Learning journeys with international Masters students in UK higher education.
Ford, Jackie M.
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KeywordsAffective; Self-efficacy; Transition; Academic Literacies and Socialisation; Educational discourse; Reflexive; Masters students
The University of Bradford theses are licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.
InstitutionUniversity of Bradford
DepartmentSchool of Management
International Masters students face daunting challenges in adjusting to a startlingly different UK academic discourse within a short time. Little research has been conducted into these challenges and successful transition strategies. A review of learning development literature identified a set of three models, which has not been related theoretically to international Masters students. The latest, critical model, Academic Literacies, especially offers important insights into these students’ difficulties and potential for integration. This research design explored these learning journeys in depth through interviews in a longitudinal study of MBA and MSc students during the 2009-10 academic year. The rich data were investigated through the qualitative methodology of narrative analysis, with twin aims of recognising similarities but also important differences across the students’ learning experiences. A majority experienced strongly emotional learning journeys. These followed an affective pattern with a downturn early in the academic year influenced by the degree of unfamiliarity in the new culture and academic discourse, mirrored by a corresponding improvement in emotional state during Semester 2 or 3 as these external issues became more familiar and comfortable. Self-efficacy emerged as an especially important factor in achieving academic success, and students’ progression was mapped against this variable using an established, U-shaped transition curve model. The study identifies practical learning development interventions, but also highlights the importance of educational practitioners becoming pedagogically self-reflective to empathise more genuinely with international students’ struggles, and to learn from their diverse experiences in ways that can enrich the process of internationalising western education.