Abstract: Context: There is a clear dichotomy between western (Socratic) and eastern (Confucian) education philosophies (Gorry, 2011; Jin and Cortazzi, 2011). This dichotomy stems from cultural differences (Chan and Tsai, 2015; Marton, Hounsell, and Entwistle, 1984) and impacts the education of students at university. For example, in Taiwan, there is a deeply ingrained culture of respect for teachers and the knowledge they convey (Pratt, 1992) and hence students are generally unreceptive to, and unfamiliar with learning strategies that differ from traditional memorisation techniques (Ma and Kelly, 2009). As Australian universities seek to increase international student enrolment, predominantly from Asian countries, understanding Confucian pedagogy is critical to support and transition these students.
Purpose: This research aims to identify the key pedagogical differences between Taiwanese and Australian universities in terms of curriculum, teacher and student expectations, learning styles and delivery mechanisms.
Approach: Seven Taiwanese universities were visited in May 2016. Qualitative data was collected through interviews and class observations. The curriculum of each university was obtained though course profiles and university websites. These were compared with courses at The University of Queensland. Students and staff were asked for their opinions about the:
- knowledge and skills engineering students should have pre and post study,
- the lifestyle of an high-achieving versus an average university student in Taiwan,
- methods of learning and seeking help with learning, and
- the preferred method of content delivery.
Results: The motivation of Taiwanese students to study was found to be generally low and this was highlighted by academic staff. There appear to be a number of causes including parental views and expectations, and Taiwan's low student numbers that has put pressure on universities to pass students and thus improve enrolment numbers. However, there is a high expectation for individual achievement that exceeds that experienced in Australian universities, and a corresponding focus on grades and knowledge as determined by examinations rather than graduate skills. This is seen through the lack of opportunities to develop teamwork skills in the both the high school and tertiary curriculum. The interviews also showed that most students employ rote learning study habits as their exams do not require them to demonstrate knowledge at the higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy. Individual expression and freedom to learn through inquiry are greatly diminished by the strict culture of respect (Pratt, 1992) with students penalised for voicing out in class.
Conclusions: Cultural and pedagogical differences give rise to study methods that are limited in effectiveness for Australian university assessment where students are asked to demonstrate graduate competencies, originality, and synthesis/application of knowledge (Engineers-Australia, 2011). In addition, the lack of opportunities to develop skills and competencies further hamper Taiwanese students' ability to adapt to pedagogies such as project-based learning that will be experienced in Australian universities. A support strategy is needed to ensure that these students are given the appropriate support they need to acclimatise to the Australian learning environment.
To cite this article: Chen, Shaun and Kavanagh, Lydia. Pedagogical differences in Engineering Education at Taiwanese and Australian universities [online]. In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 159-169.
[cited 26 Apr 17].