Mismatched Expectations: A Case Study of Asian Students in New Zealand

Mingsheng Li
Trish Baker
Ken Marshall

Abstract: This paper reports on findings of a qualitative study conducted from May to June 2002 at two New Zealand tertiary institutions. Twenty-three (n=23) Asian students participated in semi-structured interviews. The purpose of the research was to identify the possible causes for mismatched educational expectations of Asian students and New Zealand teachers.

On investigation, it seemed that the mismatch emerged from language problems encountered by Asian students and in the significant perceptual differences between Asian students and New Zealand teachers in some fundamental conceptions about learning and teaching. This mismatch had a powerful impact on the Asian students’ learning processes and learning outcomes. Expectation violations were seen to be counter-productive to learning. However, if they were well managed, it appeared that they could significantly enhance the process of learning.

This paper recommends that New Zealand teachers and Asian students develop cultural awareness and intercultural communication skills to bridge their differences and to accommodate change. It is believed that internationalising New Zealand academic programmes to meet the needs of international students and to meet the challenges facing the New Zealand education export industry is a priority. It is recommended that teachers and students jointly create a synergetic culture in which differing views are respected and accommodated, common agendas are shared, cultural borders are crossed, and problems are resolved.