“Enjoyable”, “okay” or “rather pointless”? An exploration of Chinese and British students' views on innovative and traditional assignment types in UK universities.
In: Promoting Partnership: Responding to the Needs of the East Asian Learner in Higher Education, 12-13 July 2008, Portsmouth.
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In the U.K., Chinese students are now “the largest single overseas student group” with more than 60,000 studying here in 2006 (British Council, 2008) yet there has been little study of their views towards British assessment methods, particularly innovative assignment types. The focus of this paper is on the similarities and differences in attitudes towards assessed writing between Chinese and British students in U.K. universities. Data was gathered in 2007-8 and consists of 200 questionnaire responses from Chinese and British students studying a wide range of subjects in over 40 UK universities together with follow-up emails and interviews. Students are asked to describe how they plan and write assignments and how this has altered over the course of their university study. Also explored are the use of aids such as electronic and paper dictionaries, translation software and proofreading by native or non-native speakers. The main focus of the study is British and Chinese students’ views of assignment-writing, particularly in relation to recent, alternative assignment types such as blogs, letters and e-posters. Currently students in U.K. H.E. are expected to produce a wide variety of text types with several writers suggesting that more discipline and text-specific help is needed (e.g. Hewings and Hewings, 2001). Jin and Cortazzi have pointed out the “increasingly diverse” nature of Chinese students in the U.K. (2006) and Gu and Schweisfurth suggest that the notion of ‘the Chinese learner’ invites an unhelpful view of homogeneity (2006). In this paper I consider the difficulties facing U.K. university students in terms of the range of writing requirements which are now expected and how British and Chinese students embrace these challenges.
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