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Cultural transitions in higher education: Individual adaptation, transformation and engagement

Volet, S.ORCID: 0000-0001-8450-6663 and Jones, C. (2012) Cultural transitions in higher education: Individual adaptation, transformation and engagement. In: Karabenick, S.A. and Urdan, T.C., (eds.) Transitions Across Schools and Cultures. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, U.K, pp. 241-284.

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This chapter provides a critical analysis of the literature on individuals in cultural transitions in higher education, namely, international students in culturally unfamiliar contexts; teachers of international students and culturally more diverse classrooms; and local students in increasingly culturally diverse classes. All these individuals are actors exposed to new and shifting cultural experiences expected to impact their motivation and engagement. Two broad perspectives emerging from the literature were used to organize the chapter: a perspective of adaptation representing research grounded in unilateral, bilateral or reciprocal conceptualizations, and a perspective of transformation, capturing experiential learning research leading to personal and academic development. The analysis highlights how motivation is a critical, yet under-examined construct. This leads to numerous suggestions for future research including: addressing the neglected role of agency in research on international students' sociocultural adaptation and the lack of research on successful processes of adaptation; examining the confounding issue of socialization into new cultural-educational environments and level of proficiency in the medium of instruction, which impacts on engagement; and scrutinizing the posited link between deep-level motivated engagement in cultural transitions and the emergence of transformative experiences. A case is made for research on individuals' engagement and motivation in cultural transitions to be conceptually and methodologically stronger and broader, moving from studies of single groups of individuals in need of adaptation, to investigations of the co-regulated, reciprocal adaptations of actors and agents operating in complex sociocultural contexts where power dynamics related to knowledge and language affect participation and engagement with cultural 'others'.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright: 2012 Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Notes: Advances in Motivation and Achievement
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