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Tools for a Diverse Classroom

Staff from the Office of Global Engagement and the Division of Academic and Student Affairs worked together over the course of a year to create an online resource guide for faculty working with international students at NC State.   

The project is the brainchild of Karin Sandler, director of the Intensive English Program, who wanted to create a dedicated space to address some of the typical concerns faculty have when working with international students, including engagement in the classroom, language considerations, and academic integrity.   

The resource website contains information grounded in best practices and the experiences of staff who work with international students on a daily basis. It gives practical tips for addressing many common issues faced by faculty including strategies for increasing student participation, assessing the writing of non-native speakers of English, and ensuring student comprehension of class lectures. Each section touches on the cultural issues behind each suggestion and a tip.

“I wanted the guide to be very practical for faculty, yet grounded in theory,” said Sandler. “I think it’s important to have some understanding of the cultural backgrounds of our international students as well as the educational systems from which they come, in order to best serve their needs.”

While the guide was created with the intention of addressing some international student needs in the classroom, Jennifer Glass, senior advisor in the Office of International Services, is quick to point out how these resources can be applied more broadly.

“NC State students, domestic and international, are coming from a variety of cultural and educational backgrounds,” said Glass. “Recognizing and responding to this diversity in the classroom is not about supporting one subset of students – it’s about facilitating a more effective learning environment for all students. It’s just good pedagogy.”

Academic integrity, an area needing explicit instruction even for domestic students, can be particularly challenging for students from different countries.

“The rules of the classroom may be different when you move from one academic setting to another,” said Tony Shurer, academic coordinator for international student support. “This is especially true for students who join us from different cultures and different educational systems. At NC State, academic integrity is a shared community value, and it is important that we spend time helping all students understand what this means in the context of their academic work.”    

Olga Uzun, lead instructor in the Intensive English Program, has a great deal of experience teaching English to international students and acclimating them to the expectations of the American classroom. “Cultural and educational norms are different in various parts of the world, and it takes students some time to understand what is expected of them in an American university,” said Uzun. “Many miscommunication problems between professors and students could be avoided if both sides took time to learn about each other’s culture.”  

The creators of the faculty resource guide intend to expand it to incorporate suggestions from the NC State community and plan to offer workshops addressing these topics in more depth for those who may be interested.

“We see this guide as a first step to address the larger conversation of how we can provide the NC State community with the information and resources needed to best serve our international students,” said Sandler.

The authors of the guide welcome and appreciate feedback. If you have any suggestions for future content, please submit your ideas.