The education of international students is becoming increasingly important to the financial wellbeing of western universities in the major English speaking destination countries of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The purpose of this research is to examine the learning style preferences and learning problems of Chinese and other Confucian heritage culture (CHC) students who undertake degree level education in hospitality management and/or hospitality and tourism management at university in Australia.
CHC students have been embarking on western education since the early 1800s and currently form the majority of the international student cohort studying at tertiary level in Australia. Additionally, the demand for western education by such students is forecast to increase. There have been a variety of studies undertaken that focus on the learning experiences, problems and issues of these students studying in western institutions. However, no such studies have been undertaken that focus on the learning style preferences and learning issues and problems of CHC students who are undertaking hospitality management and/or hospitality and tourism management at tertiary level in Australia. Consequently, this study concentrates on tertiary level hospitality management and/or hospitality and tourism management students and identifies their preferred learning style. Based on their preferred learning style, this study also examines learning issues and problems experienced by this group of students and makes recommendations regarding how CHC students' learning experiences in western universities can be made more successful. Thus the problem researched in this thesis is:
How can the learning experience of international Confucian heritage culture students who study hospitality management and/or hospitality and tourism management at tertiary level in Australia be improved?
This study gathered both quantitative and qualitative data from CHC students studying hospitality management and/or hospitality and tourism management at a selection of universities and other higher education institutions throughout Australia. CHC students' learning style preferences were identified by the use of the Learning Styles Questionnaire (Honey and Mumford, 1986) which was based on Kolb's (1984) Experiential Learning Theory. This questionnaire was administered to 514 international students, 260 of whom were identified as being of Confucian heritage culture. It was found that these students displayed a preference for a reflector learning style. Essentially, this means that these students prefer to take a more passive approach to learning and appreciate the opportunity to reflect on what has been learned. This finding was in direct contrast to the other international students who completed the Learning Styles Questionnaire who tended to display a more activist learning style preference.
Based on the Learning Styles Questionnaire results, four focus group interview sessions were conducted with CHC students studying hospitality management and/or hospitality and tourism management at one of the participating institutions. These focus groups were designed to complement the findings of the questionnaire and, based on students' preferred learning style, clearly identify learning issues and problems.
This study found that this group of CHC students had to make a significant adjustment to their approach to learning when coming to a western university. Specifically, it was found that students experience problems and issues with the requirement to more fully understand material being taught; the expected classroom behaviour; the different and unusual methods of assessment; the role of the lecturer; and the ubiquitous nature of group work and presentations. This study found that this group of CHC students experienced confusion and stress, particularly at the start of their program, and had to work extremely hard in order to successfully complete courses. It was found that this group of students were very versatile regarding their approach to study and were able to differ their study approaches to take into account the various course requirements.
The major contributions of this research are identified in Chapter 6. The results of this research have significant implications for higher education institutions in Australia who are keen to attract increasing numbers of international students onto their programs. The successful completion of a degree by a CHC student is but one measure of success and based on this study a variety of teaching and learning recommendations that higher education institutions might adopt are suggested in order to ensure that this group of students more fully benefit from their overall learning experience.