Characteristics of Chinese Student Learning:
Implications for
the General Education Program
Hongshia Zhang
张红霞
Institute of Education
Nanjing University, China
2014, 5, 21
Chinese Student Learning
Characteristics
Paradoxes:the Causes
Implications for General Education
Program
 Chinese Student
Learning Characteristics
International Research:
1960s-1980s: Descriptive period
•Learning styles: surface/deep; time spend;
group/independent
•Learning process: participation; engagement;
involvement; environment and strategies
•Cognitive style: critical thinking/rote learning
•Cognitive development progression
Based on Piaget and Kemberg’s, William G.
Perry’s Theory (1970): Cognitive progression
throughout the four-year study:
Stage 1. Dualism(二元论)
Stage 2. Multiplicity (多元论)
Stage 3. Relativism (相对主义,批判性思维)
Stage 4. Commitment (付诸行动、献身目标)
It has been a good framework for instruction and
curriculum planning (e.g.Knefelkamp,1974;
Touchton et al.1977) .
1980s-present: Correlative and modeling period
•Dependents:
Achievement; Gains;Outcome.
•Independents or mediators:
Gender; First generation; Family class
Ability (SAT background V participation)
Beliefs about knowledge (dualistic/relativistic; rote
or enquiry)
Institution; Discipline ( V collaboration)
Culture
Summary
for International research
Many controversial findings except:
•Low participation. 参与度较低
•Critical thinking: low level.批判性思维低
•Cognitive progression: minor, opposite. 发展缓慢
•Learning behavior (participation, involvement) does not
correlate so much to achievement as in the West.
学习方式与成绩关系弱
Knowledgeable, less creative;
Good for popularizing, not for top-talents.
Domestic student researches from:
Qinghua University (NSSE)
Nanjing University (SERU)
 Cognitive Development 认知
(Luo, Y. , Shi, J., Tu, D. 2009)
Qinghua
Univ.
From NSSE
Years Means
USA
Tops
Means
T-test
E-size
Memory of facts, ideas 1-2
& methods
3-4
54.8
50.2
65.0
60.0
-8.51*** -0.39
-7.17*** -0.35
Analysis of constructs
of an idea or theory
1-2
3-4
63.5
59.5
71.7
75.0
-7.71*** -0.33
-13.9*** -0.64
Synthesis of various
information to a new
comprehensive one
1-2
3-4
54.3
52.9
63.7
67.3
-8.08*** -0.35
-11.5*** -0.54
Assessment of ideas
and methods
1-2
3-4
50.7
47.9
61.7
64.7
-9.25*** -0.41
-12.7*** -0.60
Application
1-2
3-4
54.2
55.5
69.0
72.0
-12.7*** -0.55
-12.9*** -0.60
 Knowledge Acquisition 知识
NSSE
Qinghua USA
Univ.
Tops
Means Means
T-test
E-size
Years 1-2 51.7
Years 3-4 55.5
74.0
76.0
-21.02***
-17.25***
-0.90
-0.80
Specialized Years 1-2 57.4
disciplinary Years 3-4 62.8
knowledge
60.0
66.7
-2.01*
-2.71**
-0.09
-0.14
General
Education
knowledge
 Student Learning Ability 能力
From NSSE
Qinghua USA
Univ.
Tops
Years Means
Means T-test
E-size
Expression
1-2
3-4
46.8
50.8
56.3
62.7
-7.2***
-8.5***
-0.34
-0.42
Problem
Solving
1-2
3-4
52.4
55.6
56.7
59.7
-3.3***
-2.9***
-0.15
-0.14
Collaboration 1-2
3-4
57.9
60.7
64.7
70.0
-5.5***
-7.2***
-0.26
-0.35
 Coursework Rigorousness 难度
NSSE
Qinghua USA
Univ.
Tops
Year
Means
Means
T-test
E-size
Reading quantity
1-2
3-4
83.0
72.4
46.0
43.6
26.4***
15.7***
0.92
0.56
Long-writing
quantity
1-2
3-4
18.6
30.9
4.6
12.0
18.5***
18.5***
0.58
0.61
Medium-writing
quantity
1-2
3-4
40.7
39.2
26.0
31.2
9.2***
0.2
0.29
0.01
Short-writing
quantity
1-2
3-4
47.5
44.4
39.8
40.2
-2.0*
-4.6***
-0.07
-0.17
Examination
benefit for learning
1-2
3-4
56.6
50.9
75.5
71.7
-23.0***
-21.6***
-0.86
-0.88
• “Students have strong motivation to learn, but their
understanding of learning goals and significance is
relatively poor, only 27 % of the students reported
positively.”
• “America’s strength lies on curriculum.”
• “We believe that(about examination)……
more of cultural difference, rather than the gap in
academic competence of the faculties.”
(Luo, Y. , Shi, J., Tu, D. 2009)
Experience in NJU (Gong and Lu, 2012)
From SERU
Year
NJU
Berkeley
T
E-size
Participation in 1-2
classroom
3-4
2.99
3.56
-15.616***
-0.07
3.06
3.67
-25.096***
-0.07
Peer
collaboration
1-2
3.46
3.86
-9.183***
-0.03
3-4
3.50
3.78
-9.766***
1-2
2.32
2.68
-12.703***
-0.05
3-4
2.38
2.70
-16.396***
-0.03
1-2
3.52
4.44
-26.663***
-0.20
3-4
3.56
4.52
-44.072***
-0.21
Communication 1-2
with faculty
3-4
2.64
2.88
2.52
2.88
3.576***
0.046
-0.00
Learning
attitude
Critical
thinking
-0.01
0.00
• Similar to Qinghua, students in Nanjing University
responded: “the teacher in the class is very serious,
knowledgeable, but I do not why we should know
what is learned by these ancient texts?”
Factors for dissatisfaction
• 2006 survey (Gong, Zhang, Yu and Qu, 2008)
Samples form 8 within top 20 universities
Factors
Faculty
qualification
Teaching
method
IT facilities
Response
Low academic level
Outdated teaching material
37%
Lack of appropriate textbooks
Lack of famous professors
34%
Poor course preparation
32%
Litter communication with after course
32%
Poor examination system
32%
Generation gap with faculties
29%
Often ask substitute faculty to teach
28%
Suspend class quite often
28%
Lack of IT facilities
27%
36%
34%
Regret for Attending the Institution? Yes.
(Gong, Zhang, Yu and Qu, 2008)
Factors
Poor campus culture
Poor living environment
Poor campus academic atmosphere
Learning facilities
Without contact famous faculties
Teaching quality
Tension relationship with faculty
Response
Percentage
49%
38%
37%
36%
28%
27%
07%
Reform Policies
Professor’s teaching
hours!
Learning behavior!
Curriculum?
controversial
School-level Curriculum
Internationalization Project,
2012, Nanjing University
 Paradoxes: the Causes
• Traditional ethics / Civic responsibility (critical
thinking)
• Scientific & technological thinking / Traditional
humanities(Jin, Shi, Zi, and Ji)
• Traditional humanities / Modern humanities
• General education / Literacy competence education.
(Zhu Jiusi,2004; Yang Shuzi; Wang Yiqiu,2006;
Zhang Qizi,2004; Song,2000; Zhang,2010; )
 A Survey of undergraduates in Shanghai
51% undergraduates in 5 universities believe that it’s
unnecessary to study “The History of China” course
any longer (Fan, 2009).
 Faculty’s concept of knowledge
Chinese archaeologists’ belief and attitude towards
“the Ancient”. There are two tracks of conceptions of
“the Ancient”: the reality and ideology (Tang, 2010) .
Cluster Analysis of Learning Behavior
(Lu and Zhang, in preparation)
Group A
Group B
Nanjing University,
Hunan University,
Xian Jiaotong University,
Seoul National University,
Cape Town University,
Malaysia University.
Berkeley,
Oregon State University,
North Carolina State University,
Texas State University,
Minnessota State University,
Unicamp University (Brazil),
Amsterdam University.
Culture matters rather than ranking positions.
A survey after a training program in a hugeconference hall with more than 620 trainees.
Reasons for “why keeping silence”
Ego-centered
Custom
Altruism
Cluster analysis of the reasons?
(Lu and Zhang, 2014, in preparation)
(24%)
Lu and Zhang et al, in preparation;
Paletz, Peng et al, 2009;
Critical
Thinking
Understanding of science by students in science major
in normal universities.
(Wan Dongsheng, 2014,Ph.D. Thesis)
A
Objectivity
Minddependent
B
Evidence
Authority and
Experience
C
Experiment
D
E
A’
B’
Test
C’
Methodology
Effects
D’
Communication
Dialogue
Human
World
E’
Culture matters!
• We have to pay more attention to teaching content,
rather than teaching manner.
• The belief of “knowledge” affects the approaches and
achievement of student learning (Perry, 1970; Säljö,
1978,1979; Schommer, 1990).
What is Knowledge?
(Dewey, 1916)
Organized
ethics
Learning to
become officials
Science-based
knowledge
Hierarchical Natural growth
of students
social strata
Democratic
society
Targets of Improvement
 Strengthen the link with reality of Chinese society.
 Strengthen curriculum internationalization. Put
Chinese issues in an international perspective.
• Only if being placed in today's globalized social
context, can Chinese classics have contemporary
educational value in general education.
• The paradoxes, the cognitive dissonance itself, are
good teaching materials.
 Implications for GEP
Why GEP?
•Survey findings of poor GEP knowledge.
•It is a concentrated reflection of a university education
aims
•Easier for management given the limited curricular
resources in China.
Nanjing University’s Double-Three Program
Year 4
Year 3
1. Focused major
2. Multi-majors
3. Start a career
Year 2
Year 1
3000 courses open for all
15000 undergraduates
Selective ~ individual needs
A:
C:
H:
J:
T:
Sciences
America
China
HK
Japan
Taiwan
J
A
Traditional
Humanity
T
H
Modern
Humanity
C
Humanity
Qualitative Comparison General Education Programs
General education aims
for a globalized world
• Re-structuring and integrating students’ fragmentary
knowledge through improving cross-cultural
cognitive competence.
• Develop “One-world Thinking” : civilizations equal.
Natural resources • S&T
Population ∙ Consumption per capita
克里特岛8000多km2
(崇明岛1300km2)
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Thank You!
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Characteristics of Chinese Student Learning: Implications