Friday, February 24, 2017

What international students want from their U.S. professors

When international students enroll in U.S.A. institutions, they have all the great hopes that any student has - and maybe more. Acquiring a college degree is an investment for their families, represents an accomplishment among peers, and offers opportunities for prosperous and purposeful lives. Because the U.S.A. hosts the largest number of international students in the world, it is critical that faculty and staff take a careful look at what's working and perhaps not working.

Mark W. Harris, as reported by Elizabeth Redden, presented findings to an AIEA audience of a study of 662 undergraduate and graduate students attending 23 U.S.A. institutions that can help educators improve the classroom experience for international students. Some of the findings were very straight forward - provide more feedback, seek to understand international students' perspectives, make materials available after class, provide examples of completed assignments, and provide non-U.S. examples. The more difficult issues are helping international students gain comfort in challenging their teachers and fellow students and creating classrooms where domestic and international students interact comfortably and regularly.

How are institutions helping faculty learn how to work more effectively with international students? The answer - probably not very well. Robin Matross Helms reported that an ACE Center for International and Global Engagement survey indicated that only a quarter of U.S.A. institutions provide any systematic education and development for faculty to improve their teach of international students. Further, the number of institutions providing this faculty development has actually declined from 2011 to 2016, a period of skyrocketing numbers of international students in the U.S.A.

Student affairs/services staff have an important contribution to make in both formal and informal faculty development. Cultural identity, human development, and person/environment fit are only three research and theory bases which many student affairs educators can contribute to help faculty understand international students. Advocating for the core tenets of students affairs work, that "all students should be viewed holistically, all students have dignity and worth and should be encouraged to develop to the full limits of their potentiality, and that learning should be recognized as the result of a variety of rich experiences that take place both in and outside the classroom" (Roberts, D. C., 2012, The Student Personnel Point of View as a Catalyst for Dialogue: 75 Years and Beyond, Journal of College Student Development, Vol. 53, No. 1) might also be a good place to start.

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