Generic competencies development through experiential learning : investigating diversity in first-year residential experiences

Wing Tung Michelle CHENG, C.K.Y CHAN (Thesis Supervisor), S.S.K TSE (Thesis Supervisor)

Research output: Other contributionThesis/Dissertation


Higher education sectors around the world have highlighted the importance of developing student generic competencies to address the public concerns about the eroding employability of graduates. A need hence arises as to how to develop undergraduates’ generic competencies along their study path. Given the challenges to integrate generic competencies into formal academic curriculum, a growing number of researchers and educators have explored the possibilities to achieve this goal through extra-curricular activities. In the current study, the potential of university residential halls was examined as its educational potential to develop students’ generic competencies was seldom been mentioned. This longitudinal study adopted photovoice, focus group, individual interviews, and pre-post survey to examine how first year residents benefited from their residential experience, using the University of Hong Kong as an example. Despite the long history of residential education in HKU, the educational value of residential experience is still unclear and has long remained as a “black box”. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods were used to investigate how different residential experiences facilitate student generic competencies development. The key objective of this study is to derive a model that applies to residential halls and, by extension, make practical recommendations for the advancement of current residential halls. The findings suggest that participation in hall activities led to the development of student residence life outcomes, including justice, humanity, wisdom, courage, transcendence and wellbeing. Furthermore planning/organising hall activities greatly improved students’ sense of justice while interpersonal dynamics facilitated the improvement of humanity only. The analysis indicated that students without specific engagement in hall activities were also able to develop temperance, particularly in self-regulation. The present study provides evidence that students can benefit from residential experiences regarding their generic competencies development and well-being. Besides, this study adopted the constructivist grounded theory to process the empirical data, this led to the development of a new model for university residential halls to explain factors that affect students’ hall involvement. This new model was based on the preliminary framework which consisted of the presage-process-product model and input-environment-output model (student involvement theory). Recommendations are suggested based on the study results, such as providing opportunities for residents to solve authentic problems, and the formation of mentor-mentee relationships between senior and junior student residents. This study also suggested what types of residential accommodation should be built for creating educational and meaningful university residential experience. This study made theoretical, methodological, practical and empirical contributions to the current research. It provided deep understanding of student residential experiences and scaffolds the educational potential of residential halls. However, one-year longitudinal study may not fully capture student residential experiences, and further study shall evaluate how sustainable the impact of university residential experience on students. It is intended that the findings of this thesis will assist universities and governments to create a more educational and meaningful university residential environment.
Original languageEnglish
TypePostgraduate Thesis
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


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