Roland Louis gives talk on teaching for other cultures

Trevor Ivan

The keynote speaker at today’s university teaching conference said, during the interview with the reporter, teaching methods need to be changed to accommodate the growing population of diverse students found in today’s classrooms.

Roland Louis, from the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec and a visiting scholar at Kent State during the 2004-2005 academic year, researches the areas of student assessment and teaching methods internationally.

“Due to the increasing diversity of the student body and the multicultural composition of every nation, the dominant model of teaching has to be changed for a newer model,” Louis said.

Louis will present some of his research this morning during his keynote address entitled “Can we still teach others?”

Louis has worked on projects relating to education in Brazil, France, Chile, Haiti and Switzerland.

Linda Robertson, director of Kent State’s Gerald H. Read Center for International and Intercultural Education, worked with Louis while he studied at the university last year. She said a major portion of his research focuses on the effectiveness of student assessment methods such as testing.

“Louis attempts to figure out if methods of student assessment are really an accurate reflection of a student’s level of knowledge,” Robertson said. “Do testing and other forms of student assessment fulfill their intended goal?”

Louis said his international research has shown him that students learn differently based on their culture.

“My works have given me the insight that teaching as a form of transmitting knowledge is worth nothing when it does not take into account the cultural context and diversity of students,” Louis said.

He said students have a harder time grasping knowledge taken from another cultural context.

Louis said cultural contexts even affect the way students conduct themselves in the classroom. Students in Brazil are less likely to ask questions during class because these students are not used to expressing their feelings.

The same is true in France where a traditional education system exists, and students think they will be seen as ignorant if they ask questions.

Louis said this contrasts with the United States, where university professors are deeply respected by students and ideas flow freely in the classroom.

“We must change to a kind of teaching that puts students in action to build their own knowledge according to their own culture and the present needs (of their country),” Louis said.

While at the university, Louis started a research project that examined the methods instructors in the Colleges of Education, Nursing and Business Administration use to assess student achievement.

“I am interested in understanding the kinds of beliefs teachers hold about assessment of student learning, and the relationship between those beliefs and the way they proceed in order to grade student learning at the end of a course,” Louis said.

Robertson said Louis’ research also focuses on teaching professors how to teach more effectively.

“Professors earn a Ph.D. in an area of specialization, but they haven’t necessarily learned how to teach that knowledge to others,” Robertson said.

Paul Gaston, university provost, will introduce Louis this morning at his keynote address. He said Louis is a stimulating influence on all of higher education.

“(Louis) brought to (Kent State) both a deep engagement with research into higher education teaching and a strong commitment to higher education internationally,” Gaston said.

Robertson said Louis’ research is a crucial part of education today because there is an increasing number of students who choose to study internationally.

“Professors work with many diverse audiences today,” she said. “The behaviors we’re used to from the past aren’t necessarily what we’re dealing with today. We need to find ways to fit the global mobility of people.”

Robertson said Louis was a good choice for a keynote speaker for this year’s conference.

“I knew he was a natural fit since he was doing research in the area of effective teaching,” she said. “The university was also already familiar with him and his research.”

Kimberly Peer, the chair of this year’s conference, agreed that Louis’ research is an effective topic for the conference.

“The theme of this year’s conference is celebrating college teaching, and Louis’ address emphasizes the role of teaching others in higher education,” Peer said. “His vast experience brings a unique approach to the scholarship of teaching.”

Robertson said there is a message found in Louis’ work.

“Louis shows us there is a universality of knowledge that transcends language,” she said. “Language shouldn’t be a barrier to the transfer of knowledge.”

Contact honors and international affairs reporter Trevor Ivan at [email protected].