Event report: "No, please. Yes, thank you." Practical approaches to motivating international students

The Economics Network is working with Teaching International Students - a new national initiative centred on improving teaching and learning for international students. This project is funded by the Prime Minister's Initiative and the Higher Education Academy with support from the UK Council for International Student Affairs.

As part of the goal of improving teaching practice for international students, we held a workshop at LSE on 30th April 2010 on "Practical approaches to motivating international students in learning and teaching contexts." Below is a report from the event by the facilitators Dr. Margarida Dolan and Dr. Inna Pomorina.

 

On the 30th of April the Economics Network of the Higher Education Academy (EN) jointly with Teaching International Students project (TIS) ran a very successful workshop at London School of Economics and Political Science.

The title for the workshop was inspired by our experiences as international students ourselves some time ago. Even students with a good grasp of English language and European background may take years to adapt to English culture and the proper use of everyday expressions. It may be even more difficult for those coming from other parts of the world.

The event was very well attended. The facilitators divided the workshop into two parts. In the first part we discussed practical approaches to increase the participation of international students in lectures and tutorials, and to support the formation of culturally diverse groups. These approaches are described in a chapter commissioned by Economics Network for its Lecturers’ Handbook, “Motivating International Students: a practical guide to aspects of learning and teaching” by Dr Margarida Dolan and Dr Irene Macias.

With the help of all participants, the room was changed from café style into the more traditional auditorium style rows of chairs. The aim was to show that regardless of how chairs and tables are arranged, students can interact with their peers in pairs and trios in lecture theatres.  

The second part was aimed at dissemination of the TIS project. After discussing the TIS aims and activities, participants were shown various resources that can be used in their work. They were also shown the EN theme page on intenationalisation, which provides useful information to economics lecturers in this area, including support for international staff, international students and implementation of the Bologna process in the UK.

All participants engaged with the activities proposed and lively debates were generated! Issues raised by the participants included tackling questions on what to do when students refuse to engage and interact in class; that economics students want numbers not pictures; how interactive lectures can be seen as entertainment and not real learning; and that gaps in explanations are necessary for students to find answers for themselves. Margarida referred to the chapter mentioned above, to explain how and why she approaches these issues in her own practice with very good results.

Participants found most useful were the practical tips, sharing experiences and learning about TIS resources. Comments included: “I found it engaging and useful and picked up many tips which I hope will help me improve my teaching”; “It was interesting to see how you approached an audience of lecturers (to whom you might feel is like 'teaching ducks to swim') yet, through quirky and interesting examples, made your points thought provoking and relevant and non-threatening! “ “Informative presentation about teaching international students project, thank you”; “Learning how one can make use of the international diversity in the class and how to value it.”

The facilitators were delighted with the diversity of views shared during the session and in the feedback forms, and with requests to run similar sessions in the future.

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