Disrupting the Discussion Board

February 10, 2016

By Mary Konya Weishaar and Phil Weishaar

Communicating with Culturally Diverse Learners

Mary Konya Weishaar (Executive Director of International Affairs) and

Phil Weishaar (Associate Professor of Special Education)

International Landscape - SIUE (fall, 2015):

  • 3% of students are international
  • International students come from 51 countries (highest numbers from Nigeria, China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey)
  • More international students are graduate (267) than undergraduate (150)
  • Most international students study in the School of Engineering (244), followed by the College of Arts and Sciences (111), School of Business (42), School of Education, Health and Human Behavior (14), School of Nursing (5) and School of Pharmacy (1).  The School of Dental Medicine did not have international students during fall, 2015, but will implement a new international program for spring, 2016.

Strategies for communicating with an international student who questions an evaluation of a writing assignment:

  • Early in the course, invite all students to come to the instructor during office hours; make sure students know where the office is located
  • Help students learn and understand that an evaluation (e.g., test grade, writing grade) is an opportunity to learn and not always a summative evaluation; by discussing and understanding incorrect responses, students learn what to do next time
  • Help students understand that they must come prepared for meeting with the instructor; help them understand how to prepare; for example, choose particular comments on a paper that are not clear and focus on those comments
  • Make rubrics for grading clear for students
  • Develop relationships with students and help them feel welcome

General strategies for working with international students:

  • For students challenged by language differences, offer extended time for written assignments or time-sensitive quizzes (e.g., sometimes, it takes an international student longer to write narrative answers for a quiz or test)
  • Provide different formats for explaining one concept (i.e., teach the concept in more than one way)
  • Include an international student’s cultural perception on the topic into the discussion (e.g., how is this idea perceived/used/implemented in your culture?); this recognition increases the global view of the topic for domestic students
  • Check for understanding even if the students nods that the concept is understood; Ask, “Could you show me how to apply this here?”  “Could you explain what I just said in your own words?”

When writing in English, sometimes international students sometimes don’t understand:

  • Assignment criteria
  • Concept of plagiarism
  • How to apply grammar and punctuation rules

Resource:  Helping Faculty Teach International Students


Have you used any of the 10 practical tips mentioned in the article?  If so, how successful was the strategy?  What would you do differently next time?

Categories: All Categories, Teaching