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Working with International Students--Tips for Faculty

From the Literature

Teaching International Students Improving Learning for All

Teaching International Students: Improving Learning for all. (2005). Jude Carroll and Janette Ryan, eds.  New York: Routledge, 2005.

Chapter 4, Strategies for becoming more explicit by Jude Carroll  (p. 31) suggests providing specific advise about Western norms to international students in the following problem areas:

  • "teaching methods"
  • "assessment"
  • "teacher-student relationships; and"
  • "academic writing."

Be aware of the cultural assumptions inherent in your teaching methods and share those assumptions with your students.  

Chapter 7, Writing in the international classroom by Diane Schmitt (p.64) discusses the size of student's vocabulary:

  • 40,000 words for native English speakers
  • 10,000 is considered large second-language learners
  • 4,594 words was the average English vocabulary in a 2001 study by Schmitt, Schmitt and Clapham.

This chapter (p.65) discusses a number of reasons why academic writing is so difficult for international students.   For example, 'Academic language ... is no one's mother tongue' was coined by Bourdieu and Passeron (1994, p. 8) and it refers to the "specialized nature of academic discourse."  One specific example refers to a study by Bhatia (2002) documenting the different pedagogical purposes the term case study has in law and business.  She uses this example to demonstrate the need for instructors to use explicit explanations.  

This chapter quotes a study by Wilson (1997, cited in Dudley-Evans, 2002, p. 234) that discusses the stages of academic writing development students progress through:  

Repetition - copying without citation

Patching - copy with citation

Plagiphrasing - blending copied sections and their own words

Conventional academic writing 

Finally, this chapter suggests 9 steps to use when guiding students toward successful learning:

  1. Get ready to collaborate
  2. Find out early what your students can do and cannot do with regard to writing in your discipline
  3. Clarify your expectations for the academic genres in your discipline
  4. Head off cognitive overload 
  5. Remember international students are still language learners and set realistic standards for their language use
  6. Provide incentives for your students to read
  7. Build in practice in writing
  8. Use examples of student copying as a prompt for instruction
  9. Recognize that poor writing may simply be evidence of weaknesses in other literacy skills -- understanding lectures, critical reading, or learning from oral discussions