Reverend Doctor vs. Peer Learning

I have been thinking about the effect of culture on education, particularly how a society’s power distance changes how people think about and practice learning and teaching. Hofstede defines Power Distance and summarizes the difference it can make.

Power Distance:

The extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.

Small Power Distance Large Power Distance
Students treat teachers as equals. Students give teachers respect, even outside class.
Teachers expect initiatives from students in class. Teachers should take all initiatives in class.
Teachers are experts who transfer impersonal truths. Teachers are gurus who transfer personal wisdom.
Quality of learning depends on two-way communication and excellence of students. Quality of learning depends on excellence of the teacher.
Less education persons hold more authoritarian values than educated persons. More educated and less educated persons show equally authoritarian values.
Educational policy focuses on secondary schools. Educational policy focuses on universities.

(Geert Hofstede, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, Chapter 3)



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2 Responses to “Reverend Doctor vs. Peer Learning” Subscribe

  1. Caleb Suko October 23, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    Very interesting chart. I can see how some of the distance between student and teacher happens in Ukraine. So is one better than the other or are they just different?

    • Tim Bahula October 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

      I think the appropriate answer according to cultural anthropology is that they are just different. What I’m wrestling with is that most of the reading I’m doing in education seems to be pushing to low power distance. Philosophies and methodologies such as constructivism, peer learning, problem-based learning, and learning tasks all seem to fit in a low power distance culture more readily.

      I’d be interested in your take on this. I’m not sure about Ukraine, but Russia is “among the 10% of the most power distant societies in the world” according to Hofstede ( How does this play out in your educational interactions?