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A 'Roller Coaster' experience? An exploration of Postgraduat

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Tomás Juan

on 21 January 2014

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Transcript of A 'Roller Coaster' experience? An exploration of Postgraduat

Theoretical Background
Teaching, Learning and Assessment
Integration with home students and building campus community
A 'Roller Coaster' experience?
An exploration of Postgraduate International Students’ perceptions of teaching, learning and assessment and integration with home students and building a campus community
Literature Review
the internationalisation of HE theorised in the literature at the organisational, strategic level
focuses on the growing numbers of 'international students'
there are very few comprehensive investigations of the interactions between international students and academics
more and more in-depth studies which make use of stories from the field and accounts of the experience of both students and practitioners dealing with internationalisation
such research involves allows to explore the complexities of interactions between international students, home students and academics in constantly changing intercultural higher education landscape
there is still a strong need for cultural sensitivity in pedagogical approaches
Shift of the focus of study
Where does my research fit?
EU MA and PhD student in the UK studying with international students
EAP Lecturer working with international student and staff
response to diverse students’ needs of an increasingly internationalised university
this study allows a deeper understanding of the impact of internationalisation
a tool to maximise and benefit from the opportunities for intercultural learning
My spin
This presentation is a part of a wider PhD research study which aims to contribute to an understanding of the international student experience from the perspectives of teaching, learning and assessment as well as social participation

Explorations of the experiences of international postgraduate students


• Teaching, learning and assessment
• Student support services/living
• Integration with home students and building campus community

4 focus groups
23 postgraduate international students (including 2 EU students)
4 different campuses of the university
April and June 2013.

Why focus groups?
used increasingly in educational research, have proved to be a valuable tool to generate data in the form of facts, opinions, experiences and feelings
the interaction procedure can inspire recollections and discussion which is less likely in an interview situation
home students and staff placed in separate focus groups to reassure open expression of opinions
study is based on a qualitative critical ethnographic case study
the research has taken a form of an in-depth investigation of a purposive sample
opportunity sampling and snowball technique was used to recruit participants through university website, social networks and emails
the primary data focused on content rather than conversation analysis or discourse analysis tradition
finally both thematic analysis and narrative analysis were conducted to gain an in-depth understanding of issues under investigation

Design, recruitment and data analysis
teaching, learning and assessment
integration with home students and building campus community
What's next?
Selection of students views on:
Emerging themes have been cross referenced with the research questions in the main research.
"The reason why I really enjoy the course is that here I feel like I’m really studying! I have to be more independent, it’s more beneficial for me in general, I do it for myself, even if my marks are not too good, it’s is useful for me to write about my work, I learn a lot from feedback”
New education system challenging but exciting
“when I studied in China, students just joined lectures without joy, you must come to uni, it’s easier, but here is different - I consider many things, I have more books to read, in China we don’t have to read any books even though the library is much bigger than the one here. Books are useless there”
Students enjoy feedback in tutorials and feel they are respected
“we have nice tutors, last term I told them I didn’t understand them at all. but noe they always help me to catch up with things, writing essays, working on proposals, how to explore things, provide solutions”

“I I have a lot attention from the tutors, that’s another advantage, at big unis there’s no personal relationship with your tutor, they treat you like nobody, they just check your work, here because the numbers are low, I get more attention from tutors”

Internaltionalised curriculum
“even though our main tutor is British, he will always show examples from different countries, because I have classmates form Colombia, China, India and America. So I think it is a good thing for us, because I believe that I learn a lot, each time we talk it is a new experience for me. I can guess inspiration from the different examples”
“in general the tutors give different examples from different countries; they do not only focus on examples for western culture”
Pre-sessional and in-sessional EAP programmes
“it was very helpful to come here for 10 weeks to improve my English, I cannot imagine that time I started understanding my course, vocabulary or some knowledge without the pre-sessional course, it turned out to be very helpful in the first semester”

“We joined the in-sessional EAP course where discussed difficult texts with, styles, topics. The teacher helped us to understand texts, discuss them, and we learnt how to read the longer texts. It was beneficial. The paper was more than 10 pages. It was hard to finish. So I learnt how to speed up my reading and skim through text. We also learnt to proof-read each others’ work, very helpful!”

Insufficient learning support
“I work mainly by myself so it is more about you being motivated so I found that a little bit disturbing, too much freedom!. I expected more from group work, tutorials, and lectures. Yeah. At first I felt a little bit frustrated that you should study on your own, I would like to be guided more effectively, especially at the beginning of the course”

“we only have one teacher, so we have only one tutorial every week, 20 minutes per week, that’s all we get! And as international students, we spend three times more money than home and EU students”

Understanding staff
“we have to decode, it’s something we have to learn as well, because it’s a different culture, in HK people generalize and criticize right away, we jump into conclusions, we’re really straightforward, we don’t go round like Brits, so when talking about projects, sometimes I wish I could get a simple answer”

“during tutorials, tutors will always say a positive thing, and then you have to face the reality when you receive a written feedback, it’s totally different! It’s a disaster! I was really frightened as I wasn’t sure if I could trust that person, if they actually mean what they say in tutorials!”

“ it’s the language barrier, acronyms, euphemisms, colloquialisms, how they approach you. It’s really clearwhen I receive feedback from a non-British tutor. It’s straight to the point”

Dissatisfaction of the organisation of the courses involving late inductions into certain technical areas of the university
Lack of friendly learning environment due to sharing space with students from other courses
Long handbooks with difficult language and inability to find or understand information in them
Virtual communities

International students bonded well among themselves
Collaboration with home students
“I think home students have to put more effort towards understanding us and try very hard to explain things to us. We know, we see that. Sometimes, they have never had any experience in collaborating with international student, especially MA degree, and then they see us, get confused with us”

“meetings, parties, events are very helpful because international students are home sick and they only stay in their rooms or walk around and they do not have too many friends. We don’t like clubbing that much, maybe once a month, but I think other kind of activities… cultural exchange and interaction, that would help to make better communication with home students”

“we don’t have any British friends. I mean they are nice, friendly and lovely but there is still a barrier. I don’t know, maybe it’s the English culture. Our British friend’s girlfriend is Chinese, so he’s a good example of integration possible! It is difficult to find the same topic with British if you have little in common, it’s different cultures. They don’t watch the same movies, they don’t listen to the same music, we know different celebrities”

“I feel that my English is not improving a lot, sorry! It doesn’t matter if we are Asian or international, but it’s like that, really. And the other thing is that UK postgraduate students are nice and polite but we don’t meet quite often as they have their personal lives, they commute to work, they have no time for socialising. In our accommodation there are mostly international students ”

Lack of opportunities to practise English
Limited choice or lack of relevant clubs and societies in SU
“There was only one event last year! In HK and Berlin they have buddy scheme systems, each students gets a buddy who then is responsible for introducing the student to university life and place. It’s really helpful Here, there are not enough groups for socialising. No societies, activities going on! I only walk on the campus, just this”
These findings have formed the basis for discussion for the next stage of the study: focus groups with SU, home students and academics as an attempt to finding ways in which improvements might be achieved at the target university and more widely
Brunner, B.B. (2006) Student perceptions of diversity on a college campus: scratching the surface to find more. Intercultural Education, 17 (3), 311-317.
Chioncel, N.E., Van Der Veen, R.G.W., Wildemeersch, D. & Jarvis, P. (2003) The validity and reliability of focus groups as a research method in adult education. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 22 (5), 495-517.
Montgomery, C. (2011) Understanding the International Student Experience. Palgrave Macmillan.
Sawir, E. (2013) Internationalisation of higher education curriculum: the contribution of international students in the Globalisation, Societies and Education’ vol 11, iss 3, 359-378
Trahar, S & Hyland, F. (2011) 'Experiences and Perceptions of Internationalisation in Higher Education in the UK' Higher Education Research and Development, vol 30, no. 5, 623 - 633.
Trahar, S (2011) Developing Cultural Capability in International Higher Education: a Narrative Inquiry. Routledge.

Thank you for attention
Tomasz John

International Pathway Programmes EAP Co-ordinator, University for the Creative Arts

PhD Research Student, University of Reading
Tomasz John
Full transcript