Lee Evans

Postgraduate Researcher, MRes 

Current Status

Part-time (second year).  I have completed the research training that forms part of the MRes degree.

Background

I am currently involved in the professional management of degrees at postgraduate level.  Previously, in terms of educational delivery, I have been involved in the management of professional-based learning and the integration of foundation degrees into public sector training and development courses.  I have also taught on a foundation degree.

Qualifications

  • BA (Hons) Economics, specialising in monetary & financial economics and economic forecasting.
  • University Certificate In Postgraduate Professional Development- Developing Teaching Practice in Higher Education.  This qualification was designed to meet the requirements of the Higher Education Academy and focussed on integrating theory with practical lecture and classroom delivery.  This included looking at how learning outcomes/objectives and course content should be developed against learning level descriptors.

Other learning

  • Keele University- undergraduate maths modules.
  • Open University- Criminology.

Research Topic

A longitudinal study looking at how Chinese students perform on postgraduate degrees in a UK business school in comparison with home-based and other international students.  In particular, whether there are differences between the students in terms of their approaches to learning and the beliefs that they hold about knowledge and learning. 

Research Summary

Lee’s research seeks to make an empirical contribution to the literature on the performance of Chinese students in Western higher education.  The research synthesises studies that have considered how Chinese students progress in Western institutions with the literature on approaches to learning and personal epistemology.  The research is motivated by the fact that there is a perception in the literature that Chinese students underperform in Western institutions of higher education, yet the exact nature of this underperformance is hard to conceptualise given the lack of criteria for judging underperformance in the literature.  The literature on whether Chinese students do underperform is not settled with some studies suggesting that there are few differences between Chinese students and home-based/other international learners. Furthermore, studies conducted primarily with students in Hong Kong have suggested that Chinese students perform superiorly to Western students when judged on international indicators.

Adverse approaches to learning are often cited as a cause of any observed underperformance owing to the perception that the system of higher education in the People’s Republic of China still encourages rote learning as a consequence of the employment of teacher-centred classroom methods and a focus on examinations as the only mode of assessment.  However, the literature does not offer strong empirical evidence either way for this hypothesis and there are still questions to be resolved concerning whether intermediate approaches to learning explain findings of the use of surface, rote learning by Chinese students when tested quantitative instruments.  Also, whether they exist across cultural contexts of higher education and therefore challenge the conceptualisation of approaches to learning as combinations of deep and surface constructs.  There are also unresolved questions concerning whether Western-developed models of higher education lead to ‘elite’ norms being used to judge international students as a result of a failure by Western institutions to recognise the changing demography of the sector.  It is also well documented in the literature on higher education in the PRC that policies of differentiation and expansion have been pursued by the authorities since 1999, which have targeted high level funding towards a small number of institutions with the aim of raising research quality in World rankings.  The effects of these policies in terms of teaching methods within institutions are less well documented.  This in turn raises the question of how far China’s system of higher education has moved away from its previous function within a communist system to provide manpower training.

Another aspect to the research concerns the failure by researchers to properly integrate the literature on approaches to learning and personal epistemology despite studies suggesting that such beliefs can have an effect on classroom performance and that there are interrelationships between both sets of constructs.  The literature implies that the effects of such beliefs on how learning is approached could be particularly relevant to Confucian-heritage learners, yet cross-cultural studies in this area of personal epistemology are still in their infancy.

These questions, and the research, are relevant to how higher education in the UK and other Western countries responds to the changing nature of students in terms of their approaches to learning and epistemological beliefs.  From a theoretical perspective it contributes to the literature on cross-cultural constructs on approaches to learning beliefs about knowledge, knowing and learning and their interrelationships.

The methodology is quantitative and the method employs a survey approach incorporating the Study Process Questionnaire, Schommer’s (1990) Epistemological Beliefs Questionnaire and some demographic questions teased out of the literature as potential predictors of performance.  The design is longitudinal with the sample completing the questionnaire at the start of their programme and again after the taught element of their programmes is complete.  Survey answers are then going to be matched to the students’ performance in core modules for their respective programmes.  The sample is drawn from postgraduate business and social science students at a Russell Group university.  The study employs various multivariate forms of factor analysis and regression analysis.

Research Interests

  • The performance of international students in Western higher education;
  • Approaches to Learning constructs in cross-cultural contexts;
  • Personal Epistemology and the extent to which epistemological beliefs interrelate with approaches to learning and academic performance;
  • The use of Factor Analysis as a means of developing survey instruments; and
  • The higher education system in China.

Research Supervisor

Professor Peter Davies 

Funding

Self Funded

Contact details

Email: LAE473@bham.ac.uk