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Nóra Sebestyén: Cultural Embeddedness of Learning Concepts: A Comparative Study of Learning Concepts Among Hungarian, Chinese and American Young Adults

The last decade has seen a growing number of studies that focus on the cultural embeddedness of learning concepts (e.g. Li, 2003). These studies have identified two types of learning orientations: the first is ‘virtue orientation’, which is rooted in Confucian tenets and focuses on the moral and social aspects of learning; the second is ‘mind orientation’, which is based on ancient Greek philosophy and emphasises the cognitive (intelligence and skills) and motivational basis of learning. Most studies have used these two culture-based learning orientations to investigate learning concepts in cultures outside China and the US, where the models were originally developed (Van Egmond, 2011). This practice, however, raises the question of whether there is a qualitatively different learning model in a country which is economically, politically and socially different from China and the US. The goal of the present study was to investigate the learning concept of Hungarian young adults who are pursuing or have already completed their college education and to compare it with that of their Chinese and American peers (Li, 2003). In this study, the prototype research method (Rosch, 1978) was used, which was also adapted by Li (2003) to examine the American and Chinese learning concepts. Using the same procedure made it possible to compare the different concepts. The method involved two main steps: generating a list of learning-related terms and sorting for similarity. A total of 183 young adults from various academic fields (e.g. law, psychology, economics, and technology) were recruited with the snowball method for participation in the research. The results show that the Hungarian learning concept differs strongly from that of the Chinese and less strongly, but still considerably, from that of the Americans. The Hungarian young adults perceived the concept of learning within the framework of formal education and placed great emphasis on the different educational levels (primary/secondary and higher education); additionally, this concept is strongly related to a performance orientation (e.g. earning a degree and graduating). Distinct from the American and Chinese models, the Hungarian learning concept is referred to as a ‘pragmatic orientation’ because of its strong association with instrumental motivation. Highlighting the important aspects of Hungarian education (the dominance of formal education and pragmatic orientation and the underrepresentation of mastery motivation and learning virtues), the results can be considered as useful feedback for the Hungarian education system in support of effective evidence-based strategies to promote lifelong learning. In addition, the comparison of the cultural learning models might also contribute to culturally sensitive pedagogy.

MAGYAR PEDAGÓGIA 113. Number 1. 3-28. (2013)

Levelezési cím / Address for correspondence: Sebestyén Nóra, MTA TTK Kognitív Idegtudományi és Pszichológiai Intézet. H–1132 Budapest, Victor Hugo u. 18-22.


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia