Silent and unengaged? What you see in class is not always the reality: what students from overseas really think (Interactive Session)

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Rachel Holmes (School of Accounting, Financial Services & Law)

This session explores how ancient Confucian educational culture impacts overseas Chinese students’ experience of our classrooms and how they experience the feedback and assessment we provide.

Focus groups formed from a Year 3 (‘2+2’) cohort of overseas Chinese accounting students revealed various perspectives with students ‘opening up’ in ways rarely seen in the classroom. They were talkative, expressive and keen to share their views. On receiving feedback and in assessment they are challenged by the need to adapt quickly to Western academic culture. They raised aspects such as group work assessment, what critical thinking means to them, Western academic writing styles and assessment ‘code’ words. They also identified the challenges of having to cope with a liberal ‘peppering’ of idiomatic English and a good ‘salting’ of discipline-specific language and concepts. All this on joining a programme most of their peers have attended for two years or more. Despite the challenges they claim full responsibility for their academic success (or failure) and demonstrated adaptation skills and strategies useful for all.

Immediately after the presentation I’ll ask participants to form small teams to discuss feedback and assessing issues in relation to overseas students. I’m hoping to provoke ideas to help students maximise the effectiveness of feedback and their understanding of assessment. Are there things we, as lecturers, can do better to help international students without compromising the essence of the educational culture they have paid to experience?

Blank flashcards will be distributed to each group so that ideas can be jotted down in a ‘speed session’ of five minutes. The final ten minutes will be used to review ideas as a group and discuss briefly. Using the rules of a ‘Boggle’ game the team with the most ideas not mentioned by the other team(s) will win a prize.

Theoretical underpinning
Cortazzi, M., and Jin, L., (2001). Large classes in China: ‘good’ teachers and interaction. In: Watkins, D., & Biggs, J., eds. Teaching the Chinese learner: psychological and pedagogical perspectives. Hong Kong: CERC & ACER, 2001, pp.115-134.

Cortazzi, M. & Jin, L., 2013. Researching cultures of learning: International perspectives on language learning and education 1st ed., Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gieve, S. & Clark, R., 2005. “The Chinese approach to learning”: Cultural trait or situated response? The case of a self-directed learning programme. System, 33(2), pp.261–276.

Ryan, J., 2005. The student experience. Challenges and rewards. In J. Ryan & J. Carroll, eds. Teaching international students: improving learning for all. Abbingdon: Routledge, pp.148–151.

Ryan, J. & Carroll, J., 2005. “Canaries in the coalmine”. International students in Western universities. In J. Ryan & J. Carroll, eds. Teaching international students: improving learning for all. Abingdon: Routledge, pp.3–10.