The notion of individualistic and collectivistic stems from the ideals of Geert Hofstede and refers to his dimensions of culture. According to Hofstede’s (n.d.) individualism is “a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of themselves and their immediate families only” and collectivism is “a tightly-knit framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty”.
If I were to choose one or the other, I think that I personally fit more into the category of collectivism. The main reason I believe I fall into this category is because I view myself as an active player in society, trying to do what is best for the entire group. Furthermore, I strongly feel it is more effective to work cooperatively in groups with others because of the support gained from each individual. The more people working towards a common goal, the more successful of an outcome can be achieved. In addition, working in groups allow for more opportunity to collaborate and learn from others who may be more skilled in certain areas.
There are also personality types that are more consistent with the particular group. Collectivists are usually more trustworthy, generous, and sensitive, which all are helpful in working in groups. Individualists tend to be more assertive and strong which is helpful for competition. Again I am more collectivistic as I view trust, being generous, and showing sensitivity more important than assertiveness and competitiveness. It is not to say that I view the individualistic framework less important than collectivistic, it is that I fall into the collectivism more definitively. Ultimately when it comes down to the root of individualism versus collectivism, it has to do with a self-mindset of either “I” or “we”. Based upon how I view myself, my family, and the society around me as a whole – I fit the “we” attitude rather than the “I” mindset.
When I look at the ideals of a collectivistic approach, I can see several benefits this method would have. Consequently there may be some concerns that could arise within my teaching practice because of the same approach. Beginning with the benefits – I would have to say that as an aspiring elementary teacher there is a strong importance to collaborate and learn from other teachers. Especially starting in a new school with students who you know little to none about, it can be beneficial to talk with their previous teachers. Also general discussion of teaching strategies, curriculum practices, and general school information can be instrumental for a beginning teacher to feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar situation. In addition, I think that having a sensitive and trustworthy attitude especially towards diverse cultures will create a safe learning environment for each student.
An area where issues may arise is if teachers are not assertive enough in classrooms to maintain order and compliance. It is important to show confidence and strength to gain the respect of your class. Also there may be conflicts of personality groups, in which some students may benefit more with an individualistic approach. Specific students tend to work better on their own, just as specific students prefer working in groups. In a classroom setting it is important to promote self-reliance – students should be able to complete projects and tasks on their own. Caution should be noted with overly self-reliant individuals, where they may find it difficult to seek help especially from other classmates. Likewise, having too much of an emphasis on group work can promote students to rely heavily on others for completing the assignments. When group work arises, students should be able to effectively work together, while respecting all members.
The impact of having either an individualistic or collectivistic approach on teaching practices can affect the way I relate with my students. It is important to become aware of my collective cultural views and how it can hinder my teaching methods. As an educator, it is important to not heavily lean on one approach but to promote and expand aspects of each. It is likewise important for students to understand and incorporate aspects of both individualism and collectivism in their studies.
Geert Hofstede. (n.d.). Geert Hofstede. In Dimensions. Retrieved October 31, 2012, from http://geert-hofstede.com/dimensions.html.