Book Reviews

Book by: Certina J. van Schalkwyk & Rik C. D’Amato (Eds.)
Review by: Rick Malleus
Communication Department
Seattle University


This volume, the first in a two part series, seeks to provide readers an understanding of Asian students’ learning motivations, focuses on collaborative teaching techniques, and explores strategies for outcomes-based collaborative learning grounded in Asian students’ cultural beliefs.

Perhaps the most useful chapter for academic advisors is the first, Learning the Confucian Way. The chapter focuses on the methods of learning and the beliefs about learning in Asian cultures. Of particular interest may be the suggestion that students in Asian learning contexts tend to value the practical over the theoretical. Advisors of international students from Asia, in the U.S., for example, may want to use this knowledge to make certain that their advisees see value in the explanatory power of theory embedded in their classes, and that teachers who teach these students link the theoretical to the practical. Additionally, there is an interesting discussion in this chapter about active learning and the Confucian tradition. Introspection and silence may be signals Asian students send to their teachers that they are actively engaged in learning, while U.S. students may demonstrate their active engagement by asking questions and engaging in class discussions. U.S. advisors should discuss these learning engagement styles with international Asian advisees, and faculty who teach those students. Understanding that “difference does not mean inferior” (p.15) when it comes to culturally different learning styles is an important lesson for advisors and students to learn, and has implications for the academic success of those students in classrooms where preferred learning styles are not used or recognized.

Some readers may view the focus on classroom instructional design, as in chapter two or chapter five, to be a weakness of the text when reading it from an advisor’s perspective. It can be argued however, that for an academic advisor to be able to most effectively work with a student population as they navigate different classrooms, it is useful to consider the pedagogy used, in this instance, in collaborative learning environments. For example, chapter five discusses the use of software that is socially oriented, like wikis, collaborative documents, and social networks, in helping enable collaboration between learners. Providing additional rigor to the chapter, the authors provide a theoretical basis for the reader to understand the process of integrating media into the learning context.

An important reminder for academic advisors can be found in chapter four, with a call to recognize that all students, in this case specifically Asian students, “adjust their study methods to match assessment measures” (p.77). When students begin to learn and be assessed in an academic environment they are not used to, it will take time for them to adjust their study and learning habits to be most successful in the way they are evaluated. Academic advisors need to discuss this process with their students, and this chapter may be of value in considering how those conversations might be undertaken.

While some advisors might consider the focus of this text to be too teacher-oriented, the lessons academic advisors can take away from the five chapters, as the discussion in this review highlighted, make this book a worthwhile read. This is especially true for those advisors working with Asian student populations, and those interested in intercultural communication and the way culture influences collaborative knowledge co-construction.

From the Confucian Way to Collaborative Knowledge Co-Construction: New Directions for Teaching and Learning. (June, 2015). Book by Certina J. van Schalkwyk & Rik C. D’Amato (Eds.). Review by Rick Malleus. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass. 101 pp., $29.00 (Paperback). ISBN 978-1-119-10844-3 

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