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Challenging the Western stereotype : do Chinese international foundation students learn by rote?

Mathias, J. and Bruce, M. and Newton, D.P. (2013) 'Challenging the Western stereotype : do Chinese international foundation students learn by rote?', Research in post-compulsory education., 18 (3). pp. 221-238.


The dissonance between Eastern and Western learning approaches is regarded as an obstacle for Chinese students in adjusting to Western education environments, and one of the reasons is the lack of an understanding of Chinese learning approaches, that is, Chinese learners are uncritically perceived as rote learners. This paper investigates Chinese international foundation students’ learning approaches when they were in China and here in the UK. Their experiences indicate that, similarly to UK students, Chinese students learn with the intention of understanding, they use memorisation only when they fail to understand or have examination pressure. Consequently, Chinese students adjust well to Western teaching styles. Some difficulties they experienced in classrooms are due to language problems and a lack of understanding of Western cultural backgrounds and expectations. Moreover, similarly to UK students who leave home for the first time, the greatest challenge is to develop self-regulated learning. The paper argues that, although Eastern and Western teaching styles are significantly different, students’ underlying learning approaches can be similar in China and the West.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Understanding, Memorising, Learn by rote, Chinese students, Academic adjustment.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Research in Post-Compulsory Education on 05/09/2013, available online at:
Date accepted:22 June 2012
Date deposited:31 March 2015
Date of first online publication:September 2013
Date first made open access:No date available

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