The Guangxi University Capstone: A case study of an Australian-Chinese collaboration in curriculum reform

Year: 2015

Author: Owens, Alison

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Australian and Chinese employers express the desire for work-ready university graduates with strong generic skills and have an expectation that universities will continually reform curricula to provide such graduates. The Ministry of Education in China and the Australia-China Council of Australia (ACC) encourage pilot projects in education that seek to transform Chinese university teaching and assessment methods traditionally characterised by teacher-centred, examination-led curricula, so that they provide more practical, student-centred learning and generate creative, critical and collaborative graduates with an understanding and experience of industry. This paper reports on a recent ACC funded academic collaboration between an Australian (Central Queensland University) and Chinese (Guangxi University) university to research, develop, implement and evaluate a capstone course aimed at developing the relevant generic skills for Chinese university graduates. This paper describes the collaboration in course development and implementation and reports the preliminary research undertaken to inform course development as well as the research conducted to evaluate course impact. A case study approach employing mixed methods was adopted for the research at Guangxi University incorporating: a) a paper-based survey of 207 academic staff, b) focus group interviews with ten English speaking Guangxi University teachers, c) 27 teacher evaluations of a professional development program focused on curricular reform and d) 30 student evaluations from graduates of the Guangxi capstone course. Findings indicate that the capstone course experience can successfully develop generic skills for Chinese students. It is also evident from the research that Australian-Chinese academic collaboration through the framework of a Community of Practice is a positive and productive approach to curriculum reform with multiple benefits. Findings from this project also highlight culturally distinct beliefs and conventions associated with both education and research.