Transmission or constructivism, Does it matter? - A practice-based study of Chinese students learning at an Australian university.

Year: 2019

Author: Xu, Jinqi

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A growing number of Chinese students in Western universities prompt academics to explore different pedagogical practices suitable for diverse classrooms. Some persisting contradictions between Western and Eastern conceptions of education exist within and between the practices and institutional structures that students encounter daily. Chinese pedagogy is often labelled as a transmission model, whereas the Western teaching method is mostly claimed as constructivism. Such positioning is based on the naturalised assumption that once in Australia students will quickly adapt their learning practices in ways congruent with constructivist approaches common in Western systems (Ramsden, 2003). However, as this paper shows these assumptions are problematic due to the differences between national educational systems (Biggs, 1998) and students’ naturalised learning practices commensurate with such systems. In fact, teaching and learning is much more complex than the simplistic stereotyping of pedagogical approaches.

This paper views this “complex and messy research problem”(Law, 2004) through the practice-based lens and examines Chinese students’ everyday “doings and saying and the relatings” (Kemmis et al. 2012) in the context of Chinese Commerce Academic Development (CCAD) model in order to understand Chinese students’ learning in an Australian university. This model uses a hybrid pedagogy that combines acquisition, transmission and constructivism to facilitate students’ learning, and among these academic, sociocultural and institutional practices rub against and shape one another, collectively constituted in teaching and learning. Students’ learning is situated, with different relationally entangled practices and co-emergent with the CCAD leaders’ teaching practices. Learning is viewed as practices (Boud, 2009; Reich & Hager, 2014) appear stable but that are always becoming.

Ethnographic methods were used to collect data over 18 months identifying the practices used by students and CCAD leaders in their learning and teaching. A practice-based theoretical framework was used to analyse the data. The CCAD practices are shown to utilise different approaches to adapt to the new curricula and pedagogy depending on their naturalised practices acquired in China.

The findings suggest that the CCAD approach can be a necessary component in curriculum design and pedagogical method of Peer learning programs in supporting students’ learning. The paper contributes to AARE by focusing on the complexities and challenges and promoting effective engagement in teaching Chinese students in the West. This paper suggests that the enrichment of institutional activities and practices could provide possibilities for students to have access to both academic and social support while they study in a foreign country.