Journal of East China Normal University(Educational Sciences) ›› 2020, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (9): 179-199.doi: 10.16382/j.cnki.1000-5560.2020.09.010

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The Empirical Research into College Students’ Learning and Development in China (2015—2019): Themes, Methods and Commentary

Yin Hongbiao1, Shi Lian1, Yang Liu2   

  1. 1. Faculty of Education, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China;
    2. Institute of Education, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
  • Published:2020-09-15

Abstract: Due to the international attention to quality assurance of higher education, the enrollment expansion policy in China, and the global rise of “evidence-based” educational research, there has been a worldwide growth and prosperity of research into college students’ learning and development. This study comprehensively reviewed the empirical studies on college students’ learning and development published in Chinese journals in 2015—2019. It summarized the various themes emerging from these empirical studies, and analyzed the features and defects in their research methodology and design. As revealed, in the past five year, eight themes have emerged from the empirical studies on college students’ learning and development in China and quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods designs have been widely used. Researchers from 15 “Double First-Class” universities take the leading role in the empirical research into college students’ learning and development. Based on these findings, we suggest that the “Pyramid Model” of Chinese college students’ growth should be further enhanced by embedding students’ multi-layer growth into a nested contexts consisting of the individual, instructional, institutional, and policy factors which influence college students’ learning and development. These empirical studies, with varied themes, methods, and scholars’ increasing awareness of methodology, have deepened our understanding. However, some notable defects are also revealed, such as unbalanced application of research methods, unjustified research designs and procedures, lack of accumulations, and insufficient theoretical awareness, etc. These shortcomings point out the directions for future improvement.

Key words: quality assurance, college students’ learning and development, empirical research, systematic literature review, China