Exploring Chinese Graduate Students' Learner Identity in Group Work in Western Academia: Perceptions, Representations and Challenges
University of Kansas
Curriculum and Teaching
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Group work (GW) is commonly used in many countries around the world. The emerging predominance of GW assignments represents a major trend in higher education (Burdett & Hastie, 2009) as employers highly value teamwork skills and seek the development of these in university graduates (Cranmer, 2006). Universities are increasingly adopting group-based assessment tasks, and teachers often assign student group projects to enhance students' learning (Bacon, 2005). It is an effective teaching practice in many regards (Brooks, 1992). This practice was hailed over the last few decades, taken as one of the most successful teaching and learning strategies. In the university where this study was conducted, instructors utilized GW as a form of assignment for various reasons. Yet, little research has been done on GW in the context of Chinese graduate students' learning at a U.S. university. This study uses qualitative methods to investigate an often used, but rarely researched, classroom pedagogical practice - Group Work - in the case of US university adult English as a Second Language (ESL) learners and graduate students from China. This study examines the perceptions of GW based on the experience of four adult Chinese ESL learners. The study aims to unpack the process of how Chinese ESL graduate students design, implement, and present their GW in the American classroom setting. Data were collected from multiple sources, including interviews, my self-reflections, and participants' course materials. Data were analyzed by using content analysis (Mayring, 2000; Neuendorf, 2002). This study showed that, in their preparatory activities outside the classroom, students employed group discussion to generate ideas and seek peer comments. However, the study also describes how GW is designed and implemented in order to reveal the challenges, and their role in GW in relation to their learner identity. Finally, implications of this study are provided for future research purposes.
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