An investigation of Chinese Students academic performance and their views on the learning experience associated with blended team-based learning (including changes to group allocation)

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Abstract

Considering high ratio of Asian students across the UK Universities, different teaching strategies have previously been proposed to meet the needs of these learners studying in higher education. There are three main difficulties in learning for Asian students who wish to obtain a UK degree, namely: difference in learning style; cultural barriers; and language problems. In 2014, Queen’s University Belfast established a joint college in China. During the first semester of the inaugural year of undergraduate teaching, a traditional teaching style was employed for students, all of whom were studying for bachelor’s degrees in Pharmaceutical Sciences or Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. Academic assessment at the end of this semester clearly indicated that the use of such an approach failed to bring about satisfactory student performance. This outcome led to the employment of a solely flipped classroom approach, which was found to bring about outcomes that were considerably more favourable. The flipped classroom pedagogy employed here involved students watching short recorded lectures in preparation for in class activities, and the use of active and interactive learning approaches within the classroom. However, a number of educational issues were still apparent on completion of the transition to this educational approach. We report the implementation of team-based learning (TBL) combined with flipped classroom learning as a major educational component of an undergraduate course within China Queen’s College (CQC) for 2 years. The core components of TBL were instituted in the course for non-native English speaking students, who are studying in a satellite campus in China. Students’ academic performance and course evaluation data gathered and compared with solely flipped classroom and traditional lecture-based courses. Students’ perceptions of TBL and traditional learning were investigated and compared through the use of a multi-dimensional and perceptual learning style preference questionnaire. Students perceived that their experience of the blended TBL helped to develop useful knowledge and lifelong learning skills for their future academic life. Students’ retention of knowledge within the blended TBL course was significantly different from that resulting from the use of traditional teaching methodologies (t = 12.2, p < .001). Blended TBL was observed to work exceptionally well in-classroom, increasing performance within classes (p < .0005). Students provided more positive than negative comments and students’ collaboration with one another was strongly associated with positive statements. In order to improve blended TBL strategy at CQC, the group allocation was randomised in each session in the second year of the study, which increased students’ interests, engagements, and their interactions. Moreover, continued changes in group allocation improved students’ learning and their academic performance as well as addressing some of the learning issues reflected by the students in the first year of the study. These outcomes suggested that blended TBL can benefit non-native English speaking students studying in a satellite campus, in a number of areas, not least their preparedness for future careers, and development of higher reasoning skills.

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