This study examines the introduction of a new communications key skills course in Chinese vocational education colleges, using a student-centred learning approach. This was established in response to the changing demands of employers in China’s new environment of economic growth and competition. The research explores teachers’ and students’ understanding of key skills and their attitudes to student centred learning, an approach very different to China’s traditional didactic methods. The effects of the new course are examined and barriers to effective implementation are analysed.\ud \ud The research was based on five higher education institutions. Both quantitative and qualitative techniques were used. Three questionnaires were employed, and three of the institutions were singled out for more detailed qualitative analysis. Through a series of case studies, focus groups, interviews and class observations data was gathered to reveal underlying attitudes towards the experiences of the new course.\ud \ud Both teachers and students welcomed the new approach. It was found to facilitate the development of complex communication ‘key skills’, as students were actively involved, working in groups and learning from each other. The role of the teacher changed significantly, from ‘provider of information’ to facilitator of learning. Designing activities and resources to motivate students and meet their learning needs was a new experience for Chinese teachers, as curriculum development and course textbooks had always been provided centrally.\ud \ud Teachers encountered a number of barriers to successful course implementation; these included difficulties in adjusting to the new methods; lack of suitable resources; poor staff development and lack of support from college management. However, both teachers and students noted an increase in students’ confidence and self-awareness resulting from the new course. Students particularly appreciated the benefits that this might bring in terms of their employability as well as their social capabilities.\ud Recommendations are made for the further development of a student-centred learning model for communication course in Chinese vocational colleges
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