University of Leicester
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Reconciling individual communication desires with society's norms. A qualitative study of how Japanese university students carry out discussions in English

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posted on 2009-11-06, 12:48 authored by Beverley Jane Westbrooke Horne
There have been many assumptions about Japanese communication and it is often contrasted with western “norms”. These concepts persist both within and outside Japanese culture and often lead to stereotyping of Japanese students. These findings include contrasts such as competition versus collaboration and rational logic versus intuitive and emotional responses. In addition it has often been assumed that Japanese students cannot reach a higher academic level in their communication in English. This study aimed to challenge both these views by providing an in-depth analysis of how Japanese university students communicated in small-group discussions in English over a full academic year. The literature provided various perspectives to support the notion of cultural contrasts, both in general and through specific studies of educational contexts. However, other views suggested the necessity of restricting the limits of these and considering the contexts in which they applied. Closer studies of particular academic, ideational and intercultural factors provided more detailed indications of specific features of Japanese discussions. In addition, it was considered necessary to take a culture-sensitive approach to the research was considered in both setting up discussions and carrying out classroom activities. Communication strategies were to be taught to aid the process of discussion. For the research, students’ journals were used to ascertain their perceptions of carrying out discussions and small-group discussions were recorded and analysed in detail over an academic year. Previous studies had suggested that accessing the student voice was an appropriate way to understand their communication. The results of the journals revealed that the students were in many ways influenced by cultural features but individually they had different goals and attitudes to carrying out discussions. The recordings also revealed certain cultural tendencies but also showed that students were able to make changes to their discussion style through the practice of strategies.



Armstrong, K.

Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • EdD



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