Making your classroom hospitable for international students

International StudentsIn a recent Adams Center session on making classrooms welcoming places for international students, Lucy Dawson from the Center for International Education, Dr. Carly Dodd (Professor of Communication), Dr. Monty Lynn (Professor of Management) and Dr. Lori Houghtalen, Assistant Professor of Engineering and Physics) and Berlin Fang shared some challenges faced by international students studying at ACU, as well as possible solutions.

We have found that these are the top four challenges international students face.  We will also share a few strategies to help address these challenges:

  1. Learner participation in the classroom:  International students may have difficulty participating in classroom discussions due to language barriers, varied cultural expectations, limited understanding of social norms and lack of prior exposure to group discussions.  Group projects was also mentioned as particularly challenging for international students, perhaps due to the lack of welcome by domestic students and a hesitation to contribute by international students.
  2. Academic integrity: Some international students may have limited understanding of how their professors define academic integrity. Sometimes they lack training in proper citations in academic work.  There is also a concern that some students do not know the boundary between individual work and group work.
  3. Expectations for assignments and assessment: Among international students, there is often confusion on the number of assignments, and confusion about some academic jargon such as “outcomes” and “rubrics”.  Some show frustration over the speed of professors’ speech or the volume of assigned reading.  Participants mentioned international students had not been taught how to “scan” readings, and perhaps had vocabulary to look up, which also impeded reading speed.
  4. The use of resources: There is a lack of awareness of university resources that could be really helpful for international students.  Among these are the Writing Center, the Speaking Center, research help, and the Counseling Center.  Tutoring is provided to students who may be struggling with an academic subject, but sometimes there is variation between tutor knowledge and the faculty’s lecture.

The panelists discussed many solutions, best practices, and tips for faculty to make their classroom more hospitable to international students.  Here are some highlights from this discussion:

  1. Use technology to break barriers:  As some international students have a greater ability to read and write, than to listen and speak, including some discussions online may help relieve the pressure to speak in public in a different language. Some materials, such as the course rubric and reading materials should be shared online as well for constant access.
  2. Develop a relationship with the students outside of class, and use office hours creatively: ACU faculty use many types of “office hours” techniques to build one-on-one relationship with students, which can be especially helpful for students. One professor mandates a 10-minute meeting with every student to get to know them. Some use walking sessions to have a “mobile” office hour around campus. Some have designated a “help desk” at the library to meet with students in a less threatening environment.
  3. Consider offering a specialized orientation for your class.  For instance, provide some training related to reading academic resources (reading strategies). Provide training on using the library website or citation management tools such as Zotero.  Provide training or tours of various university resources such as the writing center, pointing out specific assistance that can be given, and some that cannot be given (for example assistance that crosses into academic integrity violations).
  4. Explain social norms:  It is important to explain classroom social norms, including proper class etiquette, appropriate assertiveness, and social spaces.  The key is to help international students form a good sense of boundaries while still feeling encouraged to learn and socialize.

Please also check out this presentation for further tips and more information about this session.  Faculty and staff are welcome to contact Berlin Fang (bxf13b@acu.edu) or Lucy Dawson (lld09a@acu.edu) regarding international students in the classroom at any time.  

Veronica Whitt, the international student services coordinator, can also meet with students individually to help them find the support resources they might need, so please feel free to refer students to her for assistance (vdw09a@acu.edu).

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