Teaching international students at university

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Information about Teaching international students at university

Published on January 26, 2016

Author: EmmaKennedy3

Source: slideshare.net

1. Teaching International Students Overcoming Cultural Difference in the Classroom Dr Emma Kennedy, QMUL ESDM016 – Teaching and Learning Methods Bonus Presentation

2. Geert Hofstede – theory of cultural difference in four dimensions:  Individualism vs Collectivism  “A collectivist society is tightly integrated; an individualist society is loosely integrated”  Large power distance vs small power distance:  “the extent to which the less powerful persons in a society accept inequality in power and consider it as normal”  Strong uncertainty avoidance vs weak uncertainty avoidance  “Cultures with a strong uncertainty avoidance are active, aggressive, emotional, compulsive, security-seeking, and intolerant; cultures with a weak uncertainty avoidance are contemplative, less aggressive, unemotional, relaxed, accepting personal risks, and relatively tolerant.”  Masculinity vs femininity  “The cultures which I labelled as masculine strive for maximal distinction between what men are expected to do and what women are expected to do. They expect men to be assertive, ambitious and competitive, to strive for material success […] They expect women to serve and to care for the non-material quality of life, for children and for the weak. Feminine cultures, on the other hand, define relatively overlapping social roles for the sexes, in which, in particular, men need not be ambitious or competitive but may go for a different quality of life than material success”.

3. Hofstede in/on the classroom  Teacher and student are an ‘archetypal role pair’ in many societies –a culture’s perception of the teacher-student relationship will thus be dependent on how it conceptualises such role pairs (ie the 4 dimensions)  “Experiments have shown significant differences in the degree to which people from different societies process information and complement it with guesswork”. Differences in power distance Differences in individualism/collectivism Impersonal truth (fact) or personal wisdom located in the person? Is it OK to confront each other or have differences in the classroom? Students to initiate communication and direct their work, or teacher? Is learning associated only with youth or can it be lifelong? Can the students criticize the teacher? Are all students equal? Are students & teachers equal outside the classroom? What is the point of education – to get a certificate/status or improve Table: taken from Hofstede’s tables on the dimensions’ effect on behaviour in the classroom (see article, pp. 312-313)

4. Language barriers in the classroom “The seminar is a demanding arena for all students but especially for those who use an unfamiliar language, usually English, plus using a discipline-specific discourse style and vocabulary, often deployed in informal and quick-moving exchanges. Students feel under pressure – will they be understood by others? Can they do themselves justice in front of teacher and their peers? Another issue for students is being unsure exactly how and when to participate. Some teachers, sensitive to the problems of waiting for students to decide when to speak, will adopt a more directive style. Sovic (2008) quotes the mixed reaction of a student from Hong Kong, especially in a large group: If the teacher points at me, I will speak. I will hide if nobody asks me to speak because my English is not good and I can’t speak fluently. I feel shame to speak in front of twenty, thirty something people as they are local and their mother tongue is English.”  Challenges for International Students: Language and Culture  http://www.ideas.capd.qmul.ac.uk/?p=650

5. How to deal with language barriers?  Highlight ‘difficult’ vocabulary that even the most practised non-native speakers will have trouble with, e.g. specialist vocabulary  It can be helpful to have things written out, eg. in handouts, as well as speaking  Speak slowly and clearly, and repeat your students’ words/summarise if they do not (especially native speakers who talk fast)  Accept confidence issues and quietness: do not challenge aggressively/accuse students of laziness.  Become familiar with support available to students so that you can direct them to it – some academics have even worked with EAP providers to address subject-specific language issues.

6. Different conceptions and experiences of the classroom “Students owe respect to those who provide knowledge; the authority of teachers is such that only they – and not the students – should initiate interactions in class. The discussion in the academic focus group demonstrated an awareness of cultural patterns of interaction in teaching. As one participant commented: ‘Basically you perceive there is a harmony and balance and you don't rock it’.” (Edwards & Ran, 2006) “Participants felt it was difficult to contribute fully to in-class discussion because of the dynamic nature of such exchanges. Participants noted that in China there was generally time allocated to prepare comments: Chinese students don’t like to say wrong things; they want to be right. So when they are prepared and they have confidence, they would very like to say something. About things we are not so sure we hesitate to speak out.” (Foster & Stapleton, 2012) Challenges for International Students: Previous Experiences and Expectations http://www.ideas.capd.qmul.ac.uk/?p=659

7. Cultural barriers in the classroom “The match between the learning strategies encouraged in China and the study skills explicitly taught in British schools and universities is limited. Skills considered important in a British context include the ability to read critically, to form arguments and to structure essays and reports. While report and essay writing appear to cause fewer problems, critical analysis and problem solving are often identified as areas of weakness. Oral presentation was another area for concern.” (Edwards & Ran, 2006) “International students themselves report feeling judged as lacking certain ‘critical’ skills and feeling constrained by what they see as narrow definitions of critical thinking and writing (Phan Le Ha, 2001; Viete & Peeler, 2007, Viete & Phan, 2007, Yoshino, 2004). Yoshino argues that assumptions about the existence or absence of critical thinking skills based on whole systems of cultural practice (which in the case of ‘Chinese learners’ comprises a billion and a half people) is itself an example of a lack of criticality.” “Critical thinking can take different forms in different cultures. Critical and creative thinking have long been characteristics of education and intellectual traditions in China, for example, but may manifest in different ways (Cortazzi & Jin, 2010; Turner, 2006) such as more active listening than verbal participation (Chuah, 2010; Ryan & Louie, 2007).” (this & previous: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/resources/critical_thinking.pdf ) In your experience, what skills do international students find more difficult than home students – and vice versa, what are their strengths? Discuss in pairs and report back.

8. Differences in the student-teacher relationship “A growing body of literature explores differences in relationships between teachers and students in China and the west. Aspland (1999), for instance, suggests that western university teachers tend to see their role in terms of ‘a type of personal collegiality, but professional independence and initiative’. Chinese students, in contrast, expect ‘a hierarchic distance but a professional closeness’ with their teachers.” (Edwards & Ran, 2006) Challenges for International Students: Staff-Student Relationship Two potential solutions: what is the balance between them & how do we combine the best parts of both/compromise? 1)Set ground rules and cultural norms so that students can adapt to them 2)Adapt to what students ask for: learn from other cultures of teaching

9. Group work & interactivity: a difficult area “Participants felt that the small group discussions were more culturally consistent with their experiences in China. One participant said, “It is the tradition for Chinese students to be low key [rather] than to be on the spotlight.” Another voiced a similar view: “Because there are fewer Chinese students than Canadian, sometimes when we are asking questions all focus will be on us, everybody is looking at us, so I’m nervous to be the focus.” (Foster & Stapleton, 2012, p. 307)  Paired discussion can be in same-language groups – builds confidence – or you can deliberately mix up the groups to build competence in English (especially in situations with difficult vocabulary). Which is best?  Encouraging participation: structured formats that demand a response from everyone, asking direct questions.  One way to make direct questions less threatening to students is to ask several students the same question, perhaps asking a more confident student first: this models interactivity for those who are not used to it, and gives them time to prepare a response.

10. Plagiarism “In the west, plagiarism is perceived by some as a violation of the author and is considered to be morally wrong. This worldview stands in contrast with the post-modern view that texts involve a recycling of words and ideas rather than the production of something wholly original. While there was uncertainty as to the best way of dealing with this issue, there was an awareness of the developmental nature of plagiarism in international students and the need for sympathetic understanding of the causes which gives rise to it.” (Edwards & Ran, 2006). “There is little evidence to show that home or international students differ in levels of deliberate plagiarism (Partridge and West, 2003; Gillmore et al, 2009) […] Nevertheless, translation and commissioning continue to worry teachers. Here’s how one teacher in the UK described it with reference to students in her own country, Malaysia: The pressure to perform has an even darker side: sometimes it can lead to fraud in the writing of essays and examinations. Financial pressures may be one of the side factors causing plagiarism to be more of a problem among these students, but the main factor is an innocent one: they simply do not understand that it is wrong. It is the Western worldview that plagiarism is morally wrong because it constitutes a violation of the author (Kolich 1983). But to these overseas students, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. They want to use an author’s work because it is very good but their English is not good enough to paraphrase what the author has 4 said, so the practical solution is just to copy chunks of it. They do not understand they are committing fraud; they do not mean to.(Chuah, 2010)” https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/resources/addressing_plagiarism.pdf Academic Culture and Plagiarism : http://www.ideas.capd.qmul.ac.uk/?p=275

11. How to deal with Plagiarism  Make expectations clear from the start  Model good referencing and paraphrasing  Be explicit about what is and is not allowed, and why  Offer formative feedback on citation practices where it is wanted ‘You could reclassify plagiarism as a coping strategy that can be indulged in for a time until you are ready to reject it’. (participant quote from Edwards & Ran, 2006, p. 10) – can we treat plagiarism as a coping strategy or is that just being lenient?

12. Assessment and Feedback issues Challenges for International Students: Marks  http://www.ideas.capd.qmul.ac.uk/?p=655  Clarity – different academic cultures have different views around assessment. Make clear the grade equivalents of each percentage and what is considered acceptable.  Feedback – do they know what to do with it? Good feedback will signpost students to reflection and next steps, and this is especially important where students may come from a  Student-teacher relationship: do students feel confident enough to come and talk to you about their marks and feedback?  Face-saving – are they ashamed to get bad marks? This may affect whether they are willing to open a dialogue or implement changes.

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