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IC Knowledge Competency 1: Information Gathering

Successful intercultural partnerships start with each partner taking an interest in the other’s culture and demonstrating willingness and initiative to learn about and discover unfamiliar cultural values, practices and contextual information.

Gathering such information is important for various reasons. Policy or sector information is usually essential for the task at hand; an understanding of the other’s beliefs, values and business practices can create a better basis for relationship-building, and – on a personal level – can broaden people’s horizons.

In the eChina-UK Programme, British members needed to gather information on issues such as the following:

squares.gif The Chinese educational policies and practices, such as e-learning policies, quality assurance mechanisms, and common classroom practices;
squares.gif The target trainees of their proposed teacher training programmes;
squares.gif Key cultural values and concepts, such as hierarchy, face, and ‘guanxi’*

*Guanxi roughly equates to ‘personal connections’ and denotes the value Chinese people attach to the building and maintaining of relationships, which involves receiving and returning favours – both personal and business-related.

The project members found that it was often quite challenging to find out such information because it was not necessarily available in English.
 
 Case Study Example: Acquiring Content-specific Information 
 
Some of the British developers needed some content-specific information on the Chinese educational context, as well as Chinese research data, in order to write some of their units. They found it difficult to obtain this, and it was not always clear whether this was because it was only available in Chinese (and thus not searchable in English) or whether it did not exist. For example, a British developer needing to write a unit on teacher evaluation commented as follows:
 Brit 2: 
 
I found it was difficult to find specific information in the literature in English. I’d track down articles via the internet, but the abstracts were in Chinese. But after being over there, and talking to the teachers, I began to think that the material on teacher evaluation doesn’t really exist. It depends on the area, the school you’re in. Maybe people haven’t done that kind of research. Maybe it’s also a different kind of research. I was looking for something in-depth, teachers talking about how they are evaluated in schools, which there’s a lot of now here. But what I could find, and what I was sent, seemed to be very quantitative. There were a lot of figures and graphs. So it’s obviously a different kind of research being done, so maybe that’s why I couldn’t find what I wanted.

 

Information can be gathered from many sources (e.g. books, internet etc.) and all of these should be utilised. However, the eChina-UK teams found that well-chosen cultural informants were particularly effective sources of important information.

cift_arrow.gif Tip: Find a ‘cultural informant’ who can act as an effective bridge to the other culture.