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This chapter presents findings obtained from the data collected in this research through a focus group discussion that was undertaken by the researcher. Findings from this case study were divided into sections according to the research questions indentified in chapter one.
4.2 WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES FACED BY NON UK STUDENTS IN THEIR MA EDUCATION IN AS FAR AS PEDAGOGY AND CURRICULUM ARE CONCERNED?
The study investigated the challenges faced by non UK students in their MA education in as far as pedagogy and curriculum are concerned. The researcher used focus group discussions and interviews to get information on the subject matter. Students from Greece indicated that they faced unique academic and personal challenges compared to domestic students. Their main difficulty was English language proficiency, which sometimes required professors' assistance and negatively affected their course performance.
The focus group discussion revealed that non UK students from Cyprus had the challenge of lacking critical thinking skills, had difficulty understanding spoken English and had weak writing skills whereas students criticized instructors for their use of colloquial English and rapid speech. Similarly, the research found out that professors felt students did not take responsibility for their own learning while students found professors indifferent.
Students from Asia especially China and India indicated that they were affected strongly by psychological problems, stress and homesickness. However the students indicated that they would want to benefit maximize by getting greater learning support from professors and tutors as they would exhibit a willingness to try new ways and practice self-help strategies, particularly those aimed at English language improvement and becoming acquainted with peers, since English language was considered their biggest communication challenge since they did their undergraduate degrees in their languages. In support to the findings, the literature states that in a UK study, Parks and Raymond (2004) found that taking classes with NES caused Chinese graduate students to reassess their English skills and change their learning strategies. They recognized that they participated less, had more difficulties with lecture comprehension and communicating with team members, and needed to take reading notes to more fully participate in class. Although international students are often encouraged to interact with NES to improve their English, these students were not always welcomed by the latter who sometimes viewed them as less competent.
Moreover further insights from Asian students in the research revealed that english-related skills, such as listening ability, lecture and reading comprehension, note taking, oral communication, vocabulary and writing, were very problematic to them. The research found out that these students from Asian countries lacked confidence in their english abilities and the fear of making mistakes inhibited their class participation. In support to the study findings, in their study, Grey (2004) and Holmes (2004) found that the international students' especially the Chinese who constitute a greater percentage of the non Uk students have their main difficulty as english language proficiency. This sometimes required professors' assistance and negatively affected course performance as stated by Currie (2004). Studies related to professors' and students' perceptions of non UK student challenges carried by Grey (2004) demonstrate that there are differing views on International student, attributed their lack of participation to language weaknesses and sensitivity to their ability (Robertson et al., 2000).
Survey findings also revealed that working hard did not necessarily result in good grades for international Chinese students. The challenges faced by these non UK students in their MA education in as far as pedagogy and curriculum are concerned were that the students lacked discussion skills and had inadequate listening comprehension for extended lectures. Professors' accents, idiomatic styles, humor and choice of examples in lectures posed problems to them and their academic performance.
Research findings indicated that Chinese graduate students participated less, had more difficulties with lecture comprehension and communicating with team members, and needed to take reading notes to more fully participate in class. This reveals a challenge for non UK students as far as far as pedagogy and curriculum are concerned.
On the other hand weak oral english skills and being in the minority negatively affected the ability of international students in the UK to make friends. These students included Chinese and those other students from Greece, Cyprus and Africa who did their undergraduate degrees in their languages.
Study found out through focus group discussions that academic performance of international Turkish students enrolled externally from their own nations studying on campus in the UK received lower grades on units requiring extensive reading and writing, likely because they did not have as much exposure to english as their peers on campus. The main challenges with regards to pedagogy and curriculum are concerned were related to speaking and reading proficiency, but not to writing and listening skills. Moreover reading and writing proficiency predicted better adjustment while aural and oral english abilities had no effect. In addition, to the research findings professors conversely perceived lack of involvement of students to be cultural rather than linguistic. Business professors in Tompson and Tompson's (1996) research indicated that international students' most unproductive behaviors were studying with and sitting next to co-nationals, lack of class participation and not asking questions when unclear about assignments. In contrast, international students felt the most critical areas were building a social network, language and familiarity with norms, rules and regulations. Students explained that they sat next to students who spoke their language to ask questions about the lecture or assignments if necessary. On the other hand, as in the Robertson et al. (2000) study, students reported that difficulties with the language, anxiety and lack of confidence prevented participation.
The survey investigated how culture affected non UK students in their MA education in as far as pedagogy and curriculum are concerned. The investigation was undertaken using focus group discussions.
Research found out that Chinese students' writing was inextricably bound by their cultures, ways of seeing the world, and identities. These students, all enrolled in the same language skills class, suggested that professors write key terms and assignments on the board, speak more slowly, provide background information, use examples that could be understood by all students, recognize symptoms of culture shock, make expectations clear, provide models of the type of work expected, check for comprehension of announcements, give students time to reflect before answering and avoid slang. In support to the study findings, a Chinese study by Holmes (2004) established that working hard did not necessarily result in good grades for international Chinese students (Holmes, 2004). The students lacked discussion skills and had inadequate listening comprehension for extended lectures. Professors' accents, idiomatic styles, humor and choice of examples in lectures posed problems. Students often had to read textbook assignments more slowly and read them multiple times.
Also according to Greek and Turkish international students participating in a cultural exchange program with graduate counseling practicum students, they indicated a greater need to adjust to UK culture, understand non-verbal behavior, develop friendships with diverse peers, communicate effectively with professors and be involved in the university community so as to shape their culture to their academic studies. In support to the research findings in the survey, one investigation by Fox (2004) demonstrates that because educational systems and ways of thinking are cultural, professors often fail to recognize the complexity of language issues confronting foreign students, particularly those associated with writing. Moreover Fox's (2004) research demonstrated that what professors perceived as the inability of international students to analyze and logically develop a written argument was the result of cultural communication styles. Also fox observes that western views of academic writing are minority perspectives and that faculty must more fully understand alternate modes of expression.
Researcher discovered that African students felt more lonely and homesick than UK domestic students. Their adjustment, measured by feelings of loneliness and homesickness, was affected by their satisfaction with social networks as opposed to the number of close friends. This affected their culture and so as well as their studies. In addition to the study findings, in another investigation by Schutz and Richards (2003) international graduate students indicated that the primary responsibility for adjusting to the new educational environment was theirs, but observed that faculty could modify their teaching styles (Lee, 2007). These students, all enrolled in the same language skills class, suggested that professors write key terms and assignments on the board, speak more slowly, provide background information, use examples that could be understood by all students, recognize symptoms of culture shock, make expectations clear, provide models of the type of work expected, check for comprehension of announcements, give students time to reflect before answering and avoid slang (Lee, 1997).
4.2.3 Differences in learning style and teaching
The focus group discussions demonstrated that Non UK students are academically successful and that learning strategies, motivation and/or background variables may have a positive effect on their performance.
Greece students who were enrolled in the UK experienced the learning style and teaching of learning communities consisting of content courses and language support courses. The students further added that they attended the classes as a cohort and had tutors. Findings further reviewed that the students were not content with the learning style and had lower pass rates in their courses. To further add to the study findings, following on from the work of Chan (2009), questions were asked relating to any differences in the non UK and UK students in learning and teaching. One difference found in the Chinese students was TVU's requirement that they read widely. They were used to having one text per subject, and found this emphasis on the need to read widely daunting. On the other hand, according to Jacob and Greggo, (2001), in UK, besides studying in the class, there need to spend more time, even more than the lecture give you the time, spending more time learning. The expectation that students would undertake pre-reading was also novel to these students. The reading issue is not an issue with the UK students.
Research findings from the focus group discussions further added that the learning style and teaching of intercultural learning has been a beacon, illuminating a world of cultural differences and a common global humanity, building blocks for a just and peaceful world. These differences have prompted the international students to know different cultures and be at peace with other students this has improved peace and relationships.
Research findings indicate that the learning style has contributed to intercultural learning and increased understanding of diversity and global issues. Findings indicated that in their first year, African, Greek, Turkish students had significantly higher scores on survey questions related to academic challenge and student-faculty interaction, and greater gains in personal and social development and general education outcomes. They reported spending less time socializing and relaxing than UK students. The pattern differed somewhat for Asians who socialized more, were less engaged in active learning and diversity-related activities, and were less satisfied with the campus environment.
However, the focus group discussion and interviews showed that African students identified the lecture as the most common mode of instruction in their homelands; their preferred learning approach was direct experience, involving contact with topics and situations related to their studies. Findings indicated that this group of students preferred to work alone, which supports a common view that international students dislike group work. They also reported valuing warm, friendly relationships with their instructors in contrast with the belief that African students are accustomed to a formal student-professor relationship. Additional research demonstrated that Chinese minority students were more successful in calculus than Black students because the Chinese students studied with peers or siblings while the Black students worked alone. Research literature supports the study findings when, Chan (2009) observed that there was also some interest in the role of the lecturer in the UK as opposed to the home university, where it was allegedly common for tutors to point out the need for students to pay their lecturers for extra tuition in order to pass the course. Depending on the location of the home university, some of these students were unused to OHPs, having been taught with the aid of a chalkboard only. A strong and unanimous theme running throughout is insecurity with of non-UK students with respect to the expectations of them as postgraduate students, and their desire for significantly more guidance from their tutors with respect to these expectations (Coleman, 2006). In the light of these differences, it is apparent that any effective induction of students with a similar background to those would need to include significant input on the culture of learning in the university, and on study skills.
Although in the study Chinese students noted that greater learning support from professors would be advantageous, they also exhibited a willingness to try new ways and practice self-help strategies, particularly those aimed at english language improvement and becoming acquainted with peers. In general, professors did not recognize the emotional and psychological problems experienced and identified by international students such as stress and homesickness. Furthermore, Lewthwaite (2006) established that the role of the lecturer was different in China. The tutors in China will go through every chapter by chapter - something like that. But in UK its different. The tutor only gives a guideline or something like that. It won't go through the lesson chapter by chapter. According to Catalyst (2000), in China, one just accept whatever the teacher teaches. The importance of rote learning in China was emphasized where one has to memorise lots of things, but in UK there is no need to memorise (Lewthwaite, 2006). A further difference was the greater use of group working in the UK as opposed to China. There is s not so much group work in the class in China. It is different in China. At university most of the time the teacher would teach what to do. There are no too many activities no group work no presentation.
While group work may not be viewed as a problem for Chinese students, Chan (2009) found that there was considerable nervousness reported due to the possibility of using incorrect english in such an exposed environment. Sometimes they get nervous because their english is not perfect and sometimes they make some grammar mistakes and sometimes they don't understand some meanings because is something is said , some new words that Chinese students don't know they have to ask and sometimes pronunciation is not perfect they do not understand you.
The research found out that the other factors that challenge non UK students for instance those from Greece and Cyprus as measured by GPA, credits completed, incompletes, withdrawals and no pass courses. The students relied on peer and teacher help, extended effort, test-taking skills and the ability to identify main ideas in readings and lectures. Coleman (2009) found the students from the Indian sub-continent reported a different range of experiences with regard to learning and teaching in UK. There was some replication of the importance of rote memorisation, although this was by no means universal. Constable and McCormick (2007) comment that sometimes, what happens is that when examination comes, one is just studying just to memorise that thing and you are not understanding a single word of it. What happens in this case is that one can get good marks, obviously, but you cannot be a good professional person, hence there is need to gain professionalism for MBA students (Cross, Bazron, Dennis, and Isaacs, 2009).
Underlying many of the problems experienced by international students is lack of language proficiency and cultural knowledge. However, some evidence suggests that 'language problems' may actually be culturally based ways of seeing the world. Research indicates that some international students compensate for insufficient english and socio-cultural knowledge through effort, study habits and self-help strategies. In some cases, instructors may adjust their expectations and/or modify course assessments to accommodate students' english skills.
4.2 HOW AND TO WHAT EXTEND DOES ASSESSMENTS PRESENT CHALLENGES TO NON UK STUDENTS IN THEIR MA EDUCATION PROGRAMME
The research also investigated on the extend at which assessments present challemges to NON-UK students in their MA education programme.
The students from China and India were greatly affected by how the teachers teach and how they learn on their assessments. Turkish and Greek students were moderately affected whilst the Assian student were less affected. This was reiterated by Currie (2004) who suggested that the wash back effect means that assessment has a strong influence on how teachers teach and how students learn. Assessment practices are difficult to change, but if they remain unchanged, important aspects of a new or emergent learning culture are in danger Mori (2000)
On their assessment Chineese, Indians Greek and Turkish students were to a greater extend affected by their English accent on their assessment. The Asians students were also greatly affected. This is in line with Murphy, AND Law (2002) pointed out that the second challenge on assessment the non-UK students face comes from developments in society and the ensuing expectations of what knowledge and competence students have acquired while studying.
The contribution from all students shows that the students were greatly affected by their social contact with their lecturers as suggested by Stiggins (2001) quoted in Mendel (2004) that the fourth challenge is on how teachers and students, who are socialized into traditional assessment practices, deal with the new modes of assessment
4.3 HOW CAN SUCH CHALLENGES BE ADDRESSED/RESOLVED TO HELP THE NON UK STUDENTS PERFORMANCE
The research sought to determine how challenges faced by non UK students in their MA education in as far as pedagogy and curriculum are concerned are addressed. Students from Greece and Turkey indicated that there is need for greater learning support from professors as this would help them cope better. The students also indicated that they had also exhibited a willingness to try new ways and practice self-help strategies, particularly those aimed at english language improvement and becoming acquainted with peers.
The study established that working hard did not necessarily result in good grades for international Chinese students. The students did not have discussion skills and had inadequate listening comprehension for extended lectures. Professors' and tutors' accents, idiomatic styles, humor and choice of examples in lectures posed problems. Students from Africa often had to read textbook assignments more slowly than their UK classmates and read them multiple times. However, student affairs professionals perceive international students to be well adjusted, satisfied with their educational experiences and to have typical concerns and feelings (Walker, 2001). Other research demonstrates that foreign students have greater adjustment difficulties than local students both academically (Ramsay et al., 1999) and socially (Hechanova-Alampay et al., 2002; Jacob and Greggo, 2001; Lewthwaite, 1996; Rajapaksa and Dundes, 2002). These findings suggest that student affairs staff may have an incomplete picture of international student needs, a concern since they are largely responsible for support programs.
In an interview, non UK students from China and Greece indicated that the primary responsibility for adjusting to the new educational environment was theirs, but observed that faculty could modify their teaching styles. These students, all enrolled in the same language skills class, suggested that tutors write key terms and assignments on the board, speak more slowly, provide background information, use examples that could be understood by all students, recognize symptoms of culture shock, make expectations clear, provide models of the type of work expected, check for comprehension of announcements, give students time to reflect before answering and avoid slang.
Findings are mixed regarding international students' social adjustment. The first priority of Turkish graduate students was adjustment to academic life and successful fulfillment of degree requirements. On the other hand Chinese students participating in a cultural exchange program with graduate counseling practicum students indicated a greater need to adjust to UK culture, understand non-verbal behavior, develop friendships with diverse peers, communicate effectively with professors and are involved in the university community. They also indicated feeling left out and observed that local students needed to recognize cultural barriers. They noted that the primary responsibility for making initial contacts with resident peers seemed to be theirs.
African students added that some of the challenges can be undone by using outreach support groups to help the students who may need counseling but are reluctant to initiate contact however, actual adjustment is not measured. Other students advocated for the use of web-based orientation and the third suggests a multi-phase approach to orientation neither reports on actual programs. Regards to the literature regarding social adjustment, the evidence suggests that, once again, international students experience greater difficulty than local students. Hechanova-Alampay et al. (2002) found that international students experienced less social support than domestic students, most likely because their family and friends were at a greater distance. The findings also indicated that the more interaction international students had with UK students, the greater their adjustment. Only few international students have close friendships with domestic students, however, this was due to lack of opportunity and/or preference for friendships with co-nationals.
African students indicated through focus group discussions that refugee students are often behind academically throughout their high school years due to limited english language proficiency and may take courses that do not require intensive reading and writing but in which it is possible to achieve high grades, allowing them to 'enter colleges and universities with limited proficiency in academic reading and writing, as well as limited content knowledge. On he other hand according to Smith et al, (2009), there are three interventions for international students which are pertinent. One involves using outreach support groups to help international students who may need counseling but are reluctant to initiate contact (Smith et al., 1999); however, actual adjustment is not measured. Another outlines ideas for web-based orientation (Murphy et al., 2002) and the third suggests a multi-phase approach to orientation (Lin and Yi, 1997); neither reports on actual programs. Other literature makes recommendations in the areas of mental health services (Mori, 2000), cross-cultural training (Lacina, 2002), orientation, library use, accent reduction and counseling (Sarkodie-Mensah, 1998). International students in UK viewed orientation, homestay and diverse classrooms as helpful to social adjustment and English development, and intensive English programs as key to rapid language gains and building confidence (Lee and Wesche, 2000).
Other respondents from Greece added that universities should establish support services to assist international students with their studies. These should include english-language courses, tutoring, and supplemental courses that focus on specific academic content and skills. These interventions will help resolve some of the challenges being faced to help the non UK students' performance.
Evidence from the focus group discussions suggests that the curriculum of english language courses may affect english skills, academic performance and retention. It was found out that African students enrolled in a content-based performed better on final course examinations and a writing test, had higher passing rates and grades in first-year composition and better. This therefore should be adopted to help resolve some of the challenges being faced to help the non UK students' performance.
The research findings indicate that Greek students stated that professors in a variety of disciplines should identify international student needs and design appropriate support. The International students in a Masters of Business Administration program in the UK were given a CD-ROM program to strengthen their english. Because the materials focused on general topics rather than business-related content, students did not feel it met their needs. They also preferred more teacher interaction and many felt their English skills were already sufficient. In addition to the study findings Lewthwaite (1996) found that the first priority of international graduate students was adjustment to academic life and successful fulfillment of degree requirements. Students were relatively satisfied in this area but less satisfied with social integration. Due to their priority for academics and the demands of course work, students felt little time could be spared for social activities. Also, students were hundered by a lack of socio-cultural knowledge. In contrast, in the Senyshyn et al. (2000) investigation, students reported feeling accepted and were satisfied with their social adjustment. Research cited earlier indicated that international students were more lonely and homesick (Rajapaksa and Dundes, 2002) and experienced less social support than domestic students (Hechanova-Alampay et al., 2002).
Research findings, also revealed that African students should be paired with volunteer host students and attended various campus activities together, many of which were organized for participants, so as to overcome challenges be addressed/resolved to help the non UK students performance. The program will be aimed to help non UK students navigate the new culture and environment. In addition to the study findings, Chartered institute of Personnel and Development (2005) revealed that positive learning incidents helped international students participate more and work harder. Even though negative incidents provoked feelings of embarrassment, frustration, disappointment and boredom, MBA international students adapt to study strategies that UK universities offer.
4.4 CHAPTER CONLUSION
This chapter has presented the study findings, from focus group discussions and interviews undertaken by the researcher to determine the challenges faced by non UK students in their ma education in as far as pedagogy and curriculum are concerned. Major issues were centered around to what extend does assessments present challenges to non UK students in their MA education programme and how can such challenges be addressed/resolved to help the non UK students performance. The next chapter presents the research conclusion and recommendations in line with the views of the respondents.