Cultural contexts of learning preferences: Relative dominance of self-directed versus other-directed learning styles

Varghese Swamy, Vineetha Kalavally, Ta Yeong Wu, Alena Yoke Teng Tan, Jonathan Li

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review


Context: Monash University is regarded as one of the top 25 internationalised universities in the world. As part of a curriculum redesign, Monash University's Faculty of Engineering recently introduced new multidisciplinary first year (FY) blended learning units that employ a mix of flipped, project-based, peer-to-peer, and traditional learning approaches. The present study focuses on one of these FY units with the aim of investigating the cross-cultural acceptance of the non-traditional pedagogies by students belonging to Asian and western campuses. Specifically, we present an international comparative study of the preferences for the various teaching/learning and assessment components within our selected unit by students in semester 2, 2016 on the Clayton (Australia) and Sunway (Malaysia) campuses.

Purpose: The objective is to investigate if there are any culturally influenced preferences in relation to self-directed versus an expert-directed learning of the FY multidisciplinary blended learning unit.

Approach: We carried out online surveys as well as focus group discussions involving students from both campuses towards the end of the semester. A five-point Likert scale was employed to capture the learning component preferences by students. The teaching/learning and assessment components included in the unit are: pre-class online videos, pre-class online textual material (called "e-publications" or "e-pubs"), pre-class quizzes, pre-practical class videos and quizzes, Moodle-hosted online discussion forum, in-class (supervised) problem worksheets, and in-class lecturer-led ("expert-led") sessions.

Results: The results suggest that the self-directed out-of-class teaching/learning components (pre-class lecture videos, quizzes, online discussion forum, etc) are slightly more preferred by the Clayton students. The Sunway students, on the other hand, showed slightly more liking for in-class guided problem solving and lecturer-led discussion of key concepts. The latter students also showed more preference for the detailed e-pubs. The most significant differences were found for pre-class videos (74% of Clayton students compared to 60% of Sunway students perceive them as enabling learning the content before the lecturer teaches/explains,) and in-class problems solving (72% of the Sunway students compared to 59% Clayton students see this as a way of enhancing their learning).

Conclusions: Our study suggests that Malaysia based FY students show overall relatively lower preference for self-directed learning components compared to their Australia based counterparts. It must be emphasized that the number of students with Asian background studying engineering on the Clayton campus is considerable, yet there appears to be an increased preference for self-directed learning components amongst them. The present study sheds light on the intercultural aspects of innovative pedagogical methodologies and their global reach.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2017)
EditorsNazmul Huda, David Inglis, Nicholas Tse, Graham Town
Place of PublicationSydney NSW Australia
PublisherAustralasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE)
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9780646980263
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventAAEE - Annual Conference of Australasian Association for Engineering Education 2017 - Manly Novotel, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 10 Dec 201713 Dec 2017
Conference number: 28th


ConferenceAAEE - Annual Conference of Australasian Association for Engineering Education 2017
Abbreviated titleAAEE 2017
Internet address

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