Student’s perceptions of quality learning in a Malaysian university – a mixed method approach

Date04 September 2017
Published date04 September 2017
AuthorS. Chee Choy,Joanne Sau-Ching Yim,Poh Leong Tan
Subject MatterEducation,Curriculum, instruction & assessment,Educational evaluation/assessment
Students perceptions of quality
learning in a Malaysian university
a mixed method approach
S. Chee Choy
Centre for Educational Psychology and Instructional Strategies,
Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, Kampar, Malaysia, and
Joanne Sau-Ching Yim and Poh Leong Tan
Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities,
Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, Kampar, Malaysia
Purpose This paper aims to examine studentsperceptions of quality learning using a mixed-methods
approach in a Malaysian university, with an aim to ll existing knowledge gaps in the literature on
relationships among relevantquality variables. The study also assesses the extent to which detailed results
from a few participantscan be generalised to a larger sample from the population.
Design/methodology/approach A sequential, mixed-methods approach was used to obtain a more
meaningful and balancedanalysis of the data. In total, 12 students were purposively selectedand interviewed
in Phase 1, to gain insightsinto their perceptions of quality learningat a selected university.The results of the
qualitative analysis wereused to develop hypotheses for a quantitative survey of 1,490 students in Phase 2.
The samples consistedof students enrolled in full-time bachelorsdegree programmes. The survey data were
analysed using structural equation modelling (SEM) to conrm a series of hypotheses about pathways of
inuenceof key quality constructs.
Findings The results of the study showed strong positiverelationships between student perceptions of
learning outcomes, curriculum, instructional delivery and support, learning environment and quality
learning.The overall ndings suggest that the inuences of these qualityvariables on the perceived quality of
learningexperiences of students may be complex.
Practical implications All Malaysian higher education providers are currently concerned with
providing high-quality education that caters to studentsneeds. The results generate useful evidence for
governors,administrators and other stakeholders regardingthe studentsperceptions of quality learning.The
resultsprovide insights for supporting diverse students servedby these providers.
Originality/value The sequential, mixed-methods research design of the study contributed a rich
contextualdescription of studentsperceptions of quality learning.It also lls the knowledge gap mentioned.
Keywords Perceptions, Mixed methods, Malaysian quality assurance, Quality learning,
Mixed methods designs
Paper type Research paper
In higher education systems of many countries, the part of the quality assurance (QA)
process requires institutions to adhere to standards set by the national quality assurance
agency. In Malaysia, the Malaysia Quality Assurance (MQA) system requires all
programmes to be designed with courses having specic learning outcomes (LOs). LOs are
dened as studentsexpected and demonstrable learning achievements (Biggs and Tang,
2011) that are aligned andmapped against the programmes learning objectives and specic
Received 20 December 2016
Revised 30 June 2017
10 July 2017
Accepted 11 July 2017
QualityAssurance in Education
Vol.25 No. 4, 2017
pp. 500-515
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/QAE-12-2016-0088
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
learning experiences (Harden, 2002). Demonstration of LOs results in enhanced quality
learning (QL). This model of QL requires the formulation of general educational
expectations, which then guides the creation of a programmes educational objectives and
specic LOs for allcourses of study that are designed and delivered.
The progression from expectations to LOs tied to performance standards may appear
simple, straightforward and direct. However, in reality, it is a complex, imprecise and
iterative processrequiring many adjustments, according to Jackson (2000).
Dening quality assurance and quality learning in higher education
To meet QA requirements in an institution (Malaysian Qualication Agency, 2013), the
teachinglearning environment should play a crucial role, according to Entwistle et al.
(2002). When measured in higher education systems, teaching and learning are typically
gauged via studentsperceptions of the teaching and assessment procedures, rather than
through other directapproaches to capture the teaching methods and strategies.
QL is the learning that nurtures an individuals ability to acquire knowledge that can
then be used in real situations to make validand informed decisions (Biggs, 2001;Biggs and
Tang, 2007). QL can be enhanced through the teachinglearning environment provided,
which includes studentsperceptions of the quality of teaching approaches and strategies,
their understanding of course goals and standards and the physical and virtual
environments providedby the education system (Ellis, 2016).
With the majority of the students havingthe pay for the cost of their education, receiving
value for their money is a major concern (Biggs and Tang, 2007). Universities in Malaysia
tend to be more market-driven, now that the government has instituted management
strategies in the form of university rankings, budget capping and emphases on customer
orientation and quality control(Malaysian Qualication Agency, 2013). Further, Srikanthan
and Dalrymple (2007) pointed to the disjointedness between rhetoric and reality in
education, with the management of education systems adopting practices at the possible
expense of developingstudentscritical reection and professional competence.
Hattie et al. (1996) noted that the QL for studentscan be enhanced if they are cognitively
stimulated to use learning skills (LSs) that help with deep learning and ultimately help
attain their intended LOs. Teng and Baum (2013) and Iacovidou et al. (2009) found that
studentsperceivedlearning and teaching facilities to be more important for perceived levels
of overall QL, as compared to the quality of the teaching staff. Several others (Diseth et al.,
2010;Crisp et al.,2009) found that LOs indirectly affected studentslearning context, and
directly affected the amount of effort they put in. LOs were also related to studentsprior
experiences. Langstrandet al. (2015) found that quality in the design and delivery of courses
will determine the QL of an institution in terms of student performance and evaluation
outcomes. They advocatedbasing course design and delivery on the needsof students.
Mixed-methods research designs
Building on the above research, this study used a sequential, mixed-methods approach to
obtain a more meaningful and balanced analysis of the data, as well as validation of data
through cross verication of ndings from qualitative and quantitative data sources. A
mixed-methods approach also provided pragmatic knowledge that can be put to use in
applied decision-making and management situations (Creswell,2003, 2013;Creswell and
Plano Clark, 2011). Creswell et al. (2003) dene mixed-methods designs as involving the
collection and analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data in a singlestudy, in which
the data were collected sequentially and then integrated into the research process. Johnson
and Onwuegbuzie (2004) note that mixed-methods research offers great promise for
perceptions of

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