Investigating learning challenges facing tertiary mainland Chinese students and identifying strategies for overcoming them

Mr Shanal Dimitri Uduwana1

1Monash College

The Department of Education and Training’s 2016 international student enrolment data suggests that the number of mainland Chinese student enrolments in Australia significantly outnumbered enrolments of learners from other nationalities, both in the secondary and tertiary education sectors. A concern for Universities in coping with the large volume of Chinese students, is ensuring that students are able to transition and succeed within their chosen disciplines. Students from traditionally didactic learning backgrounds, often struggle with the lack of individualised support and guidance provided, hindering their overall achievements at University. This action research paper examines the challenges faced by mainland Chinese students in adapting to independent and collaborative learning styles demonstrated by students in Australian tertiary institutions. By researching first year, direct-entry Chinese students in the Monash College Diploma of Business, I aim to determine how their predisposed behaviour may contribute to challenges in adjusting to expected learner requirements of Australian tertiary students. This paper identifies possible strategies and tools for supporting these students’ transition, in overcoming their contextual barriers.


Shanal Uduwana is the unit leader for Marketing Theory and Practice at Monash College, where he has been teaching in the Diploma of Business since February 2016. He has a Masters of Secondary Teaching and a Bachelor of Business, both from Monash University. As a university student, Shanal was actively involved with the student union, where he supported students through academic progress and disciplinary hearings, as a Student Rights and Support Officer. It was this experience of supporting and mentoring both international and local students that fuelled his interest in teaching and development.  Shanal’s research interests lie in the area of international student education, ranging from learner contexts, to transition and integration. This stems from his classroom experience, both as a teacher and as an international student in Australia. Shanal is passionate about the use of digital technologies in learning and has recently found success in the use of video-based Kahoot quizzes, to support international students in applying their learning.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

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ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

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