Pushing too Little, Praising too Much? Intercultural Misunderstandings between a Chinese Doctoral Student and a Dutch Supervisor

Yanjuan Hu*, Klaas van Veen, Alessandra Corda

*Corresponding author for this work

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To understand the challenges and their causes in interactions between Western supervisors and international doctoral students, we conducted a self-study of our experiences as a Chinese international student and her Dutch supervisor during her doctoral research project. We found the supervisor and the student to differ in their expectations of the learning goals and procedure for the doctoral program. We analyze three types of misunderstandings, regarding how formal the supervision should be, how feedback and assessment should be provided and understood (e.g. strict versus implicit critiques, open praise for excellence versus praise to encourage), and how the student is expected to learn (e.g. expecting answers versus providing questions, learning from modeling versus learning by trial and error). We also illustrate how implicit these misunderstandings were in daily supervision interactions and how deeply they were rooted in the cultural (i.e. power distance, individualism, masculinity, and indulgence) and educational (i.e. education oriented toward qualification versus personal development, level of competition, and degree of teacher regulation) differences between the supervisor and the student.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-87
Number of pages18
JournalStudying Teacher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2-Jan-2016


  • Culture
  • doctoral supervision
  • educational orientation
  • intercultural communication
  • SELF

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