What is a Promising Practice?
We have chosen the term "Promising Practice" because from an intercultural perspective the context (social, political, economic, environmental and cultural) in which a practice is implemented will always have an impact on the success of the practice.
The following are some examples of promising practices that you may want to use and possible adapt depending on your own context. They are grouped into categories defined by common challenges that students coming from diverse cultural backgrounds often experience in Canadian Higher-Education.
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list. If you have promising practices to contribute we would love to include them! Please contact Mackenzie.Sillem@viu.ca
Examples of Promising Practices:
A. Cultural Adjustment
- Acknowledge cultural adjustments challenges that students may be experiencing.
- Students coming from another part of the world, or even another part of Canada to study at VIU will often experience stress related to living in a new and unfamiliar place far from home. In addition to the challenges students face in successfully completing course work they may also be challenged by homesickness, disorientation or language fatigue. The stress related to cultural adjustment often peaks mid-semester coinciding with midterms and initial paper deadlines.
- Students have told us how helpful it is to them when faculty have shared their own experience of having to adjust to another culture, or have checked in with students about homesickness, disorientation or language fatigue. Knowing that their experience is something that another has experienced AND survived, or having their experience validated contributes to a student's ability to be resilient.
B. Different Academic Expectations: i.e. different expectations as to the role of the teacher and the role of the student.
- Make your expectation that students will contribute individually to large group discussions either through questions or making points explicit. This can be done both verbally and in the course outline. Students may not realize that they are expected to speak individually in a large group discussion and may feel very uncomfortable doing so as in some cultures this may be considered inconsiderate or disrespectful towards the professor.
- Provide time for students to prepare their responses or questions. For example if you expect to have a large group discussion during the next class let the students know what the topic will be and ask them to come prepared with questions or ideas to share at the next class.
- Invite questions and make it clear that all responses and contributions are equally valued.
- Use other strategies to elicit input from all students such as a "Class-Discussion by Post-It Note": https://viuvideos.viu.ca/media/Class+Discussion+by+Post-It+NoteA+Increasing+International+Student+Participation/0_dysaqrn4
- Provide opportunities for students to get to know you and to get to know each other. Some instructors have found it helpful to spend the first class facilitating opportunities for students to get to know each other in order to begin developing relationship. Some instructors also find it helpful to ask each and every student to meet with them during their office hours in the first week or two of classes. The opportunity allows the instructor to clarify their expectations as well as to identify what strengths students will bring to the class and where they may need extra support.
C. English Competency: Differences in comprehension or confidence when working in English is challenging for both instructors and students.
- Often English language learners find it difficult to listen to an instructor and write notes in English at the same time. It is helpful to provide handouts/use powerpoints that have key words or concepts in writing that students can access before, during, or after class.
- Repeat main ideas or definitions using synonyms.
- Ask student to summarize key concepts or ideas in their own words.
- Be aware of your pace, if you tend to speak quickly you may need to build in reviews and recaps more often.
- Be conscious of cultural references. For example students who did not grow up with the American TV show All in The Family may not understand comparisons or metaphors that refer to Archie Bunker. Similarly it is helpful to avoid slang and idioms.
- Often students’ English comprehension is higher than we might realize, however they lack confidence in their english language abilities. Providing encouragement and empathy can go a long way in motivating a student.
- Contact International Academic Support (IAS): a team of English as a second or other language specialists whose goal is to help English language learners with writing, reading, referencing, presentations and more. Visit: https://international.viu.ca/international-academic-support.
Crose, B. (2011). Interantionalization of the higher education classroom: strategies to facilitate intercultural learning and academic success. International Journal of Teaching and Learing in Higher Education, 23(3), 388-395.
Garson, K. (2007). TRU: A globally minded campus a resources for academic departments. Retrieved from: https://www.tru.ca/__shared/assets/gmc6666.pdf