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Managing academic skills development and english language learning and use: The case Of Chinese postgraduate coursework students studying in Australia

Norris, L. and Daymon, C. (2013) Managing academic skills development and english language learning and use: The case Of Chinese postgraduate coursework students studying in Australia. In: 11th Biennial Conference of the Association for Academic Language and Learning (AALL 2013), 14 - 15 November 2013, RMIT University, Melbourne

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The challenges confronting Chinese students studying in Anglophone universities are well documented (e.g. Durkin, 2008; Huang, 2008; Ryan, 2010). Effective communication in English across different language modes and through different text-types is identified as problematic. In response, and in order to support Chinese and other international students in their learning, arguments have been made for the adoption by academics in Anglo-European universities of pedagogies that are culturally inclusive (Jackson, Watty, Yu, & Lowe, 2006), blended (Zhu, 2010), and/or open-ended (Sharma, 2006). Discussion and actions associated with the uses of such pedagogies are directed towards honouring students’ home languages and cultures, and have the aim of benefiting a universal student body.

Whilst such aspirations and actions are no doubt both admirable and honourable, this paper argues that notions of inclusivity and blending may be incommensurable with the disparate pedagogical strategies that exist in China and Australia. It is therefore incumbent on academics in Australia to devise and adopt approaches that make explicit ‘difference’ in terms of disparate educational contexts, the often conflictual learning expectations and the different disciplinary discourses and text types which Chinese students, particularly those involved in postgraduate coursework programs, are required to both negotiate and perform in their studies in Australia.

This paper reports on the early findings of a collaborative project between two Chinese and five Australian universities where qualitative research has been conducted in both countries in order to identify and articulate how approaches which are socially, culturally and educationally responsible might be developed to support Chinese postgraduate coursework students. Findings indicate that factors such as established understandings of university discourses, and compressed timeframes for study necessitate explicit articulation and negotiation of difference as a mechanism to support Chinese students.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
School of Education
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