manner as to where I will be able to absorb and apply the material when needed. Professors here at SIUE do that well for the most part.

Unknown said...

I feel that conversing with our professors and teachers ha always been important. I remember in high school being close to some of my teachers. I was especially close to my foreign language teachers since I had them for 3-4 years in a row. It was always the same classmates and it was sort of like a little family setting. It was one of the classes I looked forward to because I could ask questions freely without having to worry about the teacher not caring. She would joke with us and we all had nicknames for her. It was a very condusive learing environment in my opinion even though the class was really relaxed. Be able to relax helped us learn the material because we were all more comfortable with each oher and we had our teacher ho was willing to help us with personal issues as well as school issues.

Jamie Mueller