AsiaTEFL Logo        The Journal of Asia TEFL
The Journal of Asia TEFL
Articles By Subject
Current Issue
Past Issues
Special Issue
Information of the Journal
Editorial Board
Submission Guidelines
Ethical Guidelines
Manuscript Submission
Journal Order
Today 892
Total 4,025,615
Current Issue
Go List

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

PDF Download

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.