Surveys at a university in Hong Kong indicated that graduates of discrete part-time programmes perceived significantly higher development in eight out of nine graduate capabilities than their counterparts in full-time programmes. Several possible explanations are considered and rejected. The conventional view that capabilities are nurtured through immersion in a stimulating campus environment was not applicable, as the part-time students spent less time on campus than the full-time ones. Other data in the survey suggested that the respective teaching and learning environments might be the principal cause. It appeared that the part-time courses had more teacher-student interaction, and were more likely to employ active learning approaches. Structural equation modelling was used to examine this possible explanation. A model in which the type of teaching and teacher-student relationships impacted upon capability development showed a good fit to the data. The greatest effect was from teaching approaches requiring active student involvement and aiming for understanding. There was a mutually reinforcing effect from good teacher-student relationships. The results suggest that a strong effect on the development of graduate capabilities may come through employing active learning approaches. © 2005 Society for Research into Higher Education.
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