Journeys of adaptation to disciplinary academic communities: International students in higher ed.
Ly Thi Tran
Abstract: The case study reported in this paper has examined the of adaptation of international postgraduate students from China and Vietnam in two disciplines, Education and Economics, at an Australian university. It focuses on how individual students mediated their disciplinary writing practices and their personal values. Based on the discussion of the students’ experiences, it will be argued that the accommodating process they go through seems complex and multifaceted. The study highlights the different forms of adaptation the students made in order to gain access to their disciplinary communities of practices. It indicates the need to unpack the ‘hidden aspects’ underpinning the commonly-presumed notion of adaptation of international students. The paper concludes with some implications for the university communities to help empower international students in their participation in academic discourses and make the curriculum more accessible to the increasing number of international students.
Key words: adaptation, discourse practices, cultural stereotypes, accommodating diversity
A problem based learning (PBL) approach to lectures in a large first-year business subject
Alan McWilliams & Fiona Henderson
Abstract: This paper reports on the development of a problem based learning (PBL) approach to lectures in a large first-year subject in an undergraduate business degree. The PBL approach was adopted as a means of encouraging students to engage with the formal discourse of the subject discipline and to ground the theories presented in the subject in an authentic simulation of business practice. The first-year undergraduate subject Management and Organisation Behaviour (M&OB) is one of eight in a compulsory common core for all Bachelor of Business degrees offered by Victoria University in Melbourne.The subject is taught across three campuses in Melbourne, and at offshore partner institutions. The subject normally has about 900 students in Melbourne and around 300 students offshore each semester. Students in M&OB come from a diverse range of business degree specialisations. Assessment, central in forming students’ perceptions of learning, has been designed using Biggs’ concept of constructive alignment.
The diversity of degree specialisations for students taking M&OB often results in some them not seeing the relevance of the subject to their degree or their career goals. This has lead to students disengaging from the subject, not attending lectures that they see as ‘boring’ and subsequently failing.
In an attempt to capture students’ interest lectures have been written as a semester-long story centred on a fictional organisation. The characters in the organisation are used to present management theory in the context of authentic business situations. Students are able to participate in the decision making processes of the organisation. Questions about issues faced by the organisation are put to the students during the lecture and they respond using wireless “clicker” devices. Their responses are recorded automatically and can be immediately projected onscreen during the lecture.
Student feedback has been positive and tutors are reporting an improvement in the quality of tutorial participation. Any impact on pass rates is as yet inconclusive, evidence points to an enrichment of the overall student learning experience. However, the lectures rely on the ability of the lecturer to be a convincing ‘raconteur’ and the effects of student participation on the unfolding ‘story’ of the fictional business raises difficult questions regarding the consistent delivery of the subject across multiple campuses with different lecturers. It also meets with problems when lecturers have limited industry experience; student perception of the authenticity of the PBL scenarios may be diminished due to this (Savin-Baden, 2000, p.1). The experiential learning model conflicts with the traditional didactic form of lecture delivery.
Key Words: Problem Based Learning, Constructive Alignment, Undergraduate, Business Degree, experiential learning
Give me wings to flyâWhat can be done to smooth Chinese studentsâ academic adaptation experience
Abstract: This presentation bases on a PHD research project, which is a detailed case study with the focus on exploring the academic adaptation experiences of a group of Chinese coursework postgraduate students studying in a faculty which is a popular choice of international students at one Australian university.
In twenty years, international education has become Australia’s fourth-highest export earner and the second largest service export industry (Australian Trade Commission, 2006). International students not only bring substantial revenue to Australian universities, but also bring challenges to their overseas study and their host universities. International students from the People’s Republic of China play a significant role in this market with a 25% share of the market (Australian Government Australian Education International, 2006). For Chinese students and their families, coming to study in Australia is possibly the most significant academic investment in the students’ life. Thus, there is high expectation for successful academic achievement.
Due to different educational background and culture, Chinese students have a different perception of their academic role and tasks than do Australian staff and students. Therefore, there is a very important and urgent problem: adjustment to the new educational environment. It is very clear that Chinese students have encountered challenges in their adjustment to studying in Australian universities, which have a great impact on the success of their academic achievement in Australia. The purpose of the presentation is: What can Australian universities and lecturers, as well as Chinese students themselves, do to smooth the adjustment experience?
The presentation includes three parts: 1. general background and relevant literature review of the project; 2. some results from the interviews with the lecturers, academic study support staff and Chinese students in the project, results on their understanding of the academic adaptation process; 3. discussions and suggestions for what can be done to improve the academic adaptation process.
Key Words: international students, Chinese coursework postgraduate students, academic adaptation
The challenge of understanding the academic expectations of Gulf sponsored students
Abstract: The Gulf States have identified educational sponsorship as one of the most powerful means of building a better qualified national work force, with a view to redressing the overrepresentation of expatriates in the private sector. Over the past five to seven years, this has created an opportunity for Australian education providers to enrol Gulf Nationals who have been identified as the elite of their high school graduating cohort and sponsored to obtain specialist qualifications overseas.
In general, it has been observed that the students’ academic performance has met neither the institution’s nor the sponsor’s expectations, nor indeed the students’ or their families’. The accepted explanations for the students’ difficulties include: outmoded pedagogical practice in their home countries; the challenges of learning in English; gaps between assumed knowledge and actual high school curriculum; and religious/cultural difference. However, these do not satisfactorily explain why these students’ experience of Australian education differs sodramatically from that of other international students. This study in progress questions some of the assumptions held about Gulf Sponsored students, working on the premise that more productive support mechanisms may be employed once the students’ expectations are better understood.
Key words: Sponsored students, nationalisation policies, pathway programs, Gulf sponsored students, academic performance, academic expectations, adjustment