Teaching International Students

This book is an excellent resource to gain understanding on culture, teaching methodology and internationalizing curricula related to international students in post-secondary institutions in English-speaking countries:

Teaching International Students: Improving Learning for All
By J. Carroll, & J. Ryan
Available in our NC library: L12345 .X00 2005

Practical Strategies for Teachers

The following is a list of practical strategies adopted by various institutions in order to assist International Students (IS) in the their post-secondary classrooms:

Niagara College, 2014 - present findings

(Folinazzo G., MacGregor A., 2014)
(n.b. examples are from survey comments)

International students could...

  • Attend class more and work harder
  • Participate more in social life/activities, spend more time with DS
  • Hone English skills

Domestic students could...

  • Increase interaction with IS
  • Change attitude, i.e.: be friendlier; be more inclusive; be more patient
  • Learn from and about IS

Professors could...

  • Improve S<>T dialogue/interaction; adjust teacher talk, i.e.: speak more slowly; give clear examples; avoid local references, mumbling
  • Employ proactive pedagogical behavior, i.e. remove North American context from tasks; assign more practical work; ensure ISs really understand; provide notes before class
  • Learn from and about IS
  • Separate marks for grammar and spelling
  • Provide in-class help, i.e more time, availability of dictionary, more explanation
  • Allow dictionary use in class and during exams
  • Offer extra time to complete tests
  • Offer extra time for take-home assignments

The college could...

  • Provide academic accommodations for ISs
  • Offer extra classes, i.e. grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary
  • Allow/supply proofreaders, editors
  • Facilitate DS-IS peer-partnering

University of Bath (UK), 2009
  • Exemplify how to reference using own work to personalize the experience.
  • Allow students to write down questions/comments if not clear orally.
  • Increase IS motivation by allowing ISs to contribute information from their country.
  • Advise ISs (when necessary) to consult available student services.
  • Be structured: give explicit summaries, and clear transitions between sections.
  • Have task aims and instructions written down clearly (and presented in multisensory formats).
  • Use appropriate pace and emphasis.
  • Make the values and skills of group work explicit to all students.
  • Aim to keep answers brief; write key words. ISs may be unable to follow elaboration.
  • Provide oral and written feedback with suggestions for improving work.
  • Reflect. Look for indicators that ISs perceive teachers as approachable. (Dolan, 2009)

CIITE Ontario College Benchmarks, 2006
  • Explain technical vocabulary.
  • Provide examples to clarify content.
  • Give practical demonstrations and examples (lectures and on board notes are not motivating).
  • Use visual aids – (pictures, diagrams, film and video clips, bullets and numbering).
  • Use a ball to control who speaks in a discussion.
  • Use board notes during discussions/presentations.
  • Clarify oral delivery of instructions and/or course content
  • Provide written specifications of assignments (more useful).
  • Provide sample assignments completed by past students to clarify content/format expectations
  • Provide clear guidelines regarding the expectations for written assignments
  • Provide more assistance with organizational formats: i.e. a writing course
  • Post assignments and readings ahead of time (at least two days prior to class).
  • Deliver lectures at a clear and adequate pace.
  • Post vocabulary prior to lessons and notes after lectures (posting of notes by peers are helpful).
  • Post weekly agenda.
  • Use Power Point in all classes; open discussions following PP presentations to illustrate ideas.
  • Organize collaboration in and out of class; offer more tutorials; increase communication (in person or electronically).
  • Adopt peer support for explanation of assignments, vocabulary (Bossio and Bylyna, 2006)

University of Virgina (USA)
  • When Ss make unclear remarks, paraphrase then build on them (“So you are saying …”).
  • Use visuals and write things down in teaching.
  • Let ISs who hesitate to speak, participate first in small groups or electronically.
  • Emphasize that you are available during office hours.
  • Don’t assume that a student that looks “foreign” is an IS.
  • Ensure ISs understand directions/assignments; be explicit re. expectations (give examples/models)
  • Focus on meaning first and grammar and style later
  • Stress fluency along with correctness
  • Don’t foster S’s fear of errors; reinforce Ss strengths while explaining what needs to be worked on
  • Ask IS to contribute without forcing them to criticize (U of V, Chapter 3)

University of Waikato, Hamilton (New Zealand), 2008
  • Provide materials/agenda in advance for the day’s lesson - ISs best learn with hands-on tasks which also help them establish rapport with DSs.
  • Use multiple media not only during lectures but also between lectures to reinforce concepts. ISs are more comfortable with interaction through technology.
  • Use electronic channels (e.g. email, Blackboard-like) to alleviate apprehension. (Johnson, 2008)

Brigham Young University (USA), 2000
  • Provide simpler words and definitions of sophisticated terminology; Avoid slang
  • Be honest; give low grade; bypass the opportunity to counsel and make them improve
  • Give higher than deserved grade because of correct ideas
  • Give honest grade and counsel on how to do better next time
  • Use separate evaluations (language and content) (e.g. separate rubrics) to fairly assess ISs communication ability and the knowledge of the subject tested.
  • Organize peer-editing sessions with DSs as “when students evaluate each other’s written work, additional benefits occur, such as an increased sense of community and shared responsibility for learning… a positive step towards helping international students integrate.” (Collingridge, 2000)

University of Melbourne (Australia), 2007
  • Avoid slang, colloquial, idiomatic expressions, local issues (or provide explanations).
  • Avoid rambling or muffled delivery; use clear articulation and organization.
  • Use signals, transitions.
  • Don’t stereotype; treat students as individuals first.
  • Become informed (about their culture, politics, etc.) (“What about non-western countries?”)
  • Remember that Asian names have last name, first name order; some have anglicized names.
  • Use name cards, collect them and redistribute them (to help remember)
  • Have students congregate in ethnically-similar groups (translations, weak help the strong)
  • Pair off internationals (two Chinese, two Japanese, etc.) allow some formal L1 use.
  • Be aware of free-riding and sucker effects in groups with host nationals and IS
  • Start small groups early for the whole semester to build rapport, collegiality, common purpose and altruistic behaviour; have additive and disjunctive tasks (see other Davies, 2006 article).
  • Direct ISs to programs and resources. Provide encouraging space in class.
  • Advertise office hours.
  • Make connections, by providing history of yourself, career, education, and interests.
  • Smile. (Davies, 2007)

Oxford Brookes University (UK), 2002
  • Use more straightforward language, pronounce endings, pause, clarify and restate.
  • Provide discipline-specific glossaries
  • Give handouts and partial notes
  • Allow peers to: “Talk to the person next to you and decide on the question you’d like to ask.”
  • Pre-brief: “next class we will be discussing x, so please come with y.”
  • Encourage peer explanation “in whatever language.”
  • Use occasional first-language groups to discuss, research or shared readings.
  • Explain how ISs should use their time and professors’ time
  • Display an outline for them that shows how they should organize their time (e.g. questions weighted more should be completed first)
  • Provide valuable feedback and a chance to improve the following common repeated error areas:
    • Make clear the weight of grammar and vocabulary
    • Give specific directions on preferred style
    • Comment on meaning and organization
    • Set up a hierarchy of rules you would like to be learned first
  • Use formative assessments, peer review, and clear and prompt feedback with plenty of examples; ensure the test itself leads to learning and not simply grade giving. “Unless you design projects and tasks where cross-cultural skills are an asset, or use intercultural competence as a learning outcome, mixed groups will often function less effectively than mono-cultural ones” (p.3). Carroll adds that an educator must assess the process of achievement, not just the result to promote cross-cultural inclusion.
  • Be realistic with what they expect from their ISs. (Carroll, 2002)

University of Melbourne (Australia), 2005
  • Provide tutorials, vocabulary lists.
  • Because ISs may take longer to complete a test or exam, professors can meet with them regularly
  • Overlooking grammar and assigning higher-than-deserved grades is not a pedagogically-sound choice that ISs themselves would not welcome. (Ranson, Larcombe, Baik, 2005)

Australian Learning and Teaching Council, 2009
  • Make lectures accessible: provide outline of main points of lecture; link to related topics; highlight key questions; define new/unfamiliar words/concepts; allow recording of lectures; cut jargon/idioms/colloquialisms; ask ISs if they understand – ask them to show understanding; use international examples where possible; conclude with summary of main points.
  • Create opportunities for small group participation: set key questions with reading material so Ss can prepare; make expectations clear, many ISs are not aware that participation in group work is important; create a teaching atmosphere early in the term in which Ss interact with each other – i.e. icebreakers; encourage contributions re. their perspectives – how would this issue be seen in their country?; pose questions that Ss can discuss in pairs and then report; wait before moving on; consider that ISs may not answer right away; structure group tasks so that ISs and domestics Ss are grouped together – assign roles; organize group activities so that diversity of experience and knowledge are necessary for successfully completing the task
  • Internationalize the curriculum: a) content: international topics; material with international perspectives; b) teaching and learning: encourage different kinds of communication; create awareness of different experiences and expectations; develop ‘portable’ skills
  • Adopt an educative approach to plagiarism, in which Ss highlight reasons why referencing is used, discuss plagiarism issues, and highlight examples of summarizing. (Arkoudis, 2006)

Oxford Brookes University, 2002; CIITE, 2006; Australian Learning and Teaching Council, 2009
  • Set aside class time to discuss assignments and provide Ss with templates and clear explanation (including details, purpose, assessment criteria, aspects of assessment, outline or questions and responses required)
  • Offer discussion time early in the semester in order to offer feedback focusing on the main issues that arise and identifying what Ss can do to improve
  • Give additional time to explain new terminology
  • Assign feedback to testing
  • Discuss the length of finished tasks, and reinforce the idea that longer is not better.
  • Carroll (2002), Samboo & Iveson (2006) Arkoudis (2006)

CIITE (Ontario), 2008
  • Check individually with ISs, during class or office hours and perhaps to provide them with assignments and questions ahead of time, if they are not able to perform “on the spot”
  • Allow extra time for reading and writing (Fagan and Troy, p. 37)
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