Month: March 2013

Getting used to study methods in Asia – My research

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What salient aspects of  XXXXX (An Asian) University and the students that attend do you see as a contradiction?


‘Manners maketh the man’ (William of Wykeham, 1350).  Whether you are in the street, in a restaurant or for our case in a university certain etiquette prevails. My observations were done to draw attention to the value of etiquette and also to show the extent of contradiction to normally accepted good manners there are in a university. The results showed that the philosophy lecture room in this Asian University far from being a quiet room of studious individuals was in fact a myriad of factors void of study ethics. The conclusion is that when it comes to study there is not a universal ideal as the acceptable method.


Etiquette is not a new idea and is changing all the time, as we see nowadays with the development of mobile telephone, but propriety still holds to essential tenets.  There are unspoken rules about daily etiquette such as talking loud, using telephones in the wrong place and being aware of others. There can be a lot of daily life that breaches social manners.  In a recent survey 90% of people thought it would be rude to receive a telephone call at a church which goes to say certain arenas are faux par for telephone use.

In a social minefield for new students to university, one business has recognized what many would not think was needed for learning, and as such, CLM Business Etiquette Consulting in Austin Texas now advises how students should invest in their courses to get them through their university course. CLM’s study courses highlight factors such as establishing meaningful relationships with your professors and other students to ascertain a co-operative experience.

My observations will show that new students in this Asian University need to be shown, taught and given rules as how to behave in a lecture room whilst understanding other people’s feelings.



In general, classes consisted of up to 60 to 70 people but due to lateness and students deciding not to come or come back from lunch break numbers fluctuated.


Observations were done using a tally system where marks were put onto a written table in the notebook.


As most of my pre-research knowledge so far had been through watching university life, it was thought that it would be the right transition to use observations in this part of the research. So, the first thought was to think of categories for the research which were the aspects of study that been had found to be strange.

  1. Telephone ringing – students don’t put their phone on vibrate. So the lecture room has many ring tones going off.
  2. Telephone SMS – although not as bad as ringing it still has a high pitch sound
  3. Coming late – the lesson is supposed to start at 9am although it does not actually start till 9.30am so this gives even later than late students time to arrive.
  4. Going in and out of class – it is generally presumed that you have prepared for a lecture you would not need to go out of the lecture room before the next break.
  5. Lecturer making students quiet – this tags along with students talking excessively. It is generally excepted than university is not a school.
  6. Playing computer (games) – even though this seems strange, it was added because students were observed playing fighting games and using facebook.
  7. Listening to music – as above, it was observed on the computer and shown from wire coming from student’s ears.
  8. Sleeping – be it at the start of the morning or the start of the afternoon period, students find they need to sleep more.
  9. Dress code –  being a hot Asian country does mean people get hotter with more clothes but some decorum still has to be kept. Also, the fact that students think that that university is like a fashion show and they must look their best.
  10. Acting inappropriately – generally being not interested in the lecture thus doing something different.
  11. Food/snacks – again everything is okay if kept within reason but excessive snacks is not really needed.

So, it was now time to set up observation times. It seemed obvious to set up an observation in the morning on the first class. There was generally the rule that once the lecturer says ‘good morning’ he expects the students to be quiet, listening and generally be ready for study. This was always around 9.30am, so this was made the start time. Normally, there was a break around 10.30am, so this worked well to have a one hour observation time. The thought was that it would be best to observe in the afternoon too, to see how students reacted to having a lunch break. Also, they had been in university since 9:00am, and there was all day of lecture, so it was interesting to see their endurance level. There was also the case of how many hours of observation would be done. With the philosophy course, which was being observed, it was only one month, so three lecture days were observed. This meant observations would be over three mornings and three afternoons. In total a period of three hours for morning and three hours for afternoon lectures. Then, a tally sheet was written up as to help keep a record of the times students and the lecturer performed anyone of the categories that had been suggested.


In the end only 7 categories were calculated on.

  1. Telephone ringing
  2. Telephone SMS
  3. Coming late
  4. Going in and out of class
  5. Lecturer making students quiet
  6. Sleeping
  7. Acting inappropriately

These categories not scoring, I thought were mostly due to the lecturer advising students not to do certain actions. Another factor was due to the lecturer being professional and knowing his subject matter. The feeling was there was some respect to the lecturer which came from his professionalism thus students were less interested in turning to other means of interest.

For the morning results, there was amazement regarding how many times the lecturer had to make the students quiet. In the space of three hours the lecturer had to tell some of the students twenty two times to be quiet. That works out at once every eight minutes. It has to be noted that there was a genuine disrespect for the lecturer from parts of the class, not only his lecturing but also the years of study he had completed to become so knowledgeable and competent in his job. Surprise was felt by how many students needed to go out even though they had time before the class and also that the break was not far away. It was recognized that the telephone problem of ringing and SMS messages was very low in the tallying. This was mainly due to already being talked about several times. Students actually had heeded the lecturer’s warnings albeit warnings many times before observations. A little bit of confusion was shown as to why students still turned up late when the lecturer started thirty minutes late. It was felt that even if he started one hour late they still would be late because they knew when the lecture started they would arrive sometime after.

For the afternoon session, it was always immediately noticed that big groups of students were missing. It was assumed that they just came to sign in the morning and thought that was good enough for the whole day. For some reason during the afternoon session, the rate of people going in and out of the class increased by 55% from the morning session. This worked out at one every three minutes during a three hours period. Some students actually arrived late and then left. This actually created two points on the tally card, one for late and one for going in and out. Again, there was bewilderment by the amount of times the lecturer needed to  tell the students to be quiet, even to the extent of asking one group ‘what did I just say?’ as to question them if they were listening. This was done two times over a space of ten minutes and was met by laughter and a general nonchalance by those students who were devoid to the lecturer’s job in hand. There was actually an 83% increase in the lecture making the students quiet from the morning session.


It is recognized that in some countries certain etiquette is not thought about and study ethics are laughed at.  Some students, although being new to university, still adopt old ways of studying so even though they have reached adulthood they still assume a child like attitude to learning. They feel that it is the lecturer job to keep them quiet and not their own personal position to be individuals who think and take responsibility for their actions. The overriding factor that has been shown through this observation has been some students total lack of awareness of others and their general detachment from other people who are at the university for the purpose of learning. One gets the feeling that students deride people that show a willingness to learn. Students studying get distracted easily so even someone going outside creates noise which is acknowledged with a quick glance from a studying student. It is also amazing because the attitude of the lecturer in this study who has a PHD and has shown to be the epitome of a university lecturer was scorned by many who felt the need to go in and out of the lecture room and talk.


William of Wykeham, Motto of Winchester College and New College, Oxford (1324 – 1404)

Patricia Lee MA (Oxon), MA (QUB) holds qualifications from the British Psychological Society and in teaching adult literacy. She has been a school governor, sat on the working party for the Jigsaw Visitors’ Centre at Armley Prison and made 1933-style shorts for the Leeds Metropolitan University Gymnastics Squad.


A linguistics class reflection

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Six days of attending linguistic lectures spread over three weeks can not be a major amount of time to achieve a solid and complete knowledge of linguistics, but all the same, this essay will try to establish how I accomplished a relative level of understanding through my studies. I tried hard to combine items raised in these lectures, my classmates’ comments, further reading away from the class, and clarity added by my focus group. I will try to highlight some of the points that stuck in my mind regarding linguistics while giving a little insight into the further ideas into the subject.

To begin with, would be to give my general view of linguistics. So, as I researched I found that linguistics is the study of human languages, where within this the science examines not only the structure of language but also its use and the structure in the mind. A layman may think that a linguist, the person who is skilled in linguistics, only looks at rules and grammar, but it is so much more than this. The subject takes in such fields as humanity, science, society, philosophy and literary criticism. Language is not as routine as some may think, and it is astonishing to think that language came from one source which spread across the world to create 6000 more. A learner of linguistics then would be amazed how many branches of linguistics have been created. So, without language where would we be?

My first recognizable factor about the classes was the highlighting of daily use of language which has to be the main dynamic in anyone’s scaffolding of knowledge. The more any speaker uses it, the more they will be able to use their fresh available knowledge of language. The lecturer actually mentioned that reading and writing inspire to make you more creative with your writing and speaking. This, I found to be a sensible choice to further one’s linguistic knowledge. The path that I followed on this course was not the one that I thought and as such I would like to draw attention to some of the further points.

I feel my reading has taken in many factors and has shown me that linguistics is a broad church. I was asked yesterday where the word ‘Santa Claus’ came from, and then I remember I read about it in a book called the Tower of Babel by John McWhorter who is famous for studying creoles. In it, he spoke about how it was a Dutch word that by immigrant coming to America and following their tradition they have spoken about it and Americans have misheard the word to be Santa Claus. This field of study in linguistics is actually called ‘Etymology’ where it recognizes the origins of words and sees how they have changed over time. I actually picked up the Tower of Babel book because I had read one of my group’s summaries from the book ‘Introduction to Linguistics’.

Moreover, the chapter in the Introduction to Linguistics book spoke about how words have changed through time. They called it variation; this means that languages take on their own route. English people especially in the northern region took the word ‘butter’ and pronounced it with the ‘er’. For me, this course has highlighted that linguistics is not just about grammar. Language takes on its own form and even one language like English below the surface lies a myriad of factors that are distinguished by linguists. For example, I read that language which was described by Ronald Langacker who is a founder of the field of cognitive linguistics, makes three fundamental assumptions: ‘that language is symbolic in nature that a linguistic community creates linguistic conventions, and that grammar is a speaker’s knowledge of linguistic conventions’. So, this gave me a better insight into the linguistic community creating the language and grammar. The speaker uses sentences that are built by selecting appropriate words from their vast lexicon that are learnt from his local language community.

Furthermore, if we are to talk about language communities, I can think back to watching the movie Sense and Sensibility in one class. The students were faced with sociolinguistics and the use of language around 1800 in England. A pioneering sociolinguist was William Labov who recognized the value of society, cultural norms and expectation on language. As for the film, it has a language of propriety of upper-class England. What people say and what they mean can be of different meanings. People had to behave properly and women were kept in place. There is a great scene where the daughter of the deceased father has to move to another residence where the owner speaks his mind to the disgust of the quiet and proper sisters. The movie certainly purports this as the characters are higher social standing and speak rather eloquently.

In addition, for this class to I had to look up the meaning of some of the branches of linguistics and as such, I read up about sociolinguistics. I recognised that language is seen as being used in a social context and isn’t this thing that is external to human beings but something that makes who we are. We could also add the branch of linguistics called Historical Linguistics which actually started the around the same time as Jane Austin wrote her book. This field of study grew of philology which is the study of ancient texts and documents. Not all field of linguistics started that long ago. While studying this class, the name Noam Chomsky was mentioned a few times. He is an American linguist among other positions. In the 1950s, his branch of linguistics was generative grammar which is a particular approach to syntax. He came up with ‘universal grammar’ which highlights innate properties in the brain. This means that any person born to parents from one background  (i.e. China) can easily be brought up to speak another language if they were immersed into another country (i.e. America) from an early age which means that the brain is programmed to accept speech at any level. This idea went against the behavioral idea that BF Skinner proposed.

To conclude I have deepened my knowledge of linguistics and found that language works in many ways. It is interesting to see the use of English that has spread over the world and the variety of new words added. I think the main factor when studying linguistics is to take it on how it is used, not how it should be used, because maybe there is no clear right or wrong way. What matters is meaning.

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