Publication Details

Chen, R. T. H. & Bennett, S. J. (2012). When Chinese learners meet constructivist pedagogy online. Higher Education, 64 (5), 677-691.


International students have become an important part of many universities, both through the income they provide and the diversity they bring to student populations. Studying in a foreign country can be challenging, requiring students to adapt to unfamiliar educational cultures. With the integration of online technologies into higher education, this can raise an additional set of challenges. This paper presents research that explored Chinese international students’ experiences of studying online at an Australian university, drawing on qualitative data collected from focus groups and interviews with Chinese students, interviews with their Australian teachers and course documentation. The findings indicate a strong culture clash between these students’ educational dispositions, shaped by their previous learning experiences in China, and the online pedagogic practices, which were underpinned by a constructivist approach. This resulted in detrimental educational and psychological consequences, with participants reporting limited development of their knowledge, and feelings of isolation and anomie. The findings suggest that investigating the interplay between learners’ prior and current educational experiences is important in understanding how students experience teaching practices.

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