An Investigation of Teaching STEM Subjects to Undergraduate Students in Chinese Universities

Year: 2018

Author: Kong, Xiangyuan, Zhuang, Tengteng

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

An online survey targeted at Chinese undergraduate students of STEM-related programs was conducted from the end of January to early March of 2018 with an aim to collect data as to Chinese STEM students’ perceptions of the quality of instruction they received in classes. Participants were asked to respond to items related to how they were taught on a 6-point Likert scale (with 1 being ‘strongly disagree’ and 6 being ‘strongly agree’). The snowball convenience sampling method was employed to select students to complete the survey via an online platform ‘Wenjuanxing’ with easy access by phone or by computer. After eliminating unengaged responses, a total of 594 responses from 68 universities were deemed effective (the majority comes from 6 universities). Using both SPSS 23.0 and AMOS 20.0, the study found that most STEM students are satisfied with the way they are taught except for the use of educational technology in daily teaching. Specifically, the main teaching venue remains traditional classrooms, while teaching happens least on the internet. Power-point slides remain the most widely used instrument for Chinese instructors to teach STEM courses, followed by ‘flipped classrooms’, while advanced targeted information technology like VR and AR is used least. Comparatively, ‘Non-985 nor 211 Project’ universities of specialization uses AR, VR or simulation apps far more than ‘985 Project Universities’ to teach STEM. The finding that ‘985 Project Universities’ generally use those technologies less, however, contradicts people’s common knowledge. No significant differences between different types of universities in terms of instructors’ uploading of relevant pre-learning materials are found, but grade one students take pre-learning more serious than students of other grade levels. A structural equation modelling with good model fit (χ2 /df = 3.474, CFI = .962, GFI = .926, AGFI = .900, TLI = .954, RMSEA = .065) reveals that ‘Pre-class Learning’ accounts for 30.6% in impacting students’ overall satisfaction, while ‘Classroom Instruction’ and ‘Support from Faculty Members’ account for 30.2% and 39% respectively, which implies that instructors do play a critical role in facilitating STEM students’ learning and retention of STEM students in the field.