Learning through the eyes of Eastern and Western European university students: Mind or virtue-oriented?

Marieke Christina van Egmond, Ulrich Kuehnen, Susanne Haberstroh, Nina Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Like the majority of cross-cultural studies, cultural differences in learning have primarily been studied in either Western or Asian cultures or comparisons thereof. In such cultural comparisons, the meta-cognitive beliefs about learning of students and faculty in the West have been characterized as primarily ‘mind-oriented’. Based on the philosophical tradition, the development of one’s cognitive thinking skills is seen as at the heart of the concept of learning in this orientation and learners are encouraged to develop their creativity, critical attitude and independence. For academics in East Asia, ‘virtue’ oriented beliefs have been found to form an equally important part of the meaning people attach to the concept of learning. Learner characteristics such as respect, diligence and perseverance are central to this orientation. Little is known, however, about students from the Central/Eastern European region. The findings of the existing literature on cultural differences in values, cognition and beliefs between Eastern and Western European contexts have been inconclusive if not contradictory. To fill this gap, the cultural orientation of students’ beliefs about learning was measured in both Western and Central/Eastern European contexts on both an attitudinal level and on the level of behavioral intentions. In the first study, the beliefs of students from Germany, Poland, Romania and Russia revealed a striking similarity. This finding was replicated in Study 2, in which more diverse samples of students from Russia and Poland were included and compared with Germany
and an additional Western European country, the Netherlands. The results suggest greater cross-cultural similarity than diversity in cultural beliefs about learning than differences among young people in these diverse regions within the European context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140
Number of pages155
JournalPsychologia Spoleczna
Issue number25
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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