A report from the Institute of International Education indicated an impressive increase in the amount of international students studying in the U.S. From 2014 to 2015 there was a 10 percent increase and an overall increase of 975,000 international students. According to the Migration Policy Institute, “Although the U.S. share of the worldwide international student population has decreased in recent years, from 23 percent in 2000 to 19 percent in 2013, the number of international students enrolled in U.S colleges and universities has grown. In 2013, the United States hosted more of the world’s 4.1 million international students than any other country” (Zong and Batalova, 2016). Although the percentage of international students has been increasing at a decreasing rate, their proportion in American classrooms has been increasing in the long run. Ultimately, the impact that international students will continue to play in the makeup of a classroom, along with challenges unique to their situations, will continue to require specific attention and considerations to cross-cultural interactions.
The different styles and structures of foreign academic institutions can potentially be the most frustrating challenge for international students, particularly if these differences result in poor performance. Unintentional plagiarism is particularly difficult for some international students, as citation styles vary considerably. For students of which English is not their first language, getting a good grade on assignments involves different amounts of effort, honing, and consideration than other students. It is also quite likely, particularly if you teach a course that fulfills an elective for students, that international students may be confused as to why they are even taking the course. Unlike in the United States, many international colleges do not require their students to take classes not directly related to their major areas of study.
Considering these general difficulties that international students may face, the following tips can be useful for preventing frustration in your students and the classroom:
- When performing assessments, consider whether or not a student’s first language is English. While it is necessary to challenge students to improve upon their writing skills, these students should be met with understanding. During examinations, consider providing handheld electronic translators, such as the Lexibook NTL, ECTACO, BBK AM, etc. for your students. If your school is unable to provide these, as well as depending upon your comfort level, consider allowing your foreign students to have access to tools such as Google Translate.
- Be sure to clearly outline your expectations of plagiarism, grammar, and spelling in your syllabus, as well as provide information to link students with the university’s available academic resources.
- In your syllabus, outline how your class benefits students majoring in the subject, as well as non-majors. Focus on describing the skills that will be developed throughout the semester that have broad applications elsewhere, such as analytical thinking/reasoning, writing skills, etc.
Overall, maintaining a firm (but understanding) stance on your expectations for international students, while considering the institutional and cultural backgrounds from which they come, will be helpful in avoiding future frustration in your classroom. Taking special considerations to alleviate some of the anxiety that arises from changing cultures and learning environments will only further promote amicable relationships between professors and their students and shows your attentiveness to their concerns.