November 24, 2009, by Teaching at Nottingham

Providing a cultural context to the discipline

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Chris Ennew: “Well, I suppose, the issue for me in business is that, if you look at the origins of business education, it’s probably in North America. Going back to the early part of the twentieth century, and an awful lot of thinking about management practice, management education, comes out of North America. And it’s probably still North America that leas the way in terms of research reputations, so you’ve got a very US centric, we in the UK find that, quite often, it’s very US centric, so how much more will you find it western centric if you’re looking at this from the perspective of India, or China or Malaysia or Thailand, or Africa, or even South America? So I think there is that, that strong western US orientation in the business area. And, you know, interestingly, and it’s quite difficult to stop yourself doing this in some senses but, you can look at a piece of research that happens to have been undertaken with tyre retailers in North Dakota, and that’s clearly of general interest, you know, the fact that it’s been undertaken with retailers in China makes it actually very specific and localised. Now, you know, and that’s kind of interesting. We often get caught up into the notion that when it’s been done in a very different country, then it’s only really of local relevance.”

David Clarke: “Psychology has its own peculiar version of that problem and that is that the subject is very largely based on laboratory experiments with volunteer participants and those volunteers are almost exclusively American university undergraduates and they’re a particular mix, of course, by nationality, by ethnicity, by class, by everything you care to mention. Which is a tiny fraction of humanity and that’s what the whole of psychology is based on, to a large extent.

“So what you get in a standard psychology course is a sort of homogenised psychology of everybody everywhere which in practice means sort of north American university students but it’s taken to be everybody everywhere, and then there’s a separate discipline almost, there’s a thing called cross-cultural psychology and that then, in a sense, verges on anthropology and disciplines that have a lot more than we did to do with different cultures and so on. And suddenly, there’s this sort of global diversity which is brought into focus.”

Nicola Pitchford: “It’s in there, it’s in the curriculum but it will be embedded in the curriculum and it won’t be very blatant, so, for example, in child development, there were sort of two main schools of thought, one of which was based on a Russian psychologist. So, you know the sort of cultural differences that that psychologist was working within, will be reflected within his school of thought. When I’m teaching, I try, I try and pull those points out.”

Stephanie Bridges: “Particularly being in a subject like pharmacy where it’s a real global profession and of course, you have to deal with public, patients, other professionals that are of a whole range of cultures, a whole range of nationalities, you know, within Nottingham, you’ve got such a range, for example, that you’ve got to understand different, well, not just different languages or different ways of speaking but different beliefs about health. Different beliefs about medicines and perhaps why you would wish to or wouldn’t wish to take a medicine in a particular way. And, you know, that’s just a one pharmacy angle of it. I guess.”

Mike Clifford: “One of the lectures I really love giving is on the history of technology, put a lot of effort into that, I’ve even dressed up as Brunel to do that on a few occasions. But after doing it for a few years, I sort of looked at the material and realised that it implied that everything that was invented of any sort of worth was done by white British people, basically. And actually, British men. In the sort of Industrial Revolution. And I sort of did a bit of reading around and I went to a few seminars that were organised by other people on looking at the history of technology, at the British Association for the Advancement of Science actually, and there was a guy there from an organisation called Muslim Heritage and he got me thinking and I looked at their website and now the lectures, we sort of give the presentation and towards the end, I say, Well, actually do we know who invented everything? Because if you look back through other cultures’ literature and through their eyes, then there’s different answers. So, for example, twelfth century Persian engineer called Al-Jazari, he produced a text book on mechanics and some of the ideas predate sort of Leonardo da Vinci, and certainly predate sort of western thinking on technology. So I put that in at the end and say well, do we really know who discovered all these things?”

Stephanie Bridges (School of Pharmacy), 
David Clarke (School of Psychology), 
Mike Clifford (Department of Mechanical, Materials & Manufacturing Engineering), 
Chris Ennew (Nottingham University Business School), 
Nicola Pitchford (School of Psychology).

This article was originally published as part of PESL’s Internationalisation collection. Produced November 2009.

Posted in Internationalisation