Academic

Do academic orientations make a difference: a preliminary assessment

Karen Commons and Xiaodan Gao


Abstract:  Research on the experiences of international students and their adaptation to the education environment in NZ has revealed some dissatisfaction relating to the academic experience of international students in NZ. It has been suggested that the discrepancy between international students’ expectations and reality may sometimes contribute to negative views and difficulties with study. Student Learning Support Service at Victoria University of Wellington has designed and trialled a number of academic orientation programmes and materials for international students, in an attempt to ease the transition, raise awareness of possible challenges students may face in a NZ tertiary environment, and ultimately create a more positive and rewarding academic experience.

This paper reports on a preliminary evaluation of the influence of our academic orientation programmes on international students’ attitudes and study behaviours. Students who attended the July 2004 orientation, as well as those who did not, were invited to participate in a two-stage research programme. They were interviewed at the beginning of the trimester, and at mid-trimester they responded to a questionnaire. We found that students who had attended our academic orientation programmes tended to demonstrate more detailed awareness of the main skills required in their new education environment. They also tended to apply a wider range of study strategies. We tentatively conclude that academic orientation programmes do make a difference.

Key words: student adaptation, orientation programs, study behaviours, study strategies, transition

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Crossing Disciplinary Boundaries: New Challenges to Higher Education

Anne Ellerup Nielsen, Peter Kastberg, Ph.d.

Abstract:  Recent years have seen a gradual burring of boundaries between core academic disciplines such as linguistics, economics, politics, sociology, etc. There are many factors which have contributed to this change, for example our global economy where networking, transparency, learning, and knowledge management seem to be the key to capital, consumers, the press, etc. Such developments point towards increasingly interdisciplinary knowledge. Some universities have reacted to this demand for interdisciplinarity and the result has been an increase in new cross-disciplinary subjects where for instance students of international business, accounting, negotiation, etc. are introduced to subjects which, 10 or 15 years ago, would have been restricted to the “soft” subjects in the humanities.

Keywords: Cross-disciplinarity, international education, study programmes, curriculum development, study abroad/exchange

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Building intercultural competencies: Implications for academic skills development

Patricia McLean, Laurie Ransom

Abstract:  Ideally, the student experience of internationalisation in higher education is to become part of an intellectual environment which values diversity, fosters mutual understanding and respect and is responsive to diverse needs. From the perspective of higher education institutions across the world, international success depends on an institution’s ability to develop globally competent citizens who are comfortable with diversity both at home and abroad (Gilbert, 1995). This chapter focuses on student experiences of learning in another culture and its implications for academic skills development.

Key words: cultural diversity, student experiences, globalisation, student learning, academic skills development

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An examination of changes in the approaches to learning of Confucian heritage culture (CHC) students

Bobbie Matthews

Abstract:  A longitudinal study was undertaken to investigate whether CHC students’ approaches to learning were retained or modified in a Western social, cultural, and educational environment. A bilingual version (Chinese and English) of the Study Process Questionnaire (Biggs, 1987) (SPQ) was used to measure sojourner students’ approaches to learning on five occasions over two years in Australia. A two-level analysis was undertaken at the intra and inter student levels to see if there was change in the students’ approaches to learning. A negative occasion slope for Surface Motivation suggested that superficial learning decreased while the positive occasion slopes associated with the Deep and Achieving approaches to learning indicated that approaches to learning that were problem-based and directed toward achievement increased over time. These results showed that five of six approaches to learning changed during the period, but not for all groups of students. While there was no significant change for the Surface Strategy approach over time, there were effects associated with this approach and the characteristics of particular groups of students.

Key words: Approaches to learning, Study Process Questionnaire, intra and inter student levels, two-level analysis, occasion slope, direct effects and interaction effects.

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Enriching the learning for offshore students in a 1st year Management subject

Fiona Henderson, Alan McWilliams

Abstract: Student academic literacy and learning support at Victoria University is an integral part of the educational experience offered to students by Student Learning Unit (SLU) lecturers. Good practice in student language and learning support includes a shift from prevailing ‘remedial’ approaches that imply service provision from outside the curriculum towards systemic approaches involving embedding support material in curriculum through collaboration with mainstream staff (Skillen et al., 1998).

The compulsory first-year undergraduate management subject Management and Organisation Behaviour (MOB) is taught across three campuses in Melbourne, and at partner institutions in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. Seventeen staff, including 10 sessional staff, are involved in the delivery of the subject. Students in MOB come from a diverse range of degree specialisations including Applied Economics, Accounting, Tourism and Hospitality and Management.

The team, which consists of the SLU lecturer and the subject lecturers, has developed a model to foster academic skills and deep learning (Biggs, 2003, Biggs and Telfer, 1987) within the very diverse student cohort enrolled in MOB. This partnership is innovative in that it involves the skills of both discipline and SLU staff onshore, and of offshore discipline staff in a way rarely seen in Australian tertiary institutions. The offshore lecturers are guiding the team to understand issues unique to their environments, and, with the team, building a response to offshore students’ needs which is culturally appropriate. The inclusion of offshore partner staff in such teams acknowledges the expertise of staff from partner institutions and was one of the key recommendations in Victoria University’s Australian Vice Chancellors’ Committee (AVCC) project report entitled Improving Language and Learning Support for Offshore Students (Dixon, 2005).

Assessment, central in forming students’ perceptions of learning, has been restructured and redesigned to include learning materials using Biggs’ concept of constructive alignment; two of Victoria University’s Core Graduate Attributes (CGAs – written and oral communication and group work); the unpacking and scaffolding of assessment tasks and the provision of flexibly accessible multimedia learning materials including linguistic models. There are practical, operational and cultural differences between the different locations which have led to the current developments.

Key Words: Offshore, assessment, constructive alignment, transnational education, equivalence

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