Supporting international students to develop academic literacy skills


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Keynote presentation delivered by Janette Ryan at the 2012 BLA conference held in Stirling from 4-6 July.

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Supporting international students to develop academic literacy skills

  1. 1. Supporting international students to develop academic literacy skills Janette Ryan Director, Teaching International Students Project, Higher Education Academy Business Librarians’ Association Conference July 2012
  2. 2. Outline• Changing teaching and learning contexts• Misconceptions about international students• Challenges facing international students• Providing holistic support for international students• Academic literacy skills for international students
  3. 3. Changes in teaching contexts• 17% overall are IS• 14% of first degree students• 70% of full-time taught postgraduates & 46% of all PGTs; 48% of full-time research degree students & 41% of all PGRs (UKCISA, 2012)• Increased TNE programmes, branch campuses, online learning
  4. 4. (UKCISA, 2012)
  5. 5. Misconceptions about international students• ‘Deficient’ learning styles: rote learners, lack critical thinking skills, prone to plagiarism• Don’t want to participate in class discussion• Only interact with others from similar backgrounds• Homogeneous group with similar learning styles and expectations• Don’t consider contextual teaching, learning and assessment factors and role of previous experiences and expectations
  6. 6. Outstanding issues• ‘Frontloading’ or ‘add on’ leads to ‘deficit’ approach• Takes responsibility away from academics - ‘someone else’s problem’• Lack of connection with foundation EAP/programmes• Focus on technical skills eg paraphrasing, plagiarism rather than discipline-based academic skills• Not embedded within discipline, extra costs
  7. 7. International student issues• Language and assessment issues• Don’t know the ‘rules’; unclear expectations about academic literacy skills• Lack required background knowledge• Know they are viewed as a ‘problem’• Difficulties participating and making friends• Do achieve well overall but need support• When things go wrong for IS, they go terribly wrong (academic progress reviews, plagiarism accusations)
  8. 8. UK National Student SurveyQ22 Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course83828180 UK students79 Int students78777675 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
  9. 9. Can we provide more holistic approaches?• Generally do ‘welcome’ well but ….• IS feel welcome in some areas not others - shock after foundation programmes• 3 levels of shock - cultural shock, language shock, academic shock…
  10. 10. Underlying causes of IS’ difficulties?• Cultural shock• Language shock• Academic shockNeed to understand these in order to address them
  11. 11. Language shock• Their English is not as good as they thought• Harder to do reading, understand lectures• Role of language in dialogue and expressing thought - feel ‘deaf and dumb’• Developmental nature of learning language and academic writing & different cultural approaches to writing and expression
  12. 12. Academic shock… Persists…• Academic literacy practices assume local linguistic and cultural knowledge• ‘Rules of engagement’ - modes of classroom participation, forms of academic writing• Expected to conform to implicit ‘norms’ (how to structure and express an argument and use evidence)• IS can feel their knowledge and experiences are undervalued, impacts on self-esteem and identity
  13. 13. Developing more holistic approaches
  14. 14. Case stories from students and staff…
  15. 15. It takes us extra timeThe biggest problem I have found is the listeningskills. As an international student, one has tocatch up with what the lecturers have stated inclass. The teachers speak at a normal nativespeaker’s pace. It is hard to follow the instructorsin detail, which can be a barrier to grasp the keyelements in handouts. Often, internationalstudents are ashamed to ask questions in classand even after class and let it be. Day afterday, problems stick together and I do not knowwhich to tackle first…
  16. 16. ‘Autonomy’ versus ‘text-centeredness’‘OXFORD!’ I cheered to my colleagues as I opened my letter ofacceptance from the University of Oxford. Little did I know that it was notjust the course that I would be attending at the University but I would bestruggling with a whole range of perceptions, attitudes and value systemsthat came along with it... For instance, my course expected me to writean argumentative essay every week, but I was more interested in readingwhat other great minds had to say beyond the ‘reading list.’ Writingessays every week seemed more of a distraction to what I really wantedto read and think about as writing seemed to consume more time. I soonlearnt that this, being an Asian learner (from India), could be viewed as‘text-centered’ and lacking the ‘autonomy’ to produce what I think. Onthe other hand, I wondered if my tutor lacked ‘autonomy’ as they have tofollow the system and I was being ‘autonomous’ in terms of deciding onmy learning. I assume the Oxford system and I attached differentmeanings to the notions of ‘autonomy’ and ‘text-centeredness’ and wemeasured them through different parameters.
  17. 17. Supporting international students• More coordinated approaches to academic skills training (joint sessions)• Use of sources (avoiding plagiarism)• Providing support at all stages of the ‘international student lifecycle’ – eg Open Educational Resources, Facebook, podcasts• Use of foreign language sources and databases• The role of ‘frontline’ staff – good communication skills• Broadening cultural academic paradigms and academic skills?
  18. 18. Learning about otherknowledge, language and academic values and skills China as a case study…
  19. 19. ‘UK’ ‘Chinese’• Critical thinking • Follow the Master• Independent learning • Dependence on the teacher• Student-centred learning • Respect for the teacher• Adversarial stance • Harmony• Argumentative learners • Passive learners• Achievement of the individual • Achievement of the group• Constructing new knowledge • Respect for historical texts• ‘Deep’ learners seeking meaning • ‘Surface’ or rote learners
  20. 20. What is ‘internationalisation’?
  21. 21. “Internationalisation is the process ofintegrating an international, intercultural orglobal dimension into the purpose, functionsor delivery of post-secondary education.” (Knight, 2004, p. 11)
  22. 22. “The internationalisation of education can beexpressed in the exchange of culture andvalues, mutual understanding and a respect fordifference…The internationalisation of educationdoes not simply mean the integration of differentnational cultures or the suppression of onenational culture by another culture.” (Gu Mingyuan, 2001, p. 105)