This paper is about the challenges faced by Chinese students studying at UK universities and possible strategies that can be developed by students and by tutors to enable them to cope and flourish. In recent years in several UK universities there has been an emphasis on developing teaching strategies other than lecturing. These typically involve small classes and group work of various kinds, even to the extent of replacing lectures entirely. The challenges for Chinese students posed by these changes are focused on in this paper, although other issues are also referred to. This paper has direct implications for those working with Chinese students in the UK. However, it has broader implications too. With the UK’s position as a hub for international education vulnerable to change it is likely that increasing numbers of Chinese students will go to university in other European countries, lecturers in which will want to ensure that their experience is positive and beneficial. More broadly still many of the conclusions from this case study into one group of international students may well be useful in understanding the experiences of other international students. This paper should therefore contribute to a debate on pedagogy and pastoral support in an increasingly globalized university sector. Sit (2013) has contrasted education in China and the UK by saying that China is a collectivist society where students are expected to learn ‘how to do’, whereas on the contrary, in an individualist society like, the UK, students are expected to learn ‘how to learn’. Moreover, it has been suggested that the Chinese education system does not encourage searching for new information which has not been presented to students by teachers (Li, Remedios &Clarke, 2013). Finally, China is commonly portrayed as being a large power distance society (Chen, Liao, Wen, 2014), Although these may be rather simplistic descriptions and it needs to be acknowledged that individual learning experiences in China vary considerably, these concerns did enable us to build a picture of the challenges Chinese students may face, prior to starting this small project. In contrast to this, in the UK and in several other European nations, in many universities, there is an increasing emphasis on smaller classes, co-constructed learning and group work. In particular the model of ‘communities of practice’ (Wenger-Trayne r& Wenger-Trayner, 2014) has had an increasing impact on the pedagogy that underpins teaching in UK universities (Chigona, 2013). Workshop planning in the UK is now often and increasingly underpinned by this model. Besides these academic experiences Chinese students, studying in a different culture may encounter culture shock as well as ‘learning shock’ (Gu & Maley, 2008). This may be revealed in such ways as perceiving themselves as having a boring and lonely life, feelings of being an outsider, dietary adjustments (Gu & Schweisfurth, 2006), cognitive dissonance with a different cultural value system and feelings of social and linguistic incompetence (Evanoff, 2006). There are also cultural factors that encourage Chinese students to have a strong motivation towards learning and show a high level of respect for teachers (Gu & Maley, 2008. Kim ,2005). The personality of individual learners also of course plays an important role too in the ways international students cope with challenges and adapt to new environments.
It was in this context that we decided to conduct this study. The research questions were:
- What issues do Chinese students face when studying in UK universities?
- Are group work activities particularly challenging?
- What coping strategies do they adopt to manage this?
- In what ways can tutors and lecturers support Chinese students to ensure a positive learning experience?
Bryman, A. (2016). Social research methods (5th edition). Oxford. Oxford UK. Chigona, A. (2013). Using Multimedia Technology to Build a Community of Practice: Pre-Service Teachers' and Digital Storytelling in South Africa. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology, 9(3), p.17-27 Evanoff, R. (2006). Integration in intercultural ethics. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 30, 421-437. Gu, Q., & Maley, A. (2008). Changing places: A study of Chinese students in the UK. Language and Intercultural Communication, 8(4), 224-245. Gu, Q. & Schweisfurth, M. (2006). Who Adapts? Beyond Cultural Models of ‘the’ Chinese Learner, Language, Culture and Curriculum, 19(1), 74-89. Kim, Y.Y. (2005). Adapting to a new culture: An integrative communication theory. In W.B. Gudykunst (Ed.) Theorizing about Intercultural Communication (pp. 375- 400). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Li, D., Remedios, L., Clarke, D. (2014). Chinese students’ groupwork practices and experiences in China. In Higher Education, 2014, 68(2), pp.227-241 Sit, H. (2013). Characteristics of Chinese Students' Learning Styles. International Proceedings of Economics Development and Research, 62, pp.36-39 Chen, C., Liao, J., Wen, P., (2014). Why does formal mentoring matter? The mediating role of psychological safety and the moderating role of power distance orientation in the Chinese context. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(8), p.1112-1130 Wenger-Trayner, E. and Wenger-Trayner, B. (2014).Learning in a landscape of practice: a framework. In E. Wenger-Trayner, M. Fenton-O'Creevy, S. Hutchinson, C. Kubiak, B (Eds). Learning in Landscapes of Practice: Boundaries, identity, and knowledgeability in practice-based learning. London. Sage
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