Research looks at new framework for teaching international students from China

Cultural assumptions may be impacting how international students from China engage at New Zealand tertiary institutions and how they are taught needs to be revised, says educator Jeremy Taylor. Taylor received a Foundation Postgraduate Research Grant to further his Doctor of Professional Practice (DPP) research, which he says could form the framework for a more effective learning experience.
Jeremy Taylor talking to a woman in a classroom environment

Jeremy has held education positions in both New Zealand and China and is currently undertaking a Doctor of Professional Practice (DPP) 

On arriving back to China in 2008 and beginning my lecturing role for Staffordshire University’s Chengdu joint Business Management programme, one of the most unusual things I can remember encountering was a group of 12 students marching around the campus.

These students frequently marched in single file with detailed instructions for stopping other students expressing themselves through any form of intimate contact. The group I subsequently learned in Chinese, was called 校风纠察队 (xiao feng jiu cha dui) or more colloquially, on our campus at least, as the “Kissing Police”.

Coming across the “Kissing Police” and what to make of their actions and their role in student society is one of the many unique experiences that working on a transnational education (TNE) programme has to offer.

Reflecting on this and the many other experiences like it during my nine years living in China definitely sparked my interest in the differences that foreign educators encounter while working in China and became the starting point for my research topic, which is focused on how Chinese tertiary learners could be given a more effective learning experiences when studying on international joint programmes.

The term joint programme carries a variety of meanings, but within the context of my research it means a shared partnership between a foreign tertiary institute and a local Chinese university.

Specifically, I am researching Otago Polytechnic’s offshore Engineering programme in Dalian and my former workplace in Chengdu and Staffordshire University’s joint Business Management programme.

The applied nature of the professional doctorate programme is perfect for my circumstances, as it allows my studies to fit around my facilitator role with Otago Polytechnic and my study is constantly giving me ideas for how to improve my approach across a broad range of learners.

During my tenure at Staffordshire University, in addition to my lecturing responsibilities, I led the University’s staff development unit and had responsibility for around 40 teaching staff who were working on a variety of programmes.

A common factor I saw across all of these programmes was issues around engaging Chinese learners in the classroom.

I frequently saw questions voiced by Chinese learners and confusion about what was expected in the classroom and how to complete final assessments.

During our regular staff development sessions, it became clear that a revised framework of teaching practice had the potential to assist both educators and learners.

A teacher looking over the shoulder of a student working at a laptop

Jeremy Taylor: " became clear that a revised framework of teaching practice had the potential to assist both educators and learners."

My research, although still very much at an early stage, has so far analysed how joint tertiary programmes in China should be categorised and the impact cultural assumptions have on learner engagement.

I have also been able to establish a widespread need for a revised framework of teaching practice and how it could be used to assist any New Zealand institute that has Chinese learners.

As my research investigation has a professional practice focus, I am looking to develop a set of recommendations that could be used by New Zealand providers to deliver a more effective learning experience for their Chinese learners.

My investigation into Chinese offshore programmes has also had an impact on my approach in other interesting ways. Through my analysis, it has become clear that the learning culture of China and in particular, the Confucian Heritage Culture that lies behind much of Chinese education today, has elements that could positively influence New Zealand education more broadly. For example, the concept of Chinese learners building resilience from an early age and to keep going in the face of adversity is a concept that needs to be analysed further.

Assuming that borders are open in 2022, I will also look to use some portion of the grant provided to me by the Asia New Zealand Foundation to travel to Dalian and Chengdu to undertake research in person.

I am confident that my research will provide new perspectives and insights that will prove invaluable across New Zealand’s education sector and lead to educators having a more informed understanding of how best to engage Chinese students and ultimately for Chinese learners to have a more enjoyable experience.