8 steps to improve teaching experience of international university students
Being a post-graduate lecturer at the University of Chester Business School, I come across a lot of international postgraduate students. Teaching international students fascinates me, because of the various ontological, epistemological and axiological stances the international students have.
As a result, I am continuously experimenting with effective teaching practices which allow me to better look after our international students. So, I thought I’d share my top 8 practices which tend to give me positive results from my IPGS.
Prioritise ideas and not language
In all my teaching sessions I prioritise the IPGS ideas over their language. This is because I want them to see that all contributions to the debate are welcomed. I try to reformulate their ideas and link this by asking ‘Anyone else?’ I have noticed this encourages participation and contribution. Also, it is important to wait longer for replies as this helps the students to formulate their answers/views and then join in the debate.
Inclusive teaching methods
Mixing home students with IPGS is a great way to get the students to practice their English as well as bring down barriers. It is key to understand that international students and home students have a diverse range of educational experiences, cultural values, and beliefs, so creating a safe, inclusive space is key. Making sure the students are fully aware of your expectations of how learning takes place and how they can access content designed on inclusive teaching principles is also key.
Avoid jargon/complex sentences
I always share all the lecture materials ahead of the live lecture sessions. This is because I have noticed that international postgraduate students like to read materials before and after attending a lecture. I have been told that reading allows them to understand concepts better. This is why I always try to avoid using complex sentences, jargon, and unnecessary terminology. I try to use bullet point lists rather than long sentences. My students stated that this helps them a lot in understanding the concepts.
Make a list of key terms & concepts
My students have told me that they like to receive a list of key terms and concepts before attending my teaching sessions. This allows them to read around the key terms and concepts which may come up frequently in a particular module. Therefore, I tend to include a list of key terms in all my written pieces of information. This helps the students understand the key terms and concepts which get discussed in the teaching sessions.
Built in preliminary reading
Getting my students in the practice of preliminary reading helps them a lot in understanding and retaining the key concepts and debates around a topic. I often encourage all of my students to read the materials before they attend my teaching sessions. When I have a smaller cohort, I often try to get them to send me a copy of their summary of the topic which is no more than 100 words. The process of getting them to summarise allows them to look up key terms and get used to the particular vocabulary.
Being slow and clear helps
In my teaching sessions, I try to speak slowly and clearly without using any colloquial phrases which the international postgraduate students may not understand. I have found out that having open-ended questions makes the session interactive as this helps my students a lot. Also using a lot of real-life examples helps a lot as it allows them to visualise the concept. I recommend that all the teaching sessions should be recorded so that the students can play them back at a later date.
Work with your colleagues and the wider university teams
We should never work in silos, rather we need to reach out to our colleagues, fellow academics, and the wider university teams. This is because they are a rich source of key pieces of information, and experiences which we can tap in to enhance our teaching capabilities. Having said that though, undertaking continuous development by learning from senior academics as well as initiatives like the CMBE, helps advance higher education a lot.
Health and wellbeing is key
Being aware of health and wellbeing issues is important because getting the health and wellbeing requirements met will allow students to get involved with university life, as well as the teaching sessions. It is important to encourage all students, especially the ones who say they don’t have time to get involved with anything as they need to focus on academic work. Here, I try to understand the challenges and work with the student to get over the challenges. At the same time encouraging the students to join in activities by making them aware of the benefits. Also working in partnership with the health and well-being team and your colleagues help in monitoring students' health and well-being issues. The key here is to build friendships, increase cultural confidence and feel they belong helps a lot in IPGS feel motivated and engage with the teaching materials.
Rayhan Abdullah Zakaria FHEA, MCIPD is a Doctoral researcher at Chester University Business School