10 Tips for Teaching International Students Effectively

10 Tips for Teaching International Students Effectively

As globalization and online teaching continue to expand, so too does the interaction between international students and teachers of various ethnicities and cultures. While this is desirable, it can be a challenging obstacle to overcome as well.

The differences in cultures can result in many misunderstandings between people, and this is true when it comes to education as well. Such misunderstandings in a teaching environment could hinder effective education, and that’s why it’s very important to keep these ten tips for teaching international students in mind.

Take Time to Learn the Educational Culture

No one expects you to become completely engrossed in the culture of every single international student. However, as a teacher, you should take time to learn about it. At the very least, you should take the time to learn how the education system works in their countries, and what they may be used to.

A bit of knowledge on their culture can be enough to ensure you can fairly include them in lessons and assignments: remember, you can’t just assume what they will or won’t be familiar with, as you could if all of your students were from your own country.

Exercise Patience and Understanding

Your international students will, in many ways, be more difficult to teach than your domestic ones. It is not because they are bad students: with a different cultural experience, your native language not being their own, and a different educational standard, there will be obstacles to overcome.

You must understand that the student is almost never trying to cause trouble if trouble occurs. They are often very eager to learn: you must be eager to teach, even when cultural differences like language or experiences become obstacles.

Be Aware of Political Accuracy

When it comes to international communication, things may not mean what you think they do. For instance, “American” does not necessarily mean “from the United States” to an international student. It could mean Canadian, Mexican, or any South American ethnicity.

It’s also important to understand how an international student would refer to their own country, as well as their own ethnicity, in order to be respectful. It’s just common courtesy to make yourself aware of these things.

Embrace Visual Learning

Academic writing expert Charles Ross once said, “The one universal medium we can all understand is sight. Our words may fall on deaf ears, but what we can see and show surpasses all cultural barriers.”
What this basically means is the following: teachers of international students should use more visual examples than they might with all domestic students.

Remember, many international students speak your language as a second or even third language. With verbal communication alone, there is great room for confusion. However, visual examples can help an international student fully grasp what is being verbally spoken about. You can use stock images from places like Getty, but even something as simple as a drawn diagram can be of great help.

The Curriculum Must be Relevant to the Culture

As a teacher, it’s a common practice to draw on particular references to try and get a point across. However, you must keep in mind that a reference that seems universally applicable to you may not truly be so. For instance, if you were to use a popular North American show, celebrity, or event to prove a point, it may not be very meaningful or effective for your international students. As a teacher, you must search for truly universal examples and references to use in your curriculum or even find specific relevant examples for each culture present in your classroom.

Communicate with Other Experts

Few people know that the Higher Education Academy offers guides for teaching international students in many subjects. Likewise, one can find educational char boards or groups on social media platforms that are also offering tips and wisdom in this area. Don’t be afraid to seek guidance from your colleagues: or think you are above needing their help.

Encourage Cultural Exchange

The best way to make international students feel welcome in a foreign classroom is to facilitate cultural exchange: encourage your students to get involved with one another, to take a rare opportunity to learn about the culture of places they may never visit in person.

Assignments are a great way to do this, as you can have students conduct research on different aspects of their culture to share with the other students.

Avoid Religion and Politics

Unless your class is specifically about these things, it is best to avoid such touchy subjects in classes with international students. With how sensitive these topics can be, it’s more likely to cause conflict in the class than meaningful discussion. Moreover, it’s easy to make a student feel unwanted and alienated if they find their political or religious stance to be an outlier.

Use Neutral Language

Try to avoid phrases that lump people into a group. Even something as seemingly innocuous as “guys” could be insulting or offensive to certain cultures. It’s best to avoid potential issues altogether with neutral language.

Set an Example

Remember that you are an example for all of your students. You should exhibit patience, tolerance, acceptance, and respect for all of your students. By doing this, you spur them to treat each other the same way, and your international students will feel more welcome.

All at Once

Together, these ten tips can help you teach international students (and all students really) effectively. Be an example of patience, tolerance, and respect. Take time to learn the basics of the many cultures you will be involved with. Don’t bring up sensitive subjects if it isn’t necessary. Find ways to involve the culture in your lessons, and look to your colleagues for help. Doing all of this will serve you well.

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