Many international students adapt to the academic culture in the UK without much specific support but others will not understand what is required (Carroll, 2005: 27). Quotes from Economics students in the UK reflect this:*
- ‘I have studied in Poland and the system is quite similar, however it is different to study abroad and in the beginning it is difficult to find yourself in such a new situation.’
- ‘Learning experiences have not prepared me for the teaching and assessment style used in the UK as it differs very much from the system I am used to.’
To provide equivalent opportunities for international students who may hold very different expectations regarding learning and teaching, we need to be explicit about the what, the why and the how.
- what we intend to share in the unit/session;
- what we expect students to learn by when;
- what students should demonstrate when they contribute to activities;
- what the standards are in the UK for academic work and practice;
- how we intend to achieve the objectives of the unit/session;
- how we intend to facilitate students’ learning;
- how we assess students’ learning.
- why it is important to learn ‘x’ or ‘y’;
- why we suggest that students interact;
- why we assess students through different formats;
- why students have to engage with existing thought and acknowledge it.
The above list is not meant to be exhaustive but a reminder that it is not sufficient to include such information in introductory brochures, lecture and course handouts, or VLEs. Students are unlikely to engage and invest emotionally, socially and intellectually in different activities if they do not understand what, how and why, and if information is not presented in a personable manner.
Being explicit gives international students better chances to engage with our suggestions. It also means that as lecturers or teachers we need to keep reflecting on our practice to respond to international students’ needs. We should explain to the students that:
- The course is composed of diverse modes of learning opportunities designed and integrated to reinforce each other, including lectures, seminars, tutorials and web-based discussions;
- To learn and to develop values and skills essential for them to succeed, the students are expected to be committed and to prepare well.