Vignette P1. Carla’s Story: How do I integrate international students in my class?
Carla is an academic who works in the Southeast Asian Studies Department. She teaches classes for bachelor students, which are held in German. Sometimes, international students participate in her sessions and despite having to pass a language requirement before being allowed to enrol in the study programme, she experiences students’ language proficiency as challenging for teaching and learning because she fears that her input as well as questions and instructions are not fully understood by the international students. At the same time, she does not want to slow down the class purely to accommodate a small group of students. Also, she observes that when she initiates group work, international students tend to have difficulties finding a group and the German students are not particularly willing to invite them into their groups.
Reflecting on her experience she says:
What can I do to integrate them [the international students] more without prioritising only these students so that (1) they actually learn something in my class and (2) the other (German speaking) students accept their lower level of German but at the same time don’t have disadvantages when working together with them?Carla
Carla introduced this challenge from her teaching to a group of other IntRef participants prior to an intercultural Reflecting Team session. The other participants were given the opportunity to ask questions about the situation before reflecting on Carla’s topic, while she was listening to their discussion.
What did the group suggest?
I just think about what Carla said about forming groups and kind of forcing them to discuss with each other. What could help is if you just form pairs! Because then they really have to talk to each other. That’s what I sometimes do, especially in the first few sessions of a seminar in order to engage the other ones who want to speak.JEFFREY
Elli shared her thoughts on the need to simplify content when students communicate with each other as a beneficial strategy:
My guess is that the German students are reluctant to participate with the foreigners because they think ‘ah, I will not be able to express myself as much as they want to, as eloquent as I want to’. But it is often an advantage if you have to break down complicated matters into simple ideas. And that’s not an easy task. And you can also benefit from that. So, explaining them that this is a benefit also for themselves might motivate them to interact with the international students.ELLI
And Michael pointed out using a range of languages and switching between them when international students are present:
So, what I would do was to switch a lot more frequently to English in class. You just might frustrate some of the German students in your class, but it could definitely help international students to feel empowered as a result of a more grateful democratization in the classroom through which they are motivated to speak.MICHAEL
Reflecting on the other participants’ comments, Carla thought:
I should focus on stressing the benefits and the opportunities that the German students could get from these international students. As for example also in the opportunity to build international networks amongst students.CARLA
She also liked the suggestion of being flexible with English as a language of instruction and for student presentations in the class.
[…] every German student also can understand English and sometimes they are a little bit reluctant to speak English, but they can listen to English. So, next time in the class, I think I will invite my international students to use English – especially when they have a presentation.CARLA