Transformation of Higher Education in China: A Teaching Methods Perspective

Transformation of Higher Education in China: A Teaching Methods Perspective

Victor Wang (Liberty University, USA) and Geraldine Torrisi-Steele (Griffith University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6255-9.ch008


Facilitated by the explosion of technologies, globalization is the catalyst for many changes in society and its workings. Higher education is no exception. In the present chapter from a teaching methods perspective, the authors consider China's higher education system and the transformations it is undergoing, largely as a response to globalization. Given that the employment capabilities of graduates are influenced by teaching methods they experienced throughout their education, and in turn, once gaining employment graduates' capabilities make some on the nation, it is appropriate and useful to adopt a teaching methods perspective on educational transformation. Thus, to further understanding of the status of teaching methods in China, the chapter reports on a study comparing Chinese adult education methods with Western educational methods. A conceptual framework of the principles of andragogy is used. The study results, consistent with other literature of adult education in China, indicate that some andragogical elements are used by Chinese educators.
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Scott (1998) observes “investment in [higher education] can be translated into comparative economic advantage, a belief encouraged by theories of post-industrial society, which suggest that ‘knowledge’ has become the primary resource in advance economies”. Universities are core to contributing to, and shaping, knowledge resources both at national and global levels. Beyond training a new generation of leaders, and producing well-educated members of society, universities make social contribution through commercialization of research, problem solving, provision of public space for knowledge development, exchange and application as well as scientific and engineering base for inventions in the private sector (Wu & Zhou, 2012). In recognition of the important role universities play in the knowledge economy China, like most other nations, is recognizing higher education as an important economic asset, and as a vehicle for building a significant presence in a globalized socio-economic environment. Reaching towards a globally competitive higher education system, China is steadily reforming its system of higher education. China’s reforms are capturing the interest of the West, the U.S. being no exception. Towards gaining deeper insights into the reforms taking place in Chinese Higher Education with respect to teaching methods, a systematic comparison of adult education methods in China and the U.S. was undertaken. Prior to describing the study and discussing its outcomes, it is useful to begin with a consideration of the China’s aspirations for higher education, and followed by discussion of teaching methods from the adult education perspective of pedagogy and andragogy, as is found in the work of adult education theorists such as Knowles. A brief literature review of adult education in China and the U.S. is undertaken prior to describing the study methodology, presenting results and discussing insights gained from the study.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Andragogy: Term used to refer to adult education. It is characterized by learner-centered methods in which student directed approaches such as inquiry-based learning tend to be used. Interaction between teacher and student takes place frequently as learners and teacher engage in active discussion.

Teaching Methods: The principles and strategies used by teachers to help students to learn. Personal teaching philosophy and culture influence teaching methods. Andragogy and pedagogy are two teaching methods extensively considered in literature.

Pedagogy: Term originally used to mean educating or leading children. Sometimes used to mean method and practice of teaching. Pedagogy tends towards teacher-centered approaches in which the learner is mostly passive and directed by the teacher.

Globalization: The interaction of organizations across the globe. Globalization is facilitated by technologies particularly new communications and other digital technologies. The interaction of cross-global organizations means that national economies are greatly influenced by global socio-economic events.

Life-Long Learning: As the term implies, life-long learning refers to the concept that individuals continue to learn and evolve in their knowledge and skills throughout their lives. In the rapidly changing globalized world having capabilities for life-long learning is imperative to being able effectively interact with and contribute to ongoing development of society. It is identified as one of the core capabilities of living effectively in the 21 st century.

Transformation: Major change or evolution.

21st Century Capabilities: Capabilities (sometimes referred to as skills) such as critical thinking, problem solving, cross cultural and cross disciplinary communication, creativity, team work and lifelong learning, all of which are considered necessary to effective participation in society and to the continued development of society in the 21 st century and beyond.

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