Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Management, Operations and Marketing


A growing concern in studies of internationalisation relates to Chinese students studying in the West. In business studies, Chinese students are the largest cohort of international undergraduates. Areas of concern include differences in learning styles, language and socio-cultural barriers. Institutionally, learning is considered to occur when students can demonstrate the learning outcomes achieved and learning is assured against learning criteria. However, research has shown the limitation of this view or what Hagar et al (Hager, Lee & Reich, 2012) term the dominant paradigm of learning and that learning occurs in many forms (Boud, 2006; Stone, Boud & Hager, 2011). There is an absence of discussion about how learning actually occurs, or the practices that Chinese students use in order to learn. Drawing on Hager and Hodkinson's (2011) use of becoming as a metaphor for learning, this thesis aims to examine the experience and practices of Chinese business students studying in an Australian university. The principle research question focuses on the contribution that a practice-based study makes to investigations of undergraduate Chinese business student learning in an Australian university. Drawing on a practice theoretical framework influenced by the Chinese philosophical concept of Yinyang, and a practice methodology, the research is an in-depth investigation of the everyday practices used by five Chinese business undergraduate students to support their learning. The study uses interpretative methods including interviews, observations, reflexive groups, document analyses, collections of artefacts and field notes. The findings demonstrate how students put things together in different ways that are inseparable from their becoming. Study practices, such as memorising and translating are used by students together with socio-cultural practices. Study and socio-cultural practices are entangled in multiple relationships usefully described using Yinyang concepts (Wang, 2012). The findings highlight how student learning occurs, or becomes, as they adapt and adopt what they see as appropriate study and sociocultural practices in different contexts. A practice-based approach, with the inclusion of the notion of Yinyang, can help explain the tensions and contradictions of students’ performance as learners and the process of becoming that makes up their learning journey. Many institutional and historical tensions and contradictions shape students’ learning practices. I conclude that Chinese students’ learning is characterised by complexity and that the possibility and impossibility of Chinese students’ learning is inseparable from particular practices, settings and arrangements. The implications for students and teachers are that learning cannot be pinpointed in a static snapshot but is better understood as a constant process of becoming and that institutions and teachers need to be able to deal with complexity when supporting students by developing appropriate curricula and structures.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.