Dissertation Chapter: Discussion
The obtained data resonates with the previous researches in the field of exploring to what extent and in which ways academic expectations of postgraduate students are met. Specifically, the findings prove that the curriculum of the studied postgraduate counseling program meets and even exceeds students’ expectations regarding their goals of self-advancement, mastering self-awareness, and group work. At the same time, there is a considerable gap in expectations that is related to difficulties in communication. In fact, students fail to anticipate hardships in self-expression including the fear of public speeches, peer reviewing, intercultural interactions among other factors.
The sample reveals a strong reluctance to participate in the process of peer-reviewing. In particular, respondents emphasize that they do not feel comfortable receiving feedback or providing assessment to their group mates. In contrast, the study by Rutten and Hulme (2013) emphasized that well-developed system of peer feedback was an essential remedy to master students’ professional and personal skills. For instance, this approach is valuable for advancing tolerance towards criticism and ethical skills of appraisals, etc. (Rutten & Hulme, 2013). In this regard, providing an oral assessment is identified as the most difficult agenda that cannot be avoided. The obtained data is consistent with the findings presented in the study conducted by Abiddin, Ismail, and Ismail (2011). Particularly, these scholars point out that students experience anxiety when they are expected to provide feedbacks to their peers (Abiddin et al., 2011). This insight means that while enrolling in postgraduate programs, students do not expect that participating in peer-reviewing can be emotionally burdensome for them and their group-mates.
What is more, this gap in expectations is linked to the detected fear of public speeches and hardships in self-expression. According to Abiddin et al. (2011), this emotional block stems from adverse outcomes of a great cultural diversity. The interviewed students accentuate that a fear of public self-expression is unexpectedly significant since it may seriously hinder academic success. In this respect, Abiddin et al. (2011) suggest that the problems that are related to assessment and other aspects of communication occur due to the different levels of prior education, ambitions, educational approaches, different languages, social status, and diverse cultural dimensions. This premise is in compliance with the testimony of responders.
Similarly, the identified challenging intercultural interactions resonate with the study by Redmond, Quin, Devitt, and Archbold (2011). These scholars accentuated that students with different background developed diverse learning styles and approaches towards decision-making. Despite the fact that such diversity may be useful in order to ensure that students receive the necessary level of practical experience in communicating and advancing cultural sensitivity, it has a number of adverse outcomes. Specifically, in the case when students are not sufficiently prepared to deal with cultural-based challenges, they may become anxious, which can make a negative influence on their studying capacity. In this regard, the task of supervisors is to enhance students’ readiness for potential academic challenges emphasizing the need to tolerate diversity.
A significant finding is that unmet anticipations are not connected to their relations with supervisors. This insight implies that educational staff is highly professional and determined to address the needs of students with great responsibility. This finding contrasts with several recent studies that cover the issue of failed students’ expectations at the international universities in other well-developed English-speaking states. In particular, the previous studies reveal that insufficient supervision and/or defective relations between supervisors and students are identified as the main factors that constitute the gap of expectations (Stefano & Wilson, 2013; Rutten & Hulme, 2013; Pearson, 2012). To be more precise, Stefano and Wilson (2013) provided statistical evidence, which depicted that almost the half of enrollers was dissatisfied with the assistance of advisors. In other words, there is a considerable gap in expectation of what supervision should be like and what it is like in reality.
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Contrary to the above-described research, respondents do not complain regarding insufficient or distressing supervision. What is more, this qualitative research sheds light on the benevolent factors that exceed students’ expectations, that is, create positive gap in expectations. These factors are connected to both individual and collective evolvement. This finding aligns with the research conducted by O’Brien, Llamas, and Stevens (2012). The mentioned authors (2012) claimed that, despite certain difficulties in interactions with supervisors and peers within academic settings and economic-related flaws, students were ready to recommend the course they take to other individuals. This insight complies with the findings of the present qualitative study. Students acknowledge the gap in expectations, and they are aware of dissatisfaction it creates; however, overall, they are satisfied with the provided services.
Moreover, respondents state that they were prepared to face difficulties before enrolling to the postgraduate counseling program. The interviewed individuals comprehend that there should be the difference in academic environment and learning approaches that are stipulated by the diverse (higher) level of education. This realization implies that students’ self-awareness and coping mechanisms are being advanced simultaneously with their studying. Mainly, they become more professional in self-reflections, which help mastering self-awareness. This expectation of difficulties and the described attitude towards challenges correlate with the study by Hardré and Hackett (2015), who point out that students identify the difficulties they face as the indicators of advanced demands in a postgraduate setting. In this regard, Hardré and Hackett (2015) detected that enrollers would have expected the absence of academic challenges as an indicator of drawbacks in their curriculum. The rationale that resonates with this premise is that addressing difficulties is the way to learn new insights, develop skills, which are positively related to employability, and master personal qualities (Hardré & Hackett, 2015). This supposition complies with testimony of the sample. Observing the reasons why students’ expectations are not justified, it is important to stress that meeting educational needs of postgraduate students is challenged with the expansion of educational establishments (Reddy, Lantz, & Hulme, 2013). The number of enrollers grows annually, thus, scholars struggle to align educational environment with the rapidly changing volumes and diversity of the coming students (Thomas, Day, & Hegarty, 2014). This phenomenon is global. One of the underlying tendencies is that to increase cultural exchange, universities invite students from all over the world. As a result, it becomes harder to foresee all possible expectations/issues and align academic environment accordingly. Moreover, the growing amount of students evokes strong economic considerations linked to providing the proper material base and studying conditions to enrollers (Reddy et al., 2013; Thomas et al., 2014). This premise is aligned with the qualitative data that was revealed by the interviewed students.
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To lessen the gap between students’ expectations and actual academic environment, Australian Universities strive to cooperate with various faculties such as government, non-profit organizations, offshore educational establishment, etc. (“Victoria University Course Guide 2016, 2016). This approach is aimed to increase awareness about real expectations of potential enrollers and set clear goals and demands. This strategy is supposed to help mitigating the gap in expectations. In this regard, the findings of the present survey reveal that exploring academic readiness of enrollers and anticipating possible issues is a crucial task to manage the gap between students’ expectations and satisfaction under conditions of expansion of universities and enhanced globalization.