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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 69-75

Influence of sociocultural norms on classroom behaviour of dental students in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria


Department of Child Dental Health, Faculty of Dentistry, College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Date of Web Publication16-Oct-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. M O Folayan
Department of Child Dental Health, Faculty of Dentistry, College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife
Nigeria
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1596-4078.243434

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  Abstract 


Background: Sociocultural norms influence everyday behaviour and social interactions. These norms may influence behaviour and interactions between students and lecturers in the classroom.
Objective: The study explored ways by which sociocultural norms influenced classroom behaviour of dental students. It also explored the differences in students' perceived and lecturers' expectations of classroom behaviours displayed by students.
Methods: A close- and open-ended questionnaire was administered to final year students and lecturers in the Dental School of Obafemi, Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, to identify the perception of students' and lecturers' expectations of classroom behaviours, and their perception on how sociocultural norms influenced their interactions. Descriptive and bivariate analysis was conducted. Qualitative data were analysed using the ground theory.
Results: Thirty-seven (78.7%) of 47 eligible students and 13 (81.3%) of 16 eligible lecturers responded. While 12 (92.3%) lecturers expected their students to feel free to share views contrary to their opinion, only 6 (16.2%) students felt lectures expected this behaviour (P < 0.001). All lecturers felt that student–lecturer interaction on study subjects should continue beyond the classroom compared to 25 (67.6%) of students (P = 0.02). Also, all lecturers felt students should have the freedom to express any perspective beyond the conventional thoughts on the subject matter while only 20 (54.1%) students felt lecturer expect that (P = 0.002). In addition, 18 (49.8%) students compared with 11 (84.6%) lecturers expected informal student–lecturer interactions during classroom sessions (P = 0.003). Both students and lecturers felt that sociocultural norms about 'respectful behaviour' limit classroom behaviour and interactions.
Conclusion: Sociocultural norms significantly influenced classroom behaviour of dental students and interfered with critical thinking and mentorship processes. Students and lecturers in the faculty need to undergo value clarifications to overcome the influence of personal sociocultural values on learning processes.

Keywords: Behaviour, dental, lecturers, sociocultural norms, students


How to cite this article:
Folayan M O. Influence of sociocultural norms on classroom behaviour of dental students in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Niger J Health Sci 2016;16:69-75

How to cite this URL:
Folayan M O. Influence of sociocultural norms on classroom behaviour of dental students in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Niger J Health Sci [serial online] 2016 [cited 2018 Nov 19];16:69-75. Available from: http://www.chs-journal.com/text.asp?2016/16/2/69/243434




  Introduction Top


Sociocultural norms influence everyday behaviour and social interactions. These norms may influence behaviour and interactions between students and lecturers in the classroom. It is important to understand the sociocultural norms that influence classroom behaviours of dental students and lecturers. It is also important to identify how to modulate these sociocultural norms in ways that enhance classroom interactions, support students' problem management and promote students' self-learning.

Sociocultural theory emphasises the important role of social interaction in the construction of knowledge[1] and evolution of health,[2] economic[3] and learning[4] behaviours. Classroom norms and their influence on classroom disruptive or attentive behaviour have also been studied.[5] Little is, however, known about the influence sociocultural norms have on classroom behaviour of students in general, and the influence norms on classroom behaviour of students in higher institutions specifically. Little is also known about how societal cultural norms influence classroom learning processes. Grosser[6] and Acharyna,[7] however, recognised that sociocultural norms influence classroom behaviours. These authors are from communities where culture plays a strong central role in multiple facets of human interactions like that of Nigeria. Culture influences various facets of human interactions in Nigeria such as interactions between children and adults,[8] within families[9] and interactions with persons considered to be strangers.[10] Little is, however, known about how the different cultures in Nigeria influence school and classroom behaviours. The present research was built on the works of Grosser[6] and Acharyna[7] by further exploring how sociocultural norms impact on learning at a tertiary level of education.

The present study was informed by the work of Vygotsky who highlighted the role of the social and cultural context of the lives of individuals and how this informs their interaction, and the interdependence between social and individual processes in learning.[11],[12] Learning also influences behaviour. The study explored the effect of sociocultural norms on social interactions and classroom behaviour (both disruptive and constructive interaction between students and lecturers) of dental students and their lecturers at the Dental School of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.

Dental education requires active interactions between students, peers and lecturers during classroom and clinical training for effective learning. The present study specifically tried to identify the forms of classroom behaviours that students thought lecturers expected from them, and how sociocultural norms influenced classroom behaviour and interactions between students and lecturers. On the other hand, it elicited from lecturers, what behaviours they expected from their students and how sociocultural norms influenced their expectations, Finally, the study analysed for differences in students and lecturers' expectations in classroom behaviours.


  Materials and Methods Top


Ethical approval (IPH/OAU/12/520) for the study was obtained from the Institutional Review Board of the Institute of Public Health, College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The study was a descriptive, cross-sectional study. The study population was the 2013/2014 final year dental students. The study was carried out during the 2014/2015 academic session. It was assumed that the students in the final year had stayed long enough in the dental school to be able to give informed opinions on the questions explored in the present study. Dental students only spend 2 of their 3 final years in the university in the faculty of dentistry. All the 47 students in the class were eligible to participate in the study.

A questionnaire with close- and open-ended questions was administered to the students. A similar questionnaire that reflected the questions posed to the students was also administered to lecturers who were eligible to participate in the study.

Data collection instrument administered to the students

The questionnaire was divided into four sections: Section 1 was used to collect data on the sociodemographic profile (age, gender and ethnic group) of respondents. Section 2 had five questions that explored the perceived classroom behaviour students felt their lecturers expect from them. The questions were 'Most lecturers in the Faculty of Dentistry, Obafemi Awolowo University, expect me not to ask questions during classroom sessions', 'Most lecturers in the Faculty of Dentistry, Obafemi Awolowo University, expect me to only ask questions when they indicate that I should ask the questions', 'Most lecturers in the Faculty of Dentistry, Obafemi Awolowo University, expect me to share my opinion during classroom sessions', 'Most lecturers in the Faculty of Dentistry, Obafemi Awolowo University, expect me to sit quietly throughout the classroom session and listen to the lecture' and 'Most lecturers in the Faculty of Dentistry, Obafemi Awolowo University, expect me to offer a view contrary to their opinion when asked questions'. The responses for each question were fixed option responses (yes, no, not sure and no response) with a space provided for comments for given response.

Section 3 had five questions that explored the perceived classroom behaviour students feel their lecturers do not expect from them. The questions were 'Most lecturers in the Faculty of Dentistry, Obafemi Awolowo University, do not expect me to know more on the subject matter than they do', 'Most lecturers in the Faculty of Dentistry, Obafemi Awolowo University, do not expect me to read beyond the scope of their lecture', 'Most lecturers in the Faculty of Dentistry, Obafemi Awolowo University, do not expect me to interact with them on study subjects beyond the classroom', 'Most lecturers in the Faculty of Dentistry, Obafemi Awolowo University, do not expect me to express any perspective beyond the conventional thoughts on the subject matter' and 'Most lecturers in the Faculty of Dentistry, Obafemi Awolowo University, do not expect me to interact informally (share jokes, make comments) during the classroom session'. The responses for the section were also fixed option responses (yes, no, not sure and no response) with space to provide comments for each of the responses.

Section 4 had two open-ended questions that required respondents to discuss their perception about how sociocultural norms influence or did not influence the ways lecturers interact with students and students interact with their lecturers in the classroom.

Data collection instrument administered to lecturers

The questionnaire was divided into four sections: section 1 collected data on the sociodemographic profile (age, gender and ethnic group) of respondents. Section 2 had five questions that explored the classroom behaviours lecturers expect from their students. The questions were 'I expect my students not to ask me questions during classroom sessions', 'I expect my students to share my opinion during classroom sessions', 'I expect my students to sit quietly throughout the classroom session and listen to the lecture' and 'I expect my students to feel free to offer a view contrary to my opinion when asked questions'. The responses for each question were fixed option responses (yes, no, not sure and no response) with a space provided for comments for given response.

Section 3 had five questions that explored the perceived classroom behaviour students feel their lecturers do not expect from them. The questions were 'I do not expect my students to know more on the subject matter than I do', 'I do not expect my students to read beyond the scope of my lecture', 'I do not expect my students to interact with me on study subjects beyond the classroom', 'I do not expect my students to express any perspective beyond the conventional thoughts on the subject matter' and 'I do not expect my students to interact informally (share jokes, make comments) during classroom session'. The responses for the section were also fixed option responses (yes, no, not sure and no response) with space to provide comments for each of the responses.

Section 4 had two open-ended questions that required respondents to discuss their perception about how sociocultural norms influence or did not influence the way they interact with students and students interact with them in the classroom.

Study procedure

Data were collected using self-administered questionnaires. Lecturers were given the questionnaire after the author explained the study objective to them. The questionnaire for the students was administered prior to a lecture session after the study objectives were introduced to them by the study author. The questionnaires for the students were then handed over to the class captain to distribute and collect back. All filled questionnaires were retrieved from the students and lecturers within 48 hours of administration.

Data analysis

Quantitative data were entered into excel spreadsheet and analysed using Stata version 11 (StataCorp LLC, Texas, USA). Descriptive analysis was conducted, and the proportion of students and lecturers who reported a specific expected classroom behaviours was compared. Differences in the students' and lecturers' responses on expected classroom behaviours were analysed using Chi-square test (χ2). The level of significance was set at P ≤ 0.05. Responses to open-ended questions were analysed using the grounded theory, and triangulated with data generated from the quantitative data.


  Results Top


Students' responses

The questionnaire was administered to 47 students and 16 lecturers. Thirty-seven (78.7%) of the 47 eligible students returned the completed questionnaires. These consist of 21 (56.8%) males and 16 (43.2%) females. The age range of the students was 23–36 years. [Table 1] gives a summary of the age and gender distribution of the students. The mean age was 25.5 (0.40) years. The modal age was 24 years with 10 (27.0%) of the 37 respondents being aged 24 years. All (100.0%) the students were from the Yoruba ethnic group.
Table 1: Age and gender distribution of the students

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Classroom behaviours that lecturers expected from students

[Table 2] shows the responses of the students on that classroom behaviours that lecturers expected from them. Twenty-eight (75.7%) students felt that most lecturers in the faculty expected them to ask questions during classroom sessions, 23 (62.2%) felt most lecturers expected them to ask questions not only when prompted, 27 (73.0%) felt most lecturers expected them to share their opinion during classroom sessions and 23 (62.2%) felt most lecturers expected them to sit quietly throughout the classroom session listening to the lecturer. Also, 11 (48.6%) students felt their lecturers expected them to feel free to share their views contrary to that of their lecturers when answering questions.
Table 2: Responses on perceived classroom behaviour that lecturers expect from students (n=37)

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Classroom behaviour that lecturers did not expect from students

[Table 3] shows the responses of students on their perception about classroom behaviours lecturers did not expect from the students. (i) Twenty-six (70.3%) students did not feel that most of their lecturers expected them to demonstrate a better understanding of the topics taught in class than the teachers. (ii) Thirty (81.1%) students did not feel that most of their lecturers expected them to read beyond the scope of the lectures. (iii) Twenty-five (67.6%) students did not feel that most of their lecturers expected students to interact with lecturers on topics taught in the classroom beyond the classroom. (iv) Twenty (54.1%) students did not feel that most of their lecturers expected them to express any contrary opinion they had on a classroom topic.
Table 3: Responses on perceived classroom behaviour that lecturers did not expect from students (n=37)

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Influence of sociocultural norms on classroom interaction

Students felt that sociocultural norms affected the classroom interactions between students and lecturers. The impact of sociocultural norms on classroom behaviour seems to weave around the expectation of 'respective behaviour'.

'Most teachers do not want to be disrespected… The student–teacher relationship is therefore left formal and almost never semi-formal to avoid the coming to pass of the statement that familiarity breeds contempt'.

'My observation based on the few years spent across different classes being taught by teachers from different tribes and from different sociocultural environments has revealed how this shapes their method of student interaction. Yoruba teachers are so particular about (students) responses being coined in an ethically acceptable manner while a student who is Igbo and from different sociocultural background wouldn't understand such courtesy'.

The sociocultural norms of the students could have informed their class behaviour despite their desire for a conducive atmosphere that facilitates interaction between students and lecturers. Such an atmosphere would enable them clarify opinions and verify information. As one of the students highlighted:

'The Yoruba culture demands that young ones keep quiet when elders talk. Also, saying one's view that's contrary to an elder's (view) is seen as an act of disrespect'.

Lecturers' responses

There were twenty lecturers in the Faculty of Dentistry of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. However, only 16 (80.0%) of the 20 lecturers were eligible to participate in the study – three lecturers were on sabbatical leave and one of the authors was excluded from the study (the study author). Thirteen (81.3%) of the 16 eligible lecturers completed the questionnaire. All (100.0%) the respondents were from the Yoruba ethnic group.

Classroom behaviour that lecturers expected from students

[Table 4] highlights the responses of lecturers on the classroom behaviour that lecturers expected fromstudents. (i) Eleven (84.6%) teachers expected students to ask questions during classroom sessions. (ii) Seven (53.8%) teachers expected students to share their opinion during classroom sessions. (iii) Seven (53.8%) teachers expected students to sit quietly throughout the classroom session listening to lectures. (iv) Twelve (92.3%) teachers expected students to feel free to share views and express any opinion they had on a classroom topic.
Table 4: Responses on expected classroom behaviour from students by lecturers (n=13)

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Classroom behaviour that lecturers did not expect from students

[Table 5] highlights the responses of lecturers on the classroom behaviours expected from students. (i) Three (23.1%) teachers did not expect students to demonstrate better understanding of the classroom topics than the teachers. (ii) One (7.7%) teacher did not expect students to feel free to interact informally during classroom sessions. (iii) All teachers expected their students to read beyond the scope of the lectures, interact with them on study subjects beyond the classroom and express any perspective beyond the conventional thoughts on the subject matter.
Table 5: Responses on classroom behaviour not expected from students by lecturers (n=13)

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Teachers' view on the influence of sociocultural norms on classroom interaction

Lecturers also felt that sociocultural norms affected students' classroom interactions with the lecturers. In the words of lecturers:

'I think many of them are affected by our culture where it is assumed that children should be seen and not heard.… Many of them are timid to ask questions'.

'Yes, Yoruba culture forbids disrespect of the older person and so the younger is expected not to ask questions or if he/she must ask, it must be in a respectful way'.

'The cultural barrier or belief that the older ones are always right or that (it) is rudeness when the younger one challenge what the old says'.

The sociocultural norms also limit the level and shapes the form of lecturer–students' interaction. In the words of other lecturers:

'I can't dress down to the student's level in interaction to avoid contempt'.

'There are sociocultural practices that help me as a teacher to view my students like my children and hence care for them beyond academic knowledge. I quite naturally extend my care to aspects of their welfare that may affect their education and career life'.

Respect is socioculturally expected of students and is perceived as the right of the lecturers.

'Lecturers/teachers who impact knowledge on students should be given due respect by students. The recent upsurge in 'modernisation' is removing this trend'.

Differences in students' and lecturers' expectations on classroom behaviours

Expected classroom behaviour from students

The perception of students and the expectations of lecturers did not differ significantly with respect to the following classroom behaviours: (i) Twenty-eight (75.7%) students compared with 11 (84.6%) lecturers (P = 0.70) responded positively that students are expected to ask questions during classroom sessions. (ii) Twenty-seven (73.0%) students compared with 7 (53.8%) lectures (P = 0.20) responded positively that students are expected to share their opinion during classroom sessions. (iii) Twenty-three (62.2%) students compared with 7 (53.8%) lectures (P = 0.60) responded positively that students are expected to sit quietly throughout the classroom session listening to the lecture.

Lecturers' and students' expectations, however, differ significantly on one issue. Six (16.2%) students compared with 12 (92.3%) lectures (P < 0.001) responded positively that students are expected to feel free to share views contrary to lecturers' opinion when asked questions.

Classroom behaviours that lecturers did not expect from students

Students' perceptions and lecturers' expectations did not differ significantly with respect to the need of students to demonstrate better understanding of the subject matter than lecturers: twenty-six (70.3%) students when compared with 10 (76.9%) lectures (P = 0.73) felt that students need to demonstrate better understanding of the subject matter than lecturers. Also, 30 (81.1%) students when compared with 100 percent of lectures (P = 0.17) felt that students need to read beyond the scope of the lectures.

Students' perceptions and lecturers' expectations, however, differed significantly with respect to expectations on student–lecturer interaction on study subjects beyond the classroom: 25 (67.6%) students when compared with 100% of lectures (P = 0.02) felt that student–lecturer interaction on study subjects should continue beyond the classroom; 20 (54.1%) students when compared with 100% of lectures (P = 0.002) felt that students should express any perspective beyond the conventional thoughts on the subject matter; 18 (49.8%) students when compared with 11 (84.6%) lectures (P = 0.003) felt that students should interact informally during classroom sessions.


  Discussion Top


The outcome of the present study showed that sociocultural practices of the Yoruba ethnic group had a significant influence on the way students perceived their lecturers expect them to behave or not to behave in class. While, there were no significant differences in those perception of students and expectation of lecturers on behaviours that facilitate assimilation of knowledge, there were some significant differences observed in students' perceived and lecturers' expected and unexpected behaviours in those areas where lecturer–students interaction would result in brainstorming, discussions, students' challenging lecturers' perspectives on subject matters and informal interactions that are expected in a system that promotes students' mentorship. While lecturers welcome these form of social and intellectual interaction and challenges, students perceived lecturers do not expect it of them as lecturers would view this as disrespectful. Unfortunately, the sociocultural practices that promote classroom behaviours synonymous with respect to lecturers are inimical to the process for promoting critical thinking and effective classroom learning.[1]

Classroom behaviours significantly influence the level of engagement between students and lecturers. Dental students are trained through a mentoring, nurturing and modelling process with a humanistic orientation, all of which occur in a social environment. Therefore, the pedagogic strategies establishing positive relationships between lecturers and students are important in facilitating learning. Unfortunately, the social environment in which learning takes place for these dental students - the classroom - is shaped and influenced by a sociocultural norm of significant value to both students and lecturers: respect for the elderly.

The lecturers could be perceived as elderly by the students on two fronts. First, the lecturers are 'elderly' in terms of chronological age. Second, lecturers are 'elderly' in terms of professional hierarchy. These increases the tendency of students to perceive that being quiet in class, only sharing opinions when been asked and not offering contrary opinions and perspectives on the subject being discussed in class are acts of respect for the 'elderly' lecturers.

While respect is a universal phenomenon, the individual's cultural reference frame shapes the way respect is perceived as been given or received.[13] Unfortunately, it seems students assume that respect is synonymous disengaging in any form of challenging interaction with lecturers, while lecturers also promote the display of classroom 'discipline' by giving a sense of being elderly through their body language and the way they interact with students as children. This establishes a sense of authority.[14] For the future, it would be very important for both lecturers and students in the faculty to distinguish between respect as an earned emotional gratitude which may or may not be associated with a physical expression,[11] and the cultural act of respect where elders are not expected to be challenged. The formal and informal interaction in and around the classrooms can be conducted with respect divulged of a sense of disrespect.

Classroom behaviours and interactions between dental students and their lecturers could be fostered through implementation of proven effective interactive classroom techniques in ways that are less froth with bias based on sociocultural values. This is very essential for dental education where interactions, mentorship and nurturing are highly essential for students' learning. Sociocultural values that inhibit such level of interactions need to be identified and addressed. One way of doing this is for lecturers and students in the faculty to go through a value clarification process to help them distinguish between cultural and educational practices.

One class-related structure that may have fostered the practice of respect as defined by the Yoruba culture may be the mono-ethnic composition of both the students and lecturers in the faculty. The mono-ethnicity of the students increases the tendency for perceptions and practices of sociocultural norms that influence classroom behaviours. With globalisation, increasing migration and increasing interest in educational institutions attracting foreign students, it is 'less' likely we see such mono-ethnic composition of classes in the future. A hetero-ethnic class would reduce the tendency for the observed classroom behaviour 'reported in this study'.

The study has its limitation. The study had only a small sample of students drawn from a class ' in the Faculty of Dentistry, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and from one class of the eight dental schools in the country. The inferences may therefore not be generalisable to the entire school population at the Dental School of the Obafemi Awolowo University. Neither can the findings be generalisable to all the dental schools in Nigeria. Despite this limitation, the study provides some insight into how sociocultural factors influence the learning environment for students.


  Conclusion Top


The perception of final year dental students at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, about their lecturers' expectation of interactive classroom behaviours differs significantly from the lecturers' expectation in those aspects of learning that could impact on mentorship, nurturing and modelling of students'. Sociocultural norms governing the display of respect clearly shape the students' perception and classroom behaviour. Lecturers also acknowledged that sociocultural norms limit the level of classroom interaction between students and lecturers. In the interim, students and lecturers at the institute may need to undergo a value clarification process that helps each and every one identify how their socio-cultural norms have influenced classroom behaviours and how this has impacted on the learning process.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

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    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]



 

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