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.
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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.
- Telephone ringing – students don’t put their phone on vibrate. So the lecture room has many ring tones going off.
- Telephone SMS – although not as bad as ringing it still has a high pitch sound
- 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.
- 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.
- Lecturer making students quiet – this tags along with students talking excessively. It is generally excepted than university is not a school.
- Playing computer (games) – even though this seems strange, it was added because students were observed playing fighting games and using facebook.
- Listening to music – as above, it was observed on the computer and shown from wire coming from student’s ears.
- Sleeping – be it at the start of the morning or the start of the afternoon period, students find they need to sleep more.
- 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.
- Acting inappropriately – generally being not interested in the lecture thus doing something different.
- 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.
- Telephone ringing
- Telephone SMS
- Coming late
- Going in and out of class
- Lecturer making students quiet
- 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.