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A case study on students Satisfaction at University

The Foundation Year Course (FYC) was introduced into Cambodian universities since 1960; until recently, it has had a few changes. Between 1960 and 1975, the educational system in the country simply adopted by the French system, and the FYC was also taught in the French language. It was intended to enhance educational quality and provide the background knowledge for students through exposure to a broad based curriculum designed to assist students to become accustomed to the more student centered approaches to learning before passing them to second and subsequent years of university study. In this period, the FYC was considered as being of very high quality and there were only a few universities at which a student could study – Science, Physics, Chemistry, Natural (SPCN); Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry (MPC); Mathematic, Architect, Physics (MAP) Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Medicine (CPEM) or Physics, Chemistry, Business (PCB). Each student who passed the FYC could change their subjects or major to study at another educational institute in their second year because all universities were formed with single policy – the FYC was intended to provide strong learning scaffolding for all students.

During the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979), the educational system was seriously destroyed due to the three-year long civil war. The FYC was demolished from some universities such as Pharmacy, Business, Laws & Economics, and Technology; then students started their university with First Year study; consequently, student’s transferability and mobility was stopped. FYC was not FYC anymore, single policy for all universities were not practiced. (Note: You told me: 1975-1979, not FYP for Pharmacy, Business, Laws &Economics, Technology) but this period everything was destroyed, Khmer Rouge.

Between 1980 and 2005, the FYC was totally discarded and all universities started to have independent first year programs of study which limited student mobility between institutions.

After the introduction of privatization of higher education in 1997, the number of universities increased dramatically, and in 2005, the new features of the FYC were again established. The FYC was intended to develop the human resources of the country to serve the market needs and to meet international standards. With this new FYC, many universities experience great challenges in educational system. Each university introduced different subjects into their FYC programs even for the same faculty, but a single policy for the FYC was no longer implemented making the higher educational system in Cambodia very complex (Neth, B. Personal Communication, February 5, 2011).

Problem statement

Through several periods of changes, the FYC in Cambodia is again unlikely to turn to implement its single policy for educational goal. Different educational institutions start operating their programs independently, so student transferability and mobility are no longer the FYC’ goal; then its implementation will not be possible. Consequently, it remains unclear what the current FYC is like. FYC was newly implemented at University X; also it was fully accredited by the ACC, but still there are some complaints from students, so there is question whether University X is providing the students with satisfaction. This proposed research topic was developed to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the FYC at University X as reported by the students, and identify features that impact on students’ satisfaction.

1.3 Aims of the study

The aims of this study are to investigate:

how satisfied students at University X are with their Foundation Year Course;

identify student suggestions for university improvements

1.4 Research Questions

To investigate the students’ satisfaction toward their study, it is important to give answers to the questions below:

What is the satisfaction amongst First Year students at University X?

What might be learned from their reported experiences that will be of use to University X’s further development and improvement?

1.5 Significance of the study

Hearing from the students’ experience and their satisfaction and their dissatisfaction at the University X will assist the university identify the strengths and areas for development and possibly increase resourcing to improve students’ satisfaction and success in their future year of study. According to Bakar (2008), students’ satisfaction plays an important role in ensuring the long lasting relationship with their universities and its survival (p. 308), so University X would benefit from surveying their students’ level of satisfaction to ascertain if the students will continue at the university. Furthermore, both positive and negative feedback from students will possibly be of value for the university as it seeks to improve the quality of the university experience thereby directly contributing to the development of human resources for the nation and to meet international standard (Chet, 2006, p. 16). Hopefully, University X can be more effectively competitive with other local universities possibly gaining recognition with other educational partners and stakeholders.

CHAPTER 2

LITERATURE REVIEW

In identifying the literature for my research proposal project, both international and national sources are reviewed to identify articles focusing on foundation year students’ satisfaction. Those sources were from the Department of Higher Education (DHE), Accreditation Committee of Cambodia (ACC), Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, and UNESCO. Besides these, they are also from some well-known websites such as Google, Google Scholar, EBSCO Host, ERIC, Ebookee and the journal collections at James Cook University. The key words used to identify the relevant literature include: student satisfaction, student perception, student feedback, course evaluation, and factors for quality assurance. Other literature was also found in the articles from several well-know researchers: Marsh (Date), Cohen (2005), Richardson, Hofman & Jansen (2006), Chalmers (2007), Shea, Fredericksen & Pickett (2001). Marsh is a famous writer who developed Students’ Evaluation of Educational Questionnaire (SEEQ), which is most widely used in published work.

2.1 Definition of Foundation Year

In the Cambodia higher education context, the first year academic program of any Bachelor degree study is known as the Foundation Year. The credits accrued in this year of study are able to be used for credit transfer within any Cambodian university. The Foundation Year Course (FYC) is intended to enhance educational quality and provide the background knowledge for students through exposure to a broad based curriculum designed to assist students to become accustomed to the more student centered approaches to learning before passing them to second and subsequent years of university study (Neth, B. Personal Communication, February 5, 2001). Moreover, with the credit based system, students are provided with choices and flexibility of programs to chose for their study, and they are able to change their subject or major skill when they are in their second-year of study within the same HEIs they enrolled or other HEIs after having successfully completed the FYC (ACC, 2010, p. 3).

2.2 Higher Education in Cambodia

Cambodian higher education has been reformed several times since its establishment. The first modern university, the Royal University of Phnom Penh, was established in 1960 (Chet, 2006, p. 14), but was closed during the Khmer Rouge regime, and reestablished throughout the 1980s. In the late 1990s, privatization in the higher education sector became a feature of the Cambodian universities (You, 2009, p. 1). Norton University, the first private university established in 1997, was officially started to open its doors for those who wish to pursue their studies in higher education from all corners of the country; later, charging fees in private higher education institutions increased dramatically and are now the major providers of higher education in the country (Chet, 2006, p. 25). As a result, the educational system inside the country was developed and consists of both public and private sectors in partnership.

During 2000, the number of private higher education institutions grew rapidly due to its massification and the market needs. It aims to create skills and knowledge which will serve the changing labour market needs of the country (Chet, 2006, p. 14). Currently, there are 77 higher educational institutions in Cambodia of which 45 are private universities (MoEYS, 2005-2009) with the highly increased enrollment in Foundation Year Course:

Table 1: Statistics of Foundation Year Students enrolment since its reestablishing

Year

Public Institutions

Total enrolment

Private Institutions

Total enrolment

Pub + Private

Total Enrolment

1997-2003

n/a

n/a

n/a

2003-2004

5,512

8,203

13,715

2004-2005

7,328

11,987

19,315

2005-2006

13,140

16,519

29,659

2006-2007

14,863

19,920

34,783

2007-2008

17,576

21,729

39,305

2008-2009

20,391

25,259

45,650

2009-2010

23,084

26,373

49,457

Source: Department of Higher Education, MoEYS

The total number of enrolments has remarkably increased from year to year. The data is limited because it does not show the portion of each year’s enrolment that is fee paying or scholarship award. Therefore it is not able to show what, if any, changes have been occurring in enrolment numbers of fee paying and scholarship holders. This would be useful data to reflect emerging trends in HEIs in Cambodia. According to the statistics, higher education did attract high enrolment for students’ stepping in university campus. HEIs play an important role to develop human resources and give in-depth understanding of knowledge to students in life. Additionally, it shall teach learners to have complete personality and characteristic and promote the scientific, technical, cultural and social researches in order to achieve capacity, knowledge, skill, morality, creative ideas and enterprise spirit to the development of the country (MoEYS, 2007b, p. 6). However, there is a risk of the private sector focusing on the short-term and neglecting the long-term needs of the country. The rapid expansion of higher education without sufficient quality assurance can lead to the creation of institutions of dubious quality weakening the whole system (Chet, 2006, pp. 14-15), so, with the dramatic increase of student enrolments in higher education institutions, it remains unclear that the current HEIs purpose is to bring quality for human resources development first or to achieve profit for business.

2.3 Student versus Customer

In studying student satisfaction, there is a strong debate of viewing student as the student or student as the customer. Up to now, there have been two conflicted philosophies amongst educators which view university as being for the public good and some other as being for the private good, so the conflicts have been raised. In today’s competitive environment, education has not only become a major industry, but it is also an investment by the parents for their children’s future whether in public or in private higher education (Malik & Danish, p.1).

Wolf (cited in Sperlich, 2007) showed that marketing experts like to view the students as clients or customers and they themselves scrutinize higher education as producing more or less well-informed consumers (p. 6). Lee (2001) showed that students are customers of a university, and they are free to choose where they study. They are also free to purchase goods and services, and businesses do not restrict sales to a selected group based on personal attributes. Yet universities restrict admission and are not open to all students even if they are willing to pay the price for their study with their own funds. Students do not necessarily pay for their higher education themselves because tuition may be subsidized by taxpayers and often completely or partially paid by parents. However, once admitted to a university, students are continually tested and graded and those who fail are required to repeat a course and are prevented from taking more advanced courses (Sirvanci, cited in Kamvounias, 1999 (p. 31).

Bogue & Bingham-Hall (cited in Rana, 2009) have stated that the institutions would eventually adopt the business strategies to increase their effectiveness in the long run. In the case of the higher education system, the institutions invest its resources into the production site (p.1, 6). Kamvounias (1999) suggested that students are in fact the ‘products’ rather than the customers of the higher education industry. Student’s progress through the courses required for their degrees just as raw material flows through the manufacturing process – university entrance until graduation (p. 31). Sirvanci (cited in Kamvounias, 1999) noted that students are also labourers because they learn course material by writing papers and preparing for tests. Teachers then act as inspectors grading students to ensure that only those who demonstrate sufficient knowledge move to the next stage of the education process (p. 32)

Additionally, students are also considered as the end of the product with increased knowledge and satisfaction; thus the demand of the fresh graduate in the market is a pay back, even mental satisfaction gained gives the output to the customer. As a result, the fresh graduate would be the mode of advertisement for the institute in the market and would eventually attract more external stakeholders to apply for admission at the institution (Rana, pp.7-8). Because of the consumer mind, institutions have started to increase their tuition fees in order to look good in the education industry. Institutions with higher tuition fees are perceived to have higher quality, institutions with a brand name likewise are perceived to have quality, institutions with higher amount of funds and resources are perceived to have quality than those charging less fees or with less resources (Bogue & Bingham-Hall, cited in Rana, 2009, p.2).

According to the comparison above, it is seen that students have been given different kinds of roles. Students are not supposed to be the students anymore due to the influence of the business idea. HEIs start their competition; then universities play the role as the industry for producing its products, and students become advertisements for their graduating university. Moreover, some writers or authors often use business language, but they do not actually acknowledge of using it resulting in controversy for the viewing of students in higher education settings. In conclusion, students are increasingly viewed as customers rather than the students, therefore the purpose of higher education institutions in Cambodia is for business first; then quality in learning later.

2.4 Models of First Year Student Satisfaction

Murphy’s (2010) study on ‘first year students experience’ introduced six models to describe students’ satisfaction, these are known as: Fit Models; Cognitive Models; Legitimating Models; Partial Models and Outcome Focused Models; Ecological Models; and Satisfaction as a Component of Retention Models (pp. 20-26)

Fit Models

The Fit Models of student satisfaction views satisfaction as resulting from a fit between the student and his or her environment. These types of theories view satisfaction as a function of the discrepancy between the student’s expectations and his or her experiences. The underlying concept for these models is that people have specific needs, preferences, personality, and abilities that make them either a strong or weak match with a university. Satisfaction is then a function of the degree to which a person matches.

Cognitive Models

The cognitive models of student satisfaction are based on the idea that satisfaction is a function of some cognitive process and is not a direct result of an experience. In other words, the relationship between an experience and the resulting satisfaction is mediated by a cognitive process that often results in attitudes that are quite disconnected from reality.

Legitimating Models

Other researchers have viewed student satisfaction through legitimating models. These models view satisfaction as resulting from the opportunities that a student’s degree will give him or her. A satisfied student will believe that his or her degree has given him an advantage in society. Compared with other satisfaction models, this approach sets aside other possible goals or objectives that students may hold, including friendship, romance, personal growth, and self-discovery.

Partial Models and Outcome Focused Models

Many models also focus on only one correlate of student satisfaction or are built around satisfaction’s relationship with a student outcome like grades or retention. The relationship between student satisfaction and student grade is one area that has received much attention.

Ecological Models

It was found that two areas of satisfaction were life satisfaction and campus satisfaction and that if students were satisfied with one aspect, they were mostly satisfied with the other area.

Satisfaction as a Component of Retention Models

Satisfaction in its role as an independent variable is also a predictive component of many models of retention. One of the most important applied reasons to study student satisfaction is its relationship with student retention.

All Models of satisfaction introduced by Murphy are very important for measuring students’ satisfaction whether they are enrolled in public or private universities. From one model to another, satisfaction is viewed differently.

2.5 Indicators for student satisfaction

In the case study of student satisfaction, two sources of information will be used to inform the development of the questionnaire and interview questions. One of the sources is the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia (ACC) and another one is from several well-known researchers’ articles. The ACC has used six indicators to evaluate the quality of FYC. These indicators are: Department of Foundation Year Course, Strategic Plan, Curriculum of FYC, Teaching Staff, School Facilities and Student admission, and other common indicators used by many scholars for measuring quality of student satisfaction are the quality of the university campus, service quality and counseling service (Abdullah, 2009; Aman, 2009; Ilias, 2008; Yang, Li & Sligo, 2008).

In general, the ACC uses six indicators to measure the quality of satisfaction from students in their FYC, for my research project I have decided to choose three of them being Curriculum of FYC, Teaching Staff and School Facilities. These three indicators will give students some topics to report on what they experience in the course they are studying because they are so close to these factors when they present in the class. The other three ACC indicators, Department of Foundation Year Course, Strategic Plan, and Student admission, are beyond students’ background knowledge, so they may not be able to express their idea on these three factors because the indicators are mainly focused on the university management. As the result, there will be five indicators to be used for my research project: teaching staff, curriculum of FYC, school facilities, the quality of university campus, service quality and counseling service.

The reason to choose five indicators for my research project is to avoid including too many items/questions. If the students find the questionnaire too long, they may lose their attentions; also might not give honest answers. If they get tired or bored with the questionnaire, the data may not be accurate either. According to Kember & Leung (2009), students are reluctant to complete the questionnaire which they consider overly long (p. 17).

2.6 Factors contributing to students’ satisfaction

Various studies have been conducted in understanding the contributions of various elements to student satisfaction, and the results have been shown to be extremely diverse due to the studies being conducted on different subject areas. However, it was found that there are some common factors for querying student satisfaction.

Teaching staff

In university compounds, teachers play the very important role to bring students’ satisfaction toward their academic study. As many case studies were conducted, many points were revealed for students’ satisfaction. Most of authors found out students really satisfied with teaching staff who are well-qualified (Hofman & Jansen 2006, p.14; Yang, Li & Sligo 2008, p.7). As cited from Martensen, Gronholdt, Eskildsen and Kristensen (2000, pp. 378-379), students satisfy qualified lectures who are able to deliver their lectures effectively, qualified in their respective fields, show enthusiasm in teaching, provide appropriate feedbacks in assignments, easy to be with and help them to learn, while Gallogly (2005, pp. 63-73) found out that students like instructors who were perceived as being knowledgeable, helpful, responsive, interactive and timely in responding them. Moreover, they need instructors who have good performance and preparation in their teaching (OECD 2004), especially good interaction between instructors and students (Aman 2009, Murphy 2010; Gallogly 2005; Chalmers 2007, p. 45). When there is good interaction between teachers and students, it can make students get more class participation which can enhance their learning experience (Shea, Fredericksen & Pickett 2001, p. 4; Cohen 2005, p.124). As the study about the online learning, it is shown that the interaction with teachers using online learning was very helpful because it offers the shy students a safe place to add their input; the risk is much lower than in a classroom filled with peers, and students are able to work at their own pace and take time to understand and appreciate the material (Johnston, Killion & Oomen 2005, p. 3). Also, students’ satisfactions are from teachers’ supports, fast feedbacks and motivations (Hofman & Jansen 2006, p.28; Shea, Fredericksen & Pickett 2001, p. 4; Gallogly 2005, p.?; Maneekhao & Tepsuriwong 2009, p. 304). As Anchaleewittayakul’s (2004, p. 43) study on the effectiveness of web-based instruction, it is shown that students satisfied more with the interaction between their teachers and the usefulness of the teachers’ feedbacks because it increased students’ responsibility for their own learning.

Curriculum

Curriculum is very necessary for students. Good curriculum will lead to have positive result while poor curriculum leads to have negative one. According to (Hofman & Jansen 2006, pp.17-28), students’ satisfaction is basing on the quality of curriculum – how effective the educational program is, while the study conducted by Carbone & Sheard (p. 22); Gallogly (2005, p. 63) showed that students much satisfy with the subject contents overall the course provided. It could also be inferred that students’ knowledge of programs and services is an important predictor of satisfaction with educational programs and services Abdullah (2009, p. 21)

School facilities

School facilities are the very important materials for students’ development. They are the useful sources for students to improve themselves. Library is the main source which supports so many documents for students (Abdullah, 2009, p. 21). Moreover, students emphasize much on Information Technology (IT). It will highlight the students’ interest to come and experience it with a great response (Abdullah, 2009, p.19; Carbone & Sheard, p. 26; Shea, Fredericksen & Pickett p. 17; Drury, Kay & Losberg (2006, p. ?). Furthermore, students also satisfy the quality of delivery technology for the use of their document Gallogly (2005, p. 69). It is fast and good for students but it should be available for all students, so more computer labs are needed (Ilias, 2008, p.135; Abdullah, 2009, p.21).

University Campus

In university campus, office is a very important place which provides students with good services. According to Murphy (2010), students have much satisfaction with administration and the academic (p. ?). Moreover, they prefer the service from the office which is fair and unbiased to all students, easy to get access to information from the school, especially the school campus which is safe and secure for them (Ilias, 2008, p.135). Furthermore, as the study conducted by Chalmers (2007), students really satisfy with learning environment which gives them good comfort and feeling in their study time (p. 45).

Service Quality and Counseling Service

Service quality is so important that serves the needs of students in their study time (Yang, Li & Sligo, 2008, p. 7; Aman, 2009, p. 3). According to Abdullah (2009), when customers are satisfied, they are more likely to return to those who helped them, while dissatisfied customers are more likely to go elsewhere (pp. 18-20), so it is absolutely crucial for the university to find good service quality for students to stay as it is also the factor for school survival and sustainable market share. Moreover, university as the service provider should think on how to improve the delivered services continuously and relatively with all the changes in terms of the students as customers’ needs as satisfaction among the factors that will ensure their retention because of their confidence of the quality services provided. Ilias’s study on student satisfaction and service quality showed that counseling service plays an important role to help students when they have problems. Basing on his research, students satisfy much with quality and knowledge of the advisor, especially his available time for counseling which is really helpful for student progress (2008, p.135).

CHAPTER 3

METHODOLOGY

In this chapter, a description of both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods will be used in the proposed research. The method of sampling and ethical considerations will be discussed; the data collection methods and analysis, their strengths and limitations will be indentified as well as the development of the questionnaire and the interview questions. The procedure for their use will also be mentioned and the supporting Appendices provide examples of the proposed data collection instrument and consent and information forms.

3.1 Sampling Methods

3.1.1 Sampling method

The site selected for this proposed research is one private university where the researcher is employed. This sampling method is known as ‘convenience sampling’ which involves selecting whoever or whatever site happens to be available at the time (Gay, Mills, Airasian, 2009, p. 134) – it uses whoever is available to participate in the study. However, Gay et al. also outline a limitation for this approach to sampling in that, it maybe ‘difficult to describe the population from which the sample was drawn and to whom results can be generalized’ (p. 136).

The locations of this study will be at two campuses of University X located in Phnom Penh city with 60 Foundation Year Students (FYS) enrolled at campus I and 60 at campus II. Both campuses have three foundation year classes: morning, afternoon and evening. Campus I (n=60) has 20 students attending the morning, 20 each the afternoon and the evening classes respectively. At campus II (n=60) – 20 attend the morning class, 20 the afternoon and 20 the evening class.

A limitation of selecting only subjects from this private university is that it limits the generalizability of the findings. The findings will not be able to be generalized to other or all universities in the country – its focus is on only foundation year students attending University X that has only one English teaching course (Bachelor of Education) located in Phnom Penh city.

3.2 Sampling Method

3.2.1 Questionnaires

To conduct this study, a letter of introduction from the M. Ed program will be sent to school X principal verifying the researcher as a student in the program, providing a copy of the research proposal and asking for his approval for the research to be conducted at his school.

The participants in this study will be all FYS enrolled at University X. They are the key informants who can provide rich information in this research.

All FYS (n=120) will be invited to participate in completing a researcher-designed anonymous questionnaire (see Appendix 1) and their participation will be voluntary. They will not be made to participate in this study and the researcher will state clearly that there will be no harm or threat if they decide not to participate. Information about the purpose of the research project and the approximate time duration to complete the questionnaire will be clearly explained to the students by the researcher after being permitted access to the class by their teacher. The researcher will explain to the students before the time they have a break for class; then he will not stay inside the class either. It is unlikely that all the FYS will take part in the study.

3.3 Data Collection Methods

Two different methods will be used to collect data for exploring the issue of the current cohort of FYS satisfaction – a questionnaire and focus group discussions. The methods of data collection are outlined below.

3.3.1 Questionnaires

3.3.1.1 Strengths and limitations

A questionnaire will be used because it is economical, convenient and can provide participants with confidentiality and anonymity. McMillan & Schumacher (2001) state that, ‘a questionnaire is relatively economical...and can ensure anonymity’ (p. 257). Moreover, according to Gay, Mills & Airasian (2009) ‘questionnaires allow the researcher to collect large amounts of data in a relatively short amount of time’ (p. 373), but they also argue that ‘paper-and-pencil questionnaires do not allow any opportunity to establish rapport with respondents and the researcher cannot explain any unclear items – it is also subject to low response rates and suffers from the researcher’s inability to ask probing or follow-up questions’ (p. 177).

3.3.1.2 Questionnaire development

The researcher-designed questionnaire will be anonymous, and the questionnaire will include three parts. It will be developed in English and translated in Khmer then back translated into English by an independent translator to check for accuracy of translation.

Part one will ask details about students’ demographic characteristics (age, gender, job or study etc.) using Tick boxes for collecting students’ responses. Likert scales will be used in part tow for measuring the level of students’ self-reported satisfaction using five variables (5 = strongly agree to 1 = strongly disagree), and finally there are five open-ended questions included intended to ask for more ideas in-depth from students. According to Muijs (2004), ‘open-ended questions have the advantages of allowing the respondents to freely formulate an answer...can be important, as it allows you as a researcher to discover opinions or answers that you had not thought about before’ (p. 46).

The questionnaires will be piloted with ten volunteer students from other classes in order to check clarity and comprehension and whether or not they really understand the meaning of the questions or if they contain some mistakes that cause confusion and need to be improved. Fraenkel & Wallen (2003) described ‘a pilot study…is to detect any problems so that they can be remedied before the study proper is carried out’ (p. 609).

At the back of the questionnaire paper, a piece of paper containing the information of the five variables for students’ satisfaction is attached. The paper will invite interested students to participate in the focus group discussions. Interested students can detach the paper and leave it in the box providing their contact details. Those who volunteer for the interview will be asked to sign on the invitation form (see appendix 2) and the researcher will contact them to arrange a mutually convenient time and place for the focus group interview. In the event there is an oversubscription of volunteers for focus group interviews, the researcher will invite from the volunteer students in order to gain a gender balance. The researcher will also thank all the volunteers for their helpfulness even those who are not invited to participate.

3.3.1.3 Procedures

All FYS will be administered the questionnaires during a class time by the class monitor. The information inside the questionnaires will be translated into Khmer because all participants can be with ease to express their ideas when they understand all the questions well. The questionnaires will use some questions adopted from ACC questionnaires that focus on three of its variables and two other variables which have been identified from the literature reviewed and have been included in the questionnaire.

The questionnaire will need to be administered and responses analyzed before the interview because the information from the questionnaire will help the researcher to develop questions for the group interviews.

To avoid possible conflicts of interests, the researcher will not distribute the questionnaire because he is also one of the lecturers at University X, so students may not be as open or honest in their answers because of concern of identification. He will have class monitors pass the paper to the students during their study time, and they will be asked to detach the invitation form at the back separately and leave the papers (the questionnaire and response to participate in a focus group discussion) in a box next to the door when they leave the room at the end of the class.

3.4 Focus group discussion

3.4.1 Strengths and limitations

According to Fraenkel & Wallen (2003), the purpose of interviewing people is to find out what is on their mind – what they think or how they feel about something (p. 455).

Focus group discussions will be held with up to 6 groups of between 5-7 students each group. For focus group discussions, it is very important to make the participants feel secure as they are in the safe environment where they can express their ideas freely more than they may be able to in a questionnaire. It can also offer the researcher good opportunity to invite the participants to discuss and expand their responses without any concern. Gay, Mills & Airasian (2009) described ‘interviewers can explore and probe participants’ responses to gather in-depth data about their experiences and feelings’ (p. 370). Likewise, McMillan & Schumacher (2001) stated that

…the focus group interview (FGI), a strategy for obtaining a better understanding of a problem or an assessment of a problem, concern, new product, program, or idea by interviewing a purposefully sampled group of people rather than each person individually. By creating a social environment in which group members are stimulated by the perceptions and ideas of each other, one can increase the quality and richness of data through a more efficient strategy than one-on-one interviewing (p. 455).

Similarly, Marshall & Rossman (2006) described, ‘the advantages of focus-group interviews are that this method is socially oriented, studying participants in an atmosphere more natural than artificial experimental circumstances and more relaxed than one-to-one interview’ (p. 114). However, ‘weakness of the focus group discussion method is that the time needed for group responses to one question can limit the number of questions able to be asked’ (Patton, 1990, p. 336). Another weakness of this method is that ‘the interviewer often has less control over a group interview than an individual one; also time can be lost while irrelevant issues are discussed’ (Marshall & Rossman, 2006, p. 115). Finally, the data collected is only from those who are in these focus groups, so it is possible that there will be ideas or voices unheard because of an unwillingness to participate in a group discussion.

To get responses from the students in focus group discussions, the researcher will lead the interview because he is the only person who can explain to the students clearly and ask in-depth questions (see appendix 3) to get the information he really needs for his research. Moreover, it is a private institution, so students will be brave enough to express their ideas about the course they have learnt, unlike the public institutions. It is also unlikely that all the focus group discussion students will be so confident to give all honest answers to the researcher, but he will try to explain to them how important their honest answers are.

3.5 Data Analysis

To analyze the data, both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used. The descriptive statistics will be utilized to describe the data of the tick boxes getting from the questionnaire. SPSS will be used to find the ‘mean’ and ‘standard deviation’; also to find the simple correlation analysis of likert scale data in the questionnaire. For open-ended-questions from the questionnaire and small group discussions transcription, NVIVO will be used to identify the themes or pattern from students’ responses.

CHAPTER 4

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

4.1 Personal Reflections

In the fulfillment of the Master of Education program, all students are required to find a topic for their research work. Hearing people use the word ‘research’ is interesting for me and I also think I understand the meaning of it very well. After the long process of writing my research proposal, I did learn a lot and the word ‘research’ comes to my mind again, but it does have much more in-depth meaning and it is now understood to be a complicated process.

Firstly, a research proposal is a long process of task revision and development. Each part needs to be linked smoothly in order to make it become a single idea. If one part gets changed, it will affect another part, so good preparation and time management are very important to get this task done. Also, research requires the student to have strong commitment to pooling idea together because it is an independent task needed to use in-depth understanding to analyze the work to improve critical thinking skill.

Secondly, reviewing the literature provided me with numerous learning experiences. Finding relevant sources and desired information is a time-consuming job and needs great attention and effort with much time is spent searching on the internet. The key words for web searches are very necessary tools to find the information in the web, and acknowledging the author’s work is found very useful to give respect to the author. Moreover, I know how important it is to get sources from well-known scholars or databases which are very reliable with its standardized quality in use – poor quality of sources will result in poor quality of research work, and limited and inadequate sources are really problematic that seriously affects the quality of a research proposal. Furthermore, the process of finding sources has helped me understand more when seeking for information from one particular place. I know more and more about the real working environment in society and how to get the data. To sum up, developing a research proposal is a lengthy and costly task.

Lastly, I now understand that research always has its strengths, weaknesses, and limitations, so selecting the population should be taken into consideration. Moreover, softening the word to avoid sensitivity of the participants is very important when conducting the research. Also, the researcher must be aware of the participants’ ethic and their privacy because he cannot use any kind of forms of power in his studies. As Gay, Mills & Airasian (2009) stated that ‘research studies are built on trust between the researcher and the participants, and researchers have a responsibility to behave in a trustworthy manner, just as they expect participants to behave in the same manner’ (p. 19).

In conclusion, developing a research proposal is a time-consuming task which requires much time and effort with good preparation and time management. In order to get good quality in the process work and avoid violation, the researcher should understand the use of reliable data and take ethical issues into account.

4.2 Areas for further research

The results of this proposed research would be limited on only one private university hence it would not be generalized to all universities in Cambodia. Case studies on ‘student satisfaction’ have been conducted by many scholars, and their studies are always relevant to the word ‘quality’ and ‘outcome’, so I would first recommend a further study on a topic ‘relevancy of student outcome and student satisfaction’. In general, it is said to have quality when students are satisfied with the course, but it would remain unclear whether students’ satisfaction with their course means the course has quality. The term satisfaction and quality are interrelated so it would be worth studying on this topic whether or not it is able to split out or whenever there is satisfaction, there is quality.

The second possible area for future research would be the comparison between quality in public and quality in private universities in the Foundation Year Course. Since private universities were established, they have attracted higher numbers of student enrolment than the public universities. The private sector tries to attract students with modern facilities while public facilities are still so simple. Based on my observation, students still have a trust on public sectors rather than private sectors, and some lecturers are working for both private and public, so it would be worth finding this issue whether private sector or public sector which is able to provide students with good quality.

The last possible area for future research would be the decision/choice of students to enroll to study in public or private university. Currently, modern private universities try all kinds of features to attract any students, but it is still unlikely to draw all students’ attention to turn their interest to private sectors. Meanwhile, public sectors still get its popularity and trust from students even though the enrolment is not as high as the private.

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