Adult Learning and Professional Development in Cambodia

Workshops and trainings are favourite instruments of donor organisations to develop capacity with their target groups.  Also VVOB Cambodia regularly organizes workshops, usually trainings on pedagogy and multimedia geared towards teacher trainers and government staff.  Measuring their success is notoriously hard.
Workshop evaluation sheets are invariably positive, and heavily affected by response and cultural bias.  Response bias means that participants write down what they think you would like them to fill in (‘the facilitator was great’) or what they think would be most beneficially to them  (‘We need more workshops’).  Cultural bias refers to the non-western organisation of Cambodia society.  Hofstede developed a five-dimensional model for describing cultural differences.  There’s a fair amount of critique on Hofstede’s model for over-generalizing individual differences and being based on a non-representative sample of highly-trained corporate workers.  Personally, I find the model useful as an attempt to make cultural differences explicit, and Hofstede’s book on ‘Culture and Organisations’ is on my reading list.

Hofstede’s 5 dimensional model of cultural differences

Berkvens et al. (2012) have made an analysis of Cambodia’s cultural position on Hofstede’s 5 dimensional model.

Briefly, Cambodian culture can be summarized as mainly collectivist with a small in-group and some individualism, extremely large power distance, including strong hierarchy, which people are willing to accept as long the country remains at peace in return, high uncertainty avoidance and a strong short-term orientation. (Berkvens et al, 2012)

The challenge is then to integrate this cultural analysis into the learning design. The article lists some suggestions and I add a few more:

  • need for safe learning environment in which trust is established among participants  and between participants and facilitator.
  • work collaboratively over extended period of time
  • explicit endorsement by people from higher hierarchical level
  • provide time for dialogue
  • create support system that allows for shifts in responsibility
  • discuss objectives and intended learning outcomes at start of workshop
  • determine collaboratively specific targets for follow-up at end of workshop
  • evaluate workshop not only at end of workshop, but also after few months (w/ interviews, survey…)
Guskey’s model for evaluating professional development initiatives

Guskey (2000) has developed a model for measuring the success of professional development initiatives.  It provides a template for evaluating workshops, urging evaluators to look beyond participants’ reactions immediately after the workshop.  I plan to try out the model during upcoming training initiatives in 2012.


Berkvens, J.B.Y., Kalyanpur, M., Kuiper, W. and Van den Akker, J. (2011) ‘Improving adult learning and professional development in a post-conflict area: The case of Cambodia’, International Journal of Educational Development, 32, pp. 241–251.


One comment on “Adult Learning and Professional Development in Cambodia

  1. […] bias is an issue in surveys and lesson observations.  Teacher trainers tend to respond what they think the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s