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Feb 5, 2013 (4 years and 6 months ago)


Finding Common Ground:

Enhancing Domestic
International Student
Engagement in the Classroom

Shanton Chang

Department of Information Systems

The University of Melbourne

ALTC funded project

The University of Melbourne

RMIT University

VU University

Why is this an issue in Australia?

Growth in the numbers of international students has
outpaced pedagogic understandings of effective teaching
and learning practices.

Practice has ‘run ahead of theorisation and empirical
research’ (Marginson, 2007: 7).

Was left to happen by osmosis

International student issue

Local students often are left
out of the discussion.

Educating Globally Mobile Graduates

The diverse classroom with students from different
backgrounds provides:

a great resource for educating globally mobile

the broader student body with the opportunities for
engaging in intercultural exchanges and communication.

provide a global outlook for all students by bringing
diversity and new ways of looking at things

Current Situation: How are we doing it?

Currently, the work done around internationalising the
curriculum in Australia tends to focus on the following
themes; how to teach across cultures and international
students how to include culturally inclusive curriculum; and
the use of international case studies (Arkoudis, 2006;
Ballard and Clanchy, 1997; Biggs, 1997, Chang, 2007).

In addition, Ladd and Ruby (1999) and Kashima and Loh
(2006) provide further insights into the adjustment and
acculturation needs of international students.

Additionally, work is being done on what competencies are
needed by academics who teach across cultures
(Sanderson, 2007)

Current Situation: Some Challenges

Marginson and Eijkman (2007, Executive Summary, p. 6)

“… the internationalisation of the curriculum content, and the
potential pedagogical, curricular and other implications of
greater diversity of national origins, native languages,
cultural backgrounds and educational preparations in the
student body, appear to be underdeveloped. Perhaps there
were simply not the resources to create more inventive
approaches to pedagogies and curriculum in now more
cultural classrooms.”

Current Situation: What might be done?

Treleaven, Freeman, Leask, Ramburuth,
Simpson, Sykes and Ridings (2007)
provide cogent discussions about the
importance of and need for embedding
intercultural communication within the
curriculum of business faculties.

They also showed the resources,
support structures (communities of
practice), policies needed to bring about
internationalisation of the curriculum.

Note UKCISA’s project to be launched at
their Conference in July 2010

We know it is important but how do we do it?

Where does interaction fit into content teaching?

What are the benefits and obstacles?

The Interaction Conundrum

Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC)
funded Project


exploring the benefits of interaction, the obstacles
and examples of practice

investigating practices that can enhance interaction
within the learning environment

Data collection

online survey of academic staff

academic staff and students interviewed (focus


The development of the

Interaction for Learning

Principles Underpinning the Framework

Acknowledges and capitalises on student diversity as a
resource for learning and teaching

Engages students from diverse cultural and linguistic
backgrounds within the learning context in a variety of ways

Embeds interaction in curriculum planning and links to
teaching, learning and assessment

Promotes peer engagement through curriculum

Recognises the variety of ways that interaction can be utilised
across different learning contexts

increased awareness and understanding of different perspectives

enriched learning experience

preparation for the workplace

workplaces have the same cultural
diversity as that of university classrooms

improved English language skills of international students

greater feeling of belonging

development of personal relationships

Benefits of Engagement

Eisenchlas and Trevaskes (2007)

People prefer to stay within familiar
cultural groups

Greater numbers of students from particular regions and cultures also
mean that the need for interaction across cultures is less urgent

Morita (2004), O'Loughlin & Arkoudis (2009)


tudents who do not believe that
their English language skills are at the ‘adequate level’ will select not to

Watkins & Biggs (1996)

Attitudes of academics pointing to lack of critical
analysis skills, language problems and plagiarism

Devos (2003), Eames & Stewart (2006)

large classes with increasing
diversity can be frustrating

ie. No time, No Resources, No Common Ground, No specific Planning, Too
much Content,

Barriers to Engagement

Hyland et al. (2008 p. 4) point out:

“The attitude of the academic is crucial in determining
possibilities for intercultural dialogue: it is our [the
academics’] beliefs about learning and teaching that guide
the way we work, that influence whether we position
‘international students’ as needing to acquire a set of skills
to assimilate with the dominant pedagogical approaches
or whether we position ourselves

local and international

as needing to learn and to be open to change.”

Empowering Academics

Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC)
funded Project


exploring the benefits of interaction, the obstacles
and examples of practice

investigating practices that can enhance interaction
within the learning environment

Data collection

online survey of academic staff

academic staff and students interviewed (focus

The Interaction for Learning Framework

Planning interaction

Creating environments for

Supporting interaction

Engaging with subject

Developing reflexive

Fostering communities of

Creating Environments for Interaction

Strategies such as social tutorials, allocating seats or
tables in classes and places in group formations all
helped the mixing up of the class, opening up
communication among students and increasing their
confidence in communicating with students beyond their
own cultural groups.

Most of the academic staff that participated in the focus
group interviews identified this as important in the first
week of classes.

Supporting Interaction

According to the findings, it is important to explain to
students that:

Everyone is treated respectfully and their experience
is valued

They can learn from their peers through interaction
and explain how

Interaction can involve face to face or online

Asking question is a good thing and can assist in
developing better understandings about the subject

Engaging with Subject Knowledge

The aim of the third dimension is to engage students in
interaction, which may assist in developing their conceptual
understandings of the subject content, through exchanging
ideas, analysing material, critiquing various approaches, as
they may relate to the learning outcomes of the subject.

Developing Reflexive Processes

During the focus group discussion, a number of
academics noted the importance of reflexive (bi
directional) process as a higher level of peer
interaction for learning and cognitive engagement
where learners seek the knowledge base available
within the community of learners, reflect on similarities
and differences of understandings, and seek
interaction to co
construct knowledge.

Fostering Communities of Learners

The ultimate goal of peer
interaction across cultural groups
is to enable students to develop
initiatives to move across different
cultural contexts and take control
of their learning.

Learners collectively form a
community of actively engaged
learners beyond classrooms.

Some Key Findings

Finding common ground was considered a major
obstacle by students

The framework can guide academics in
developing peer interaction across diverse student

The framework can be used to document good
practice for performance reviews

The international/domestic distinction is not useful
in current higher education context

Fewer examples existed in the last two
dimensions of the framework