Inspire - a Teaching Fellows' newsletter

A quarterly publication on the contemporary issues influencing teaching and learning.

Respect as a means for enabling students to flourish


By Dr Doirean Wilson SFHEA, HRM Senior Lecturer - Diversity & Corporate Engagement

Why should we care about respect, which Haydon (2006) recognised is a concept that enables us to “make moral sense of the notion of global citizenship”?

My study that explored cultural meanings of respect for multidisciplinary business students, revealed numerous other reasons why we should care.

I decided to conduct this study when I was asked to lead a final-year undergraduate business consulting module that requires students to work in diverse teams to identify solutions to `real` business problems. Alas, team conflict was ongoing and destructive, making it difficult for these students to flourish. They were unable to work harmoniously, learn effectively or accrue grades that reflected their intellectual capability.

I realised that as an educator it was important for me to identify what lay at the heart of this team conflict scenario and found the answer written in their `Individual Learning Review Essays` based on their module learning journey. 
98% discussed the conflict, accusing those of cultural difference (although some were of the same ethnicity), of treating them disrespectfully.

For example, Nigerian students would complain about their Ghanaian colleagues, Pakistani students would protest about their Indian counterparts, while British students were disgruntled by the Chinese. Kankanhalli, Tan and Wei (2006) acknowledged that “cultural diversity is likely to contribute to both task and relationship conflict”, which became evident as my study progressed. 

As a former business consultant, it was evident to me that this module, created in the 1990s by Dr Philip Frame, had potential - particularly as it was developing future captains of industry.

The study revealed that respect was a commonly shared key value for all, had more similarities than differences, was taken for granted and could mean disrespect in another culture. Consequently, when students gave others their respect they expected their respect back, so when disrespect occurred it was assumed it was deliberate, which was often not the case.

According to Huo & Binning, (2008), “the psychological experience of respect” and disrespect “has implications for the nature and quality of group life and for the individual’s psychological and physical wellbeing.” Additionally, “respect for culture is also a gateway for respect for self” (Wilson, 2010) making evident its significance.

The findings of the study enabled me to fashion respect pedagogic strategies that nurtured respect for all, promoting team harmony and learning outcomes in and out of the classroom. This is precisely why we need to care what respect means for others!


Haydon, G., 2006. Respect for persons and for cultures as a basis for national and global citizenship. Journal of Moral Education, 35(4), pp.457-471.

Huo, Y.J. and Binning, K.R., 2008. Why the psychological experience of respect matters in group life: An integrative account. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2(4), pp.1570-1585.

Kankanhalli, A., Tan, B.C. and Wei, K.K., 2006. Conflict and performance in global virtual teams. Journal of Management Information Systems, 23(3), pp.237-274.

Wilson, D., 2010. 'What Price Respect'-Exploring The Notion Of Respect In A 21st-Century Global Learning Environment. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 3(1), p.95.