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10 Tips On How To Teach International Students Effectively

Submitted by on December 3, 2012 – 2:55 pmNo Comment

With permission, this article has been adapted from its original form posted on informED  and authored by Jill Rooney of Open Academic.

“Come alive! You’re in the Pepsi generation.”

Back in the ‘60’s, this highly effective slogan launched Pepsi into markets previously unreached leading to huge successes for the company. When marketed in China, however, the slogan proved far less successful, leading to decreased sales, because of the slogan’s translated version:

“Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.”

This is just one of the many blunders created by businesses in attempt market their products in other countries. The educational world is susceptible to the same mistakes.

Because online education opens its virtual doors to the global community, the learning environment can become enriched when influenced by the varying perspectives of international students.

To help ensure students’ experiences remain positive in your online course, consider these 10 tips to help you teach international students effectively:

1. Find out where your students are from, and do a little research on those cultures.
The more you know about their cultures’ educational traditions, the more you can rely on the standards they are accustomed to. Avoid making assumptions or overlooking potential differences.

2. Be sensitive to terminology.
People in the west often still use the former name ““Burma” for what is now Myanmar (though the issue isn’t completely settled). Show respect by being specific when referring to a people or nation.

3. Be patient with your international students.
If you’re offended by something a student has said, assume the student has good intentions. View the situation as an opportunity to learn the educational traditions of other cultures attributed to the way students communicate.

4. Use more visual examples.
Doing so not only avoids confusion, but helps to expand students’ vocabulary. Check out the royalty-free images at Corbis and Getty (ask for permission), and images at Wikimedia Commons made available through a Creative Commons license.

5. Consult with experts in your subject field.
Search for guidance and effective techniques from your colleagues as well as through Twitter discussions and organizations, like The Higher Education Academy.

6. Make curriculum relevant to student experiences.
When explaining instructional materials, use neutral examples or examples tailored to each culture represented in your class. Using the television show “Seinfeld” to explain the Enlightenment Era of Philosophy may lose its impact for students unfamiliar with the TV show and North American humor.

7. Encourage cultural exchanges in chats.
Ask students to contribute their culture’s perspective on instructional topics through discussion boards and chats. Doing so connects students with people in far-off lands, develops mutual understanding, and builds your course content.

8.  Use neutral language.
Using neutral language should be common practice whether you teach international students or not. Keep in mind that seemingly harmless phrases like “Hey, guys!” may insult students from other cultures.

9.  Avoid politics and religion.
When you must speak on these topics (like in a history or government class), be objective, and use factual data as much as possible.

 10.  Remember that you set the example.
If you exemplify respect of other cultures, your students are likely to do the same. Also, avoid providing too much detail about your personal life. Did you know that many cultures consider this to be rude or disrespectful?


What kinds of experiences do you have teaching international students?
Share with us in the discussion thread below.

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