The development of intercultural awareness is a major factor that motivates many international students to study abroad (Altbach and Knight 2007), but the level of intercultural awareness on many international campuses appears as generally low (Hayward 2000). This paper therefore investigates the impact of intercultural awareness on postgraduate taught students’ experience of peer interaction. Chinese students and their non-Chinese peers at a British university are selected for the study to explore and compare whether their peer interaction is affected by their understandings of different cultures and different approaches to learning.
The paper considers that there are increasing calls for intercultural awareness in higher education (Trius and Shyryaeva 2013), with a general agreement on the need to include an intercultural dimension in university strategies and practices of internationalisation (Crichton and Scarino 2011). However, efforts to assess the development of student intercultural awareness have been anecdotal (Black and Duhon 2006). The implementation of effective strategies to achieve intercultural awareness has not been met sufficiently in many English speaking universities (Tian and Lowe 2009).
Using the model of intercultural awareness proposed by Baker (2011) as a framework, this paper explores how Chinese postgraduate taught students interact with their non-Chinese peers in the classroom and whether peer interaction has been affected by students’ understandings of different cultures and approaches to learning. Intercultural awareness here refers to the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to communicate in diverse cultural contexts. Baker’s (2011) model incorporates three levels of development, moving from basic cultural awareness to advanced cultural awareness and finally intercultural awareness.
Chinese postgraduate taught students and their peers in a British university are selected for study because they have only one year to acclimatise to a new culture and educational objectives and because there is an increasing number of Chinese students studying in the UK and their experience of acculturation remains issues to be solved (Wu & Hammond 2011).
Altbach, P. G., and Knight, J. (2007). "The internationalization of higher education: Motivations and realities." Journal of studies in international education, 11(3-4), 290-305. Baker, W. (2011). "Intercultural awareness: modelling an understanding of cultures in intercultural communication through English as a lingua franca." Language and Intercultural Communication, 11(3), 197-214. Black, H. T., and Duhon, D. L. (2006). "Assessing the impact of business study abroad programs on cultural awareness and personal development." Journal of Education for Business, 81(3), 140-144. Boyatzis, R. E. (1998). Transforming qualitative information: Thematic analysis and code development, Thousand Oaks, London, & New Delhi: SAGE Publications. Cresswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing among Five Approaches (3rd ed). London: Sage. Crichton, J., and Scarino, A. (2011). "How are we to understand the ‘intercultural dimension’? An examination of the intercultural dimension of internationalisation in the context of higher education in Australia." Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, 30(1), 04.1 – 04.21. Hayward, F. M. (2000). "Internationalization of US Higher Education. Preliminary Status Report, 2000." Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (2014) Decline in global demand for English higher education. http://www.hefce.ac.uk/news/newsarchive/2014/news86922.html. Accessed on 10 October 2015 Punch, K. F. (2013). (3rd Eds). Introduction to Social Research: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches. London: Sage. Tian, M., and Lowe, J. (2009). "Existentialist internationalisation and the Chinese student experience in English universities." Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 39(5), 659-676. Trius, L., and Shyryaeva, T. (2013). "A Call for Cultural Awareness and Tolerance in Higher Education. The Case of Pyatigorsk State Linguistic University, North Caucasus, Russia." Revista de Cercetare şi Intervenţie Socială(43), 255-265. Wu, W. & Hammond, M. (2011). Challenges of university adjustment in the UK: A study of East Asian Master’s degree students. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 35(3), 423-438.
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