By Yunyi Chen, B.A., M.Ed., CTESL
To accommodate the academic needs of the increasing international student population, the Centre for the Advancement of Teaching & Learning launched a new position, faculty specialist-internationalization at the University of Manitoba. I am lucky to be hired at the position to promote internationalization in post-secondary education. I was an international student from China who graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Master’s Degree in Education. I have worked primarily with international students to help them with academic success.
Listed below are a few things I do but not limited to in my daily work:
- Providing consultations on teaching & learning practices
- Teaching workshops/presentations with regards to cross-cultural issues
- Commencing projects that help with international students’ academic success
About Supporting Diversities in Teaching & Learning
In the practices of teaching and learning, a gap exists between educators and international students derived from cultural diversity. However, culture is often too invisible, sensitive and intimidating to address in classrooms. Even the term international student is not always comfortable to hear as it labels “a collection of students as one group”, therefore” foregrounds the idea of difference and hides the level of diversity between students in the international group”1 p.3. However, the reality of this issue is more complex.
With more students from diverse cultural backgrounds joining our campuses, educators should “expect and plan for an increase in the range of previous learning experiences, and diversity of approaches to, and understanding of, the discipline” 1 p.3. If we accept that “there is diversity within student groups as well as between them, and that there are commonalities between all students” 1 p.3, then the promotion of internationalization in post-secondary education can be seen as beneficial to all student populations rather than just to international students.
About Internationalization in Teaching & Learning
Internationalization of the curriculum (loC) is an efficient strategy that fits perfectly with the stream of internationalization in teaching & learning, which is composed of three components:
- Internationalization in Content
Course content should include diverse perspectives and cultural differences to empower all students. Please note that the dominance utilization of local references may marginalize or exclude students without such knowledge or background. A straightforward way to internationalize course content is to draw on research studies conducted in different countries.
- Internationalization in Pedagogy
Internationalization in pedagogy requires the engagement of all students in the practices of teaching and learning. However, interactions between students who perceive themselves to be different from each other seldom happen unless initiated2. To achieve the goal, instructors may need to:
- set the tone at the early stage of the course to encourage intercultural interactions
- create supportive learning environments to engage all students
- plan learning opportunities associated with interactions between students of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds
- Internationalization in Assessment
Assessment is one of the most significant areas of concern in regard to international students. Instructors should explicitly explain the assessment criteria at the beginning of the course and provide constructive feedback along the teaching process to help international students build a clear learning direction, improve academic performance, and reduce learning anxiety.
The three components briefly discussed above are the foundations of loC. They are considered as the threshold to effective teaching & learning practices. If you are interested in learning more about loC or if you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me at: 204-474-9617 or by email at Yunyi.Chen@umanitoba.ca. I will be more than happy to help with any issues regarding teaching or working with international students.
About my Inter-cultural Workshops
Below are a list of workshops that I have developed in regard to the intercultural issues in post-secondary education. If interested, we can arrange for me to visit your institution and deliver any of these workshops.
- Cultural diversity in Teaching & Learning (there are two versions, one for faculty and the other for TAs or sessional instructors): 3 hours
- Building Cross-cultural Communication Competence (for general students): 1.5 hours
- Intercultural Communication: High & Low Context Cultures (for TA or sessional instructor training): 45 min
- Cultural Diversity in Pharmaceutical Care (intro-level): 1.5 hours
- Communication competence for Caring Nurses (intro-level): 1 hour
- Cultural Diversity in the Classroom (for new graduate student orientation): 1 hour
- Engaging international students in class discussions: 1 hour