Undergraduate Background as a Critical Factor in the Learning Capacity and Skills of Chinese Master's Degree Students
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The project, a pilot study, was based on Chinese MSc students in the Plymouth Business School (PBS), with the aim of identifying learning differences and support needs between groups of Chinese master’s students with different learning backgrounds in terms of where and how they completed their undergraduate studies.
The project focused on identification of disparities between different categories of students in terms of academic performance, learning, research and communication skills and the resulting data, although based on a small sample, identified specific academic support requirements for Chinese students.
The internationalisation of higher education has resulted in increasing numbers of overseas students coming to study in the UK. As the largest single group, Chinese students, especially the Master’s Degree students, have been the subject of significant attention in the pedagogic domain. Many studies have been undertaken, often comparative, with Chinese and home students as two distinct groups. (See for example Devlin, S. 2007).
What has not been fully recognised and addressed, however, is that the Chinese students are by no means a homogenous group, due to various factors and a significant difference is their educational background prior to studying in western educational institutions. More specifically, Chinese Master’s Degree students may have completed their undergraduate studies in China, in the UK or elsewhere in the west or via a hybrid of Chinese / western courses. It is reasonable to envisage that these differences may have had profound impact on their knowledge structure, learning and communication skills and academic capacity. This may further suggest that students with different undergraduate backgrounds may require different academic support, facilitation and guidance on UK Master’s courses.
The project aimed to investigate these disparities in order to identify how to design or refine teaching and coaching approaches accordingly to support students with different backgrounds. The study provides an evidence-based analysis of the implications of different undergraduate backgrounds and different learning cultures on the requirements for learning support for Chinese Masters level students, who comprise a significant proportion of the international student community. The analysis will be used to inform and improve the quality of the learning experience and ultimately the learning outcomes for such students.
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