Marjon News

Marjon academic publishes article on bridging cultures in higher education

Released: 19.03.19

Plymouth Marjon University academic Dr Helen Goodall has had an article on cultural differences in education published by the respected journal Studies in Higher Education.

The article was written over a four-year period in collaboration with four academic colleagues at Soran University in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Marjon had been working with the Iraqi University on a number of projects including the development of their academic staff.  Dr Goodall and her co-authors at Soran University have now published their reflections of two different educational cultures coming together.

The article, titled Bridging Cultures: a programme of academic development in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, explores the reflections of Dr Goodall, Herish Khalil, Zina Adil Ismail, Syako Sulaiman Shekho and Kays Sharee Majdi after the implementation of an academic development programme at Soran University.

“This article has been a long time in the making. Marjon’s official relationship with Soran University ended around five years ago and the region has been in turmoil for much of the intervening period,” said Dr Goodall.

“The paper was co-written with four members of staff at Soran University and we reflect on the tensions and differences that can come about from working in higher education within and across different cultures.”

This latest paper is Dr Goodall’s second publication focusing on the link between Marjon and Soran University, having previously authored a piece titled Middle East meets West: Negotiating cultural difference in international educational encounters.

Dr Goodall was pleased to have a further opportunity to write on the subject, particularly in collaboration with academic colleagues from Soran.

Dr Goodall continued: “Working together on this paper felt like we were writing something that is more relevant to a broader range of people. It also felt more credible because it wasn’t just me on the outside looking in, it was all of us on the inside looking out.”

“The article is about bridging the cultural differences in respect of the academic development programme that we were engaged in.  One of the questions we address is the relevance and transferability of practice from the West to a university in Iraq. The participants in the programme have spoken about how it influenced their approach to teaching, and I’ve also discussed issues I need to be mindful of as a facilitator of programmes that involve cultural bridging in education.”

Dr Goodall has worked at Marjon for over 10 years and is currently the University’s Associate Director of Teaching and Learning. One of the differences she notes in the paper is a range of facilities many universities in the UK take for granted.

“Soran was a relatively new university when we started working together. Of course, there is access to some resources for learning and teaching but we have so many things in this country that we take for granted in higher education. As regards cross-cultural learning and teaching, this paper is definitely about questioning some of our assumptions about what we know and what we don’t know in terms of what is good practice at a university.

“The experience of working with Soran colleagues has strengthened my belief of the need for more research in respect of cultural difference in education. There is massive scope for further research in this area and I hope this paper encourages others to think carefully about their practice in similar situations,” concluded Dr Goodall.

Interested in reading the paper? Find out more here.

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