Cross-cultural educational adjustment : a substantive theory based on the experiences of a group of mainland Chinese postgraduate business students : a dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This project explored a basic social process experienced by ten Mainland Chinese postgraduate business students: cross-cultural educational adjustment. Over a two-year period, three interviews were held with each student in order to elicit his or her experience of this adaptation process. In addition, toward the end of this period an attestation group with the same student profile was recruited to review the emergent findings. A qualitative approach termed grounded theory was used for the methodology. Emphasis was placed on: hearing the students' voices; being open to students' experiences; developing a deep understanding of the adaptation process; and determining its theoretical conceptualisation. The initial interview was an inductive enquiry that isolated many aspects of the students' journey; the second interview deductively bent back on the initial data to saturate categories and determine how they were linked; the third interview further saturated categories, if needed, and sought a core category that underpinned the students' adjustment. In determining a theoretical conceptualisation of this process, a model was developed. This was shared with the original participants and the attestation group to assess their perspective of it. The model depicts that the homogeneity of the students' background produced an externally bounded and culturally harmonised learner identity. When they entered the New Zealand tertiary environment this identity was fractured. However, the resilient nature of the learner identity, the adoption of learning strategies, and the drawing on prime motivators meant a complete fracturing of the identity was prevented. Yet, as a consequence, the learner identity also absorbed new, more internalised elements. Overall, the core concept of a better future impelled students through all aspects of their journey. The major contributions of this study are that it presents an integrated understanding of cross-cultural educational adjustment and a conceptual picture of that process. The findings of this study, while limited in generalisability, suggest that students would benefit from: pre-departure culture and English language preparation; focused orientation programmes; and study skill support based on the strategies they are likely to employ and build the skills required in the new setting.