The Perceptions of Undergraduate Mainland Chinese Students of the Effect of English Instruction on Their Ability to Write Academic English
The main aim of this study is to investigate the perceptions of Mainland Chinese students about the challenges they face in producing acceptable academic writing at undergraduate level in tertiary institutions in New Zealand. Although a great deal of research about Chinese students’ challenges in academic writing has been carried out over the years, there does not appear to be a great deal that focuses on the New Zealand context. This study focuses strongly on students’ own perceptions of these challenges. This study is underpinned by the academic literacies approach. In this approach academic writing is seen as a social and context-dependent practice that is affected by variables such as students’ identities and backgrounds The study adopts a constructivist-interpretive research paradigm and semi-structured interviews were employed to obtain the data. According to the participants there are a number of factors that appear to impact on their ability to develop competency in English academic writing. Student feedback indicates that the English taught at Chinese schools did not seem to prepare them to meet the demands of undergraduate level academic writing. In addition, the exam-oriented approach in Chinese schools impacts negatively on the students’ acquisition of English. Confucian classroom practices too, have limited students’ acquisition of general communicative skills. In contrast, the participants believe that the pathway courses in New Zealand have better prepared them to meet the academic writing demands of their studies. However, inadequate or ambiguous assignment instructions, particularly with regard to the assignment writing required, hamper the development of the students’ writing skills. It is hoped that the findings of this study will give more insight into the challenges Mainland Chinese students face when they are preparing written assignments at undergraduate level. Understanding their difficulties will enable these education institutions to better meet the needs of this student cohort.