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Book Reviews by Krause, Samovar and Porter


This paper consists of two reviews, one of a keynote speech and one of a chapter in a book. The keynote speech is on the issue of the challenges facing the policy and practice towards first-year students in research-led universities. The book chapter is on the topic of world views, as addressed by authors dealing with communication between cultures. In both of the reviews, the main thesis of the author is identified. This is then followed by a discussion of the points in each document that support the author’s thesis. Finally, each review concludes by reflecting on the points raised in support of the thesis and critically examining them, to determine whether they uphold the stated thesis or not, and by suggesting ways in which the thesis advanced in each document can be either strengthened or undermined, by the addition of further points.

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Krause review

In her keynote paper, Krause addresses the issues facing first-year undergraduates in Australian universities, in the context of a rapidly changing global academic environment. [1] She discusses these issues with particular reference to the standpoint of research-led universities, whose circumstances are to some extent distinct from those of teaching universities.

Krause’s main assertion is that universities in Australia and around the world are facing unprecedented change, due to the large number of students who cross international borders in search of higher education and the development of information and communication technology, which enables students to learn in ways that were not possible before. [2] In addition, increasing competition between universities, determined by global rankings, and a decline in federal funds, means that universities are increasingly required to market themselves as distinctive brands to students, who are regarded as clients. [3]

Krause acknowledges that universities may have difficulties in fulfilling the aforementioned requirements, as university staff entrusted with enrolment may have different views from academic staff, which results in a bewildering experience for first-year undergraduates, who may feel that they are receiving contradictory information from university staff. The situation is compounded further by the growth in numbers and diversity of first-year undergraduates. [4]

Krause thinks that three main challenges are facing the teaching of first-year students in research-led universities, namely managing student diversity, building a sense of community and belonging among first-year students, and dealing with student expectations in a practical, realistic manner. [5] In addressing these three challenges Krause admits that academic staff in research-led universities may be torn between research and teaching. [6] Thus the crux of the matter is how to integrate first-year students into the world of research without depriving them of the course content that they need.

On the issue of student diversity, while it is true that first-year undergraduates are coming from an ever more varied range of backgrounds, this should not be allowed to compromise the goals of any university. The perception of students as clients implies that the university should cater to their every whim. However, this should not be the case as it will undermine the mentorship relationship that is supposed to exist between lecturer and student. In research-led universities, more so than in others, a smooth working relationship needs to be established between academic staff and students, so that the integration of the latter into the specialized world of research can commence. The best time to do this is while students are still in their first year, as it is easier to learn new skills early on in undergraduate studies.

The challenge of building a sense of community among first-year students can be pursued both actively and passively. Academic staff can structure their teaching to include group activities that will encourage interaction. However, Krause seems to have ignored the role that students themselves can play in community building, particularly older students. Provided adequate opportunities are given for students to socialize beyond the classroom (such as extra-curricular activities) it will not be difficult for first-year students to become part of the university community. Thus staff should focus on setting up the right policies and leave it up to students to implement them.

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Finally, managing student expectations is complicated by the zeal of researchers and marketers, as opposed to what first-year students expect to encounter. As universities are ranked based on their level of research and publishing, research cannot be sacrificed for the sake of teaching. Therefore the solution to this problem would be to engage students in research and teaching concurrently, instead of viewing research and teaching as two unrelated activities. In this way, the first year in a research-led university would turn out to be a period of discovery for students, rather than a time of confusion.

Samovar and Porter review

In their essay, Samovar and Porter state that a world view is an overarching philosophy that individuals and cultures employ to make sense of the world and to interact with it. [7] They state that a world view is such an intrinsic part of an individual and communal perception that one may act by a world view without actually knowing why one does what one does. They support this assertion through various examples. For instance, they explain how the treatment of women in Islam is influenced by the teachings of the Quran and the Hadith, which constitute the Islamic worldview.

The authors state that a worldview has such a strong influence on those who adhere to it that they become incapable of accepting or even conceiving of a different worldview. This understanding presents one’s worldview as imperceptible to oneself. Apart from acting upon us, world views affect how we deal with our surroundings. [8] A useful contrast in this regard is the Christian concept of nature, as opposed to that of the Shinto religion of Japan. While the Christian worldview espoused in Genesis requires humanity to dominate the Earth, the Shinto worldview is that humanity and nature are inseparable and that to do harm to one is to harm the other. Similarly, world views can be applied to understand the different ways in which cultures affect the life of nations. [9]

Although they discuss world views at length, the authors do not discuss the extent to which a world view can be altered, or even whether such a thing is possible. It has been known for individuals to change their religion, and thereby apparently change their worldview, but this does not take into account the similarities that may exist between religions. Indeed, despite the wide variety of cultures and religions in the world, many of them have similar characteristics, such as the prohibition against killing a fellow human being.

It is also erroneous to suppose that all individuals who share a worldview believe the same things. An individual may have an individual world view, which s/he superimposes on the world view of the group, or vice versa. This would account for the presence of sub-groups within groups, such as denominations and sects within religions. Another issue that the authors have not addressed, but which is of interest, is the impact of information on a worldview. In the past, before the communication revolution, a large community could have homogenous ideas about life and the world. However, with the explosion of information at the present day, it is difficult to know whether one’s worldview is constant or whether it is flexible, constantly adapting as it receives new information.

It would also be interesting to inquire into whether there is a maximum age beyond which it is impossible to alter one’s worldview, regardless of new facts presented. Casual observation seems to suggest that this may be the case, as it is known that people become more obstinate in their opinions as they grow older.

In conclusion, world views are an integral part of human life and behavior and should be studied further to enhance interactions between cultures, which is the purpose of the authors’ book.

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Krause, Kerri-Lee. “The Changing Face of the First Year: Challenges for Policy and Practice in Research-Led Universities.” Presentation at the University of Queensland First Year Experience Workshop, 2005.

Samova, Larry and Richard Porter. Communication between cultures. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2004.

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