Tuesday, April 6, 2010

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?


Dometi Pongo said...

Even outside of the example given by Gladwell, I definitely believe that there are some cultural differences that affect communication and can hinder progress (in some ways) at the college. In my experience in business classes, I have had teachers give tests and make references to ideas and places I am not familiar with due to cultural differences. How would a low-income student or someone for a diverse cultural background be able to answer questions about businesses that sell high-end products. I could not relate to it.
The way students communicate with professors differ as well.

Unknown said...

I think that the level of academic success/failure could be decided upon three things: PDI of the student, PDI of the professor, and cultural variances.
If a student has a low PDI, then they are likely to see academic success because they are comfortable asking questions. A student with a high PDI may feel asking questions of professors as disrespectful, so maybe they will not learn as much.
Same thing with a professor. A professor with a low PDI may openly welcome questions and have open door policies that will allow students to thrive. A high PDI professor may not respond well to questions believing that it is disrespectful.
As was mentioned in the post above, cultural variance can play a big role. If a professor uses references that other cultures may be unfamiliar with, the students are left out that part of the learning.
-Andrew R. Quigg

Chico Weber said...

whether or not you like a course you're taking can really depend on the professor and how the professor communicates with you or the class in general. Success in the class relies heavily on understanding the professor and this required a good level of connection between a student and professor. From experience I know that if its hard to understand a professor I will generally do poorer in a class compared to a professor that I can understand.
This is important because generally we assume a class is just another class, but it is the communication that takes place between the student and professor that will ultimately make the class a failure of success.

Shanee' A Pryor said...

I agree with Dometi Pongo in which a cultural difference will make a difference. When there is a lack of communication eventually something goes wrong and sometimes it's too late. The stories depicted in Outliers shows us real evidence of how we fail to communicate in life. In college, majority of our time will be wasted due to failure of communication. In most cases our culture differences will enable that lack of communication among student and teacher.

Emily S. said...

I do not necessarily think that cultural differences are the only reason that there are problems at SIUE. Yes that does have a large impact but at the same time communication is key. If students would take more time to meet with teachers and get a better understanding of where they come from, it would definitely make things easier. It would greatly help with the academic success rather than the failure. By having a better understanding of where your teachers come from, you will more likely to understand the things that they are saying and implying.

Unknown said...

I'm in a class now where my teacher repeatedly gives us misinformation or actually tries to trick us and then will speak to us in a derogatory fashion when we get answers wrong during class discussion. She may make comments like, "Well, I guess no one did the readings" or "I don't know how well you'll do on this test" even though we have a quiz in the class every day over the readings, and we do pretty well on them.

Anyway, we have been taught not to speak back to elders, even if they are wrong or rude. However, as we progressed further into the class, we went to higher levels of authority to tell them how we felt about her. We then wrote a statement expressing our feelings and brought it to her attention with the Dean of our school's help. Not only were we able to speak out against something that was really bothering us, we even managed to work out a plan with her and now speak openly and this directly affects our attitudes toward the said class and toward teachers as a whole.

Adriana Romo said...

From my personal experiences, I believe that the difference in cultures between people does influence the way we communicate with each other. The way certain professors or even other students act and what they say may seem weird or rude by other people even if they do not mean to. Not being familiar with certain cultures can cause someone to not understand why a professor or other students act like they do.
I also agree with Emily in that the culture difference is not the only problem here at SIUE. Many students complain about their professors, but they never go in to ask them for help or try to find out a little bit about them and where they are "coming from." This is where communication is essential because this shows that the student is interested and wants to learn.
In addition, professors also be willing to understand that there are many students coming from different parts of the nation, world, and different backgrounds and that they should attempt to be more open and try to help all students as much as possible.

Kim Lee said...

I think a lot of times, professors assume that all students are on the same page, know the same things, and learn the same way. I understand that it is hard to be so individualized in a larger classroom, but the generalizations of the class as a whole seems to be very high. This obviously causes problems for students who aren't necessarily "up to par" and communication can become strained. I notice a lot of times in this situation, these students almost feel too self conscious to ask questions and or go see the professor.

Christiana Puckett said...

Communication between the professor and student are essential but sometimes cultural differences can hinder success. With my classes (nursing) cultural differences are important because I am not always going to have patients that are like me. So i have to get adjusted to other types of people.
Different cultures here at SIUE whether its the professor or students help us understand someones life from thier prespective. I really have not noticed the differences in class related to my professors culture. Learning other cultures are interesting though esp. since it is good to know for my career.

Catalina Trevino said...

I believe that for academic success you must be willing to talk to your professors and not be afraid to ask questions. It is not a one way street. Professors have to be willing to communicate with their students as well. In one of my classes, we are not allowed to ask questions until the end of the lectures. However, at the very end of the lectures the professor is the first person out the door. He also does not answer to any emails either. I believe strong communication between professors and students is a huge attribute to academic success.

Anonymous said...

Mikhail Williams
I believe one of the most difficult aspects of PDI in an academic setting is how learning how to develop a respectful relationship to your teachers, while still realizing that you as an 18-20 something year old student are still an adult.
I remember being treating my teachers in grade school and high school as if they were infallible, simply because that's how i was taught to respect them. Now that I am in college it is difficult to get used to the fact that I am an adult and that if I have an idea or belief I have the right to defend or express it, as long as it is done respectfully.
Contrastly, I can see how this may get in the way of many people's success. Starting at as early as 13 kids feel they are adults and then entitled to make decisions that they don't always think through. In the academic setting, as well as in life, it is important to realize and maintain the correct level of PDI.

Tyann Senaldi said...

I believe that success and failure rely on the PDI of both student and professor, but even more so, cultural/communication differences can really affect students. Last semester, I took a class where the professor had different cultural views and communication. He expected us to speak in class, but when we did, he would insult our answers, I think the communication and cultural difference can really make or break the learning experience in any class.

Anonymous said...

In this chapter, Gladwell talked about how some things that the pilot said had no meaning to Air Traffic Control, therefore the intended meaning was not comprehended. This caused a lot of trouble. I feel like sometimes this happens between students and teachers here as well. A lack of communication causes difficulties, but so does unclear communication. Students sometimes ask questions that professors do not comprehend in the same way. Sometimes they think that student has more or less prior knowledge than they really do. Then, just like the pilots and Air Traffic Control, the meaning is lost.

-jes swim.

N.L.W. said...

Nia Williams

Communication is everything when it comes to college and your professors. If it weren't for communication how would one know when there was a test coming up or an assignment due? Professors communicate to students by giving them syllabuses or verbally telling them in class what they want them to know.
For a student to succeed in college they must communicate with their professors especially if they don't understand the material that was taught in class, and need to meet later to go over everything carefully for a better understanding or missed a day of class and need help catching up on what was missed. If one doesn't communicate, one can miss out on something that may have been useful. How is someone going to know if you need something if you never say anything? They won't you have to say something.
But I do agree with majority of everyone when they say you can have a lot of cultural differences that can affect the way people communicate. Something as little as a professor having an accent can affect students academically especially if they aren't familiar with hearing someone speak in such a way.
For example, I have a friend here at SIUE that had a professor last semester with a strong accent. She complained the entire semester and said she could never understand him, it was difficult trying to take notes, and because of that problem in their communication, my friend didn't too well in that class. She would also have to see a teacher's assistant often to clarify what was talked about in class. The T.A. helped but every time she went to class it was confusion all over again. Even at the times that she did understand her professor, the choice of words that the professor would use didn't quite clarify what he was trying to explain. I think in this situation there was a minor dent in communication that dealt with culture differences and in this case it was for the worse.

Janine Villard said...

I believe that culture can influence how well we can communicate with others. However,those differences should not be an end all be all to success. Cultural differences and misunderstandings should not be what directs success and failure. We live in a culturally diverse world and country. By focusing strictly on our own culture and expecting people to adjust their communication to fit our exact needs, no one would succeed because there are just too many different cultural needs. Taking time to learn and understand other people's cultures will benefit not only oneself, but also help in communication and relating to other people.

Christine Vu said...

Culture is something that we all have. West, East, North, it doesn't really matter. But from this stems many traditional aspects that may clash when two cultures come together. In this sense, communication is impeded. I think that it is possible to mend all cultures together, but this, in fact, takes time. Time is an aspect that is limited to those who don't have enough of it. And for those who do not have it, won't be able to communicate effectively as those who have enough of it.