Teaching international students: effective learning support for all Jude Carroll ‘Teaching International Students’ project Oxford Brookes University
Some UK numbers … ‘international students’ • UK: 15% and rising (22.9% increase 2010 UUK) • 12% of first degree students • 66% of full-time taught postgraduates; 50% of full-time research degree students (43% of all research postgraduates) “This is no longer a ‘minority’ issue…..”
….. what makes 150 people give a day’s (or more) time perhaps travel some distance in January to hear about and discuss supporting international students? What are they seeking? What are the issues and Big Questions? What are the opportunities?
Approaches to managing academic cultural diversity Denial ‘I teach. It’s up to them to learn.’ ‘I teach Chemistry. Oxygen is the same everywhere’ ‘I didn’t admit this student who can’t speak English’ ‘Repair’‘You fix them and then I’ll teach them’ ‘These students can’t….. They don’t ….. They are not motivated….’ Students must adapt‘These students came for a British education and that is what they must be ready to do. I’ll help them do that…. a bit’ Teachers accommodate and adjust their practice …‘bottom line’ non-negotiable … sustainable, efficient
Not just rising numbers ….. • Much more diverse previous experiences as learners • …from vetting and selecting to mass higher education New reasons for leaving New reasons for coming New goals and motivations For UK HEIs: new reasons?
Link between numbers & your experiences? • Local proportions vary [region, discipline, level, nationality, …] • Cohort characteristics vary Overall percentages ‘Blocks’ of one nationality / language group Percentage of ‘home students’ • Length of stay / study. Top-up? • Enrolled [‘our students’] or exchange? On line / distance? Generalisations about ‘international students’ …. are they helpful?
A few hard truths? “Good teaching” or ‘work-arounds’? No easy answers Loads of shared good practice / evidence-based approaches … much of it overlooked NOT addressing issues does not lead to neutral results “adapt” “accommodate” “adjust” Who needs to change?
Rhetoric abounds [Dionne Warwick approach…..?] …. the main benefits of the globalisation of higher education are not financial (as valuable as that may be) but intellectual and cultural. The coming together of people from different parts of the world to study has the potential to form creative global communities that learn to interact and collaborate in new and previously incomprehensible ways. Such is the dynamism of life in the ‘global village’. ( UK VC quoted in Shiel & McKenzie, 2008, p. 1)
My guesses: …your students are diverse [in language and culture]. You will have mixed reactions to this diversity. …all your students will need to adapt to their new educational setting. Some will have significantly more adjustment to make. …you will need to change (or have already changed) how you teach and what you teach and probably, how you think about teaching …. to accommodate cultural and linguistic diversity.
For international students? • Language • Transition, new academic cultural assumptions and expectations ‘New game, new rules’ • ‘Support’ and guidance [formal, informal, academic, pastoral, economic, human…..]
5 suggestions for managing cultural/language diversity in teaching and learning 1. Accept & learn about academiccultural difference 2. Support students’ transition & skill development – Start early and keep going. Teach English. 3. Use teaching methods that encourage participation and collaboration 4. Create a globally-relevant curriculum 5. Anticipate and manage predictable problems(expectations, integration, group work, plagiarism, etc)
You probably already do manage these issues … choose one example of your actions & share it Students’ previous learning contexts and expectations being different from a ‘typical’ Scottish student’s. Students’ language development needing particular attention at the beginning Students finding it very hard to participate by speaking and interacting without encouragement Producing graduates for a globally interconnected and diverse world. Students not easily mixing and seeking out interaction with those they see as ‘different’
Academic cultural difference There is ‘culture’, expressed as artefacts ….. like how you greet people, what you eat, what you call people There is underpinning cultural norms …. how you resolve an argument or how formal you are with strangers, how loudly you speak, how close you stand…… what makes ‘a convincing argument’ And there are shared, deeply held beliefs about how things should be….. Exactly the same is true for teaching and learning…… but we are less likely to expect the differences or to know about them.
I call my teacher Dr. xxx A good teacher notices I need help and offers it. A good teacher tells me the questions and tells me good answers To learn, I must listen to the teacher. Really listen. I read the textbook many many many times. I know that the examination questions and answers will be from the textbook. I tell my students, ‘Call me Jude’. My students must ask for help. Then I will help with study-based issues. I select the issues but the students must find their own answers I want students to talk about problems and issues with each other. What’s their conclusion? ..argument? I want students to read around the subject. I want them to choose good bits from reading, lectures, labs….and to weave them together to make an answer. Their answer …. Different academic cultural expectations
The important point: from ‘essentialist’ to self-aware and transparent …… Students base their actions and expectations on their previous academic cultural experiences. [‘I expected the UK to be the same….’] You notice surprises and differences as students act upon their assumptions…. As they ask questions, speak, work together, act on your instructions, try and learn….. [‘Cultural bumps’] You learn what your expectations and assumptions are by noting the differences. Then you tell your students explicitly some of those expectations and assumptions. ‘Tell them the rules’
Not all differences are benignNot all ‘bumps’ are curiosities In an institution where they are just waking up to cultural difference: A Chinese postgrad student reads the guidance on ‘Open Book’ examinations. He takes in his textbook covered in margin notes, with glued in sheets of lecture notes plus glued in copies of old examinations and many worked-out answers [he did the work]. The teacher sets a ‘tried and tested’ exam question requiring detailed calculations from data which is the same as data used in 2002. The student is spotted copying the answer then reported for cheating. The student writes in his letter to the Disciplinary Board: In China, the open book means, you can bring the material have any notes. So I always feel free to make notes during the lectures, tutorials as well as exercise on the book where is blank. More over as the course website says ‘normal amount of personal notes is ok’. Based on the eighteen years education experience in China, I am sure that notes I make are normal.
Same words, different artefacts different norms different beliefs Reading Writing Critical ‘my own work’ Teacher Learning ‘Good work’ Examination Help Deadline 9:00
What builds a shared understanding of YOUR academic cultural assumptions? Don’t focus on the artefact [What teachers are called , ‘Call me Jude’] Specify and describe the normative behaviour (‘the rule’) [‘Teachers and students call each other by first names except when ….’] [Maybe] discuss the underpinning belief [‘Here, first names can make communication easier and more open but does not mean being friends.’] *Telling students the belief does not mean they will adopt the belief – just that they might understand it better.* If following the norm requires specific skills, then telling is not enough.
Suggestion 2: • …academic cultural difference • support students’ skill development – especially at first. Support students’ English. 3. Methods to encourage participation 4. Globally-relevant curriculum 5. Anticipate and manage predictable problems
2. Skill development Many new skills [reading, note making, writing, locating sources, analysis, technical skills, time management…..] Early diagnostics [Student: ‘How am I doing?] Design in practice and feedback Cannot rest with individual teachers: Programme-level planning Start early (but not too early … not in induction). Keep going ….
…. skills development must have a programme focus ‘We don’t have a programme, just a collection of courses’ Yet …. everything we know about improving quality and engaging students in their learning relies on having a focus at the level of the PROGRAMME. Radical idea: we could use the needs of international students to develop and encourage a programme approach.
…academic cultural difference • … students’ skill development, especially English. • Methods to encourage participation • Globally-relevant curriculum • 5. Anticipate and manage predictable problems Suggestion 3:
3. Pro-active teacher-supported participation and engagement Lecturing Seminars Supervision Group work Project work • Project groups which pull students together. Note-making Understanding and thinking Active links to assessment Speaking, asking questions, listening to others’ ideas Problem-solving Presenting Using meetings to plan and check progress Agreeing on roles and expectations Effective levels of structure and support Mixing , shared input into final product Drawing upon and using students’ ‘cultural capital’ Learning cross-cultural communication skills
Run by the Higher Education AcademyFunded through the Academy, UKCISA & PMI22 year project TIS Team: Janette Ryan, Jude Carroll, Fiona Hyland (ESCalate), Inna Pomerina (Economics), Melodee Beals (History, Classics & Archeology) , Simon Steiner (Engineering) , Malcolm Todd (C-SAP), Ali Dickens (LLAS), Andrea Frank (CEBE), Caprice Lantz (Psychology), Richard Atfield (BMAF), Adam Child & Katherine Lagar, HEA
TIS activities Website with teaching Resources Bank Research database link (IDP, Australia) Outreach activities and partnerships Series of events
Getting involved • Contact firstname.lastname@example.org • Via website: www.heacademy.ac.uk/internationalstudents
Suggestion 4: • …academic cultural difference • … students’ skill development, especially English. • 3. …. encourage participation by all • 4. Globally-relevant curriculum • 5. Anticipate and manage trouble
4. Globally-relevant curriculum Different for each programme Not just about the content […though rethinking content may be important] Huge range of opportunities - Introduction activities - Type of problems for students to solve - Reading lists - Guest speakers - Research areas - Resources provided in the Library Include, teach and assess cross cultural skills Create and encourage student integration
5. Manage predictable problems • Difference is hard. Expect it! • Group work is hard. Manage it. • Plagiarism is predictable and understandable. Work with that. • Students do not integrate spontaneously. Choreograph it. Encourage it. Even assess it? • Conflict is inevitable. Develop strategies and help the students develop strategies to manage conflict. It may be your most precious contribution to their future and the global future we all share.
Final word All students find university new Most find it new and hard Many find it new and hard and strange Some find it new and hard and strange and all wrong, really wrong Most succeed. Teach for inclusion and the students will succeed with more ease and less pain …. and so will you.