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Volume 2 Number 3, Autumn 2005, Pages 1-149   

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A Western Researcher in a Japanese University Writing Classroom: Limited or Advantaged? Cultural Sensitivity and the Debate on Japanese Students' Critical Thinking

    Jim McKinley

In a case study research project where a Western researcher is observing Japanese university students in their own classrooms in Japan being taught critical English writing by Western teachers, certainly the issue of cultural sensitivity is crucial. I feel it is my duty as a Western researcher to try to be as objective as possible to be able to have a better understanding of the social phenomena that is learning English writing in a Japanese university. One idea is to try situated qualitative research - to try to understand the situation from the students' point of view (Atkinson, 2005). Another idea is to 'remove' myself from my own prior knowledge and prejudices. As a research methodology, this 'innocence' (or ignorance?) is otherwise never really possible, since my own life experience will always affect my understanding of what I observe (Berger & Luckmann, 1966). Both of these ideas lead to dilemmas of great philosophical proportions - of trying to understand a cultural scene that is not my own.