International Students in Your Classroom:
Challenges and Opportunities for a Global MSU
Rick O’Connor, Ph.D., Director
Cherí Ladd LeCain, M.A., Director of Studies
A.C.E. Language Institute
February 11, 2010
MSU Teaching and Learning Committee Faculty Luncheon
A.C.E. Language Institute
• An intensive academic English program for nonnative speakers of English
• Operated by Associates in Cultural Exchange
(formerly American Cultural Exchange) in Seattle
• At MSU since 1994
A.C.E. Language Institute
I. Statistics on International Students at MSU
II. Opportunities in the Classroom
III. Challenges in the Classroom
IV. Addressing the Challenges: Discussion and
Tips from Real Students
V. Resources
VI. Q & A
International Students at MSU
• Approximately 500 students from 74 different
countries (85 of the 500 students at A.C.E.)
• Largest groups:
China (89)
India (60)
Saudi Arabia (52)
Turkey (40)
Japan (24)
Canada (23)
Kazakhstan (16)
Encouraging int’l student enrollment supports
goals in MSU Five-Year Vision FY 09-14
Student body:
– “The number of international students will increase.”
– “The student body will be more diverse than it is today.”
– “The faculty will have a global perspective on their disciplines and will be active participants in
the international development of their fields. The University will increasingly attract a strong
and diverse faculty drawn from the best educators, scholars, and researchers throughout the
– “Students will have increasing opportunities to participate in international experiences and
participation in education abroad programs will increase. Additional opportunities will be
offered for students to learn critical languages and take internationally focused courses.”
Partnerships, Outreach and Alumni:
– “MSU will develop expanded international partnerships in key countries and regions in order
to provide study abroad and exchange opportunities for students and faculty, to increase
international diversity on the MSU campus, and to promote international research
Did you know . . .
• Int’l students paid $6.9 million to MSU in tuition and
fees in FY 2008-2009
• MSU int’l students and their families paid another
$6.8 million in living expenses (2008-2009)
• Int’l students across Montana contributed
$28, 437,000 to the state economy (2008-2009)
(NAFSA, Association of Int’l Educators, Open Doors)
• Add fresh ideas and diverse perspectives to
• Bring expertise from their countries
• Help peers develop greater global competence
• Do outreach, give presentations, and/or work in
the public schools and community
• Provide opportunities for cross-cultural
friendships and/or future int’l collaboration
Opportunities, cont’d.
• Provide opportunities for Americans to have a
conversation partner, or be a host family or
friendship family
• May inspire American students to study
• Especially benefit those studying foreign
languages or global studies
• Help break down negative stereotypes
• International Street Food Bazaar!
And then, the challenges . . .
I. Cultural differences
II. Linguistic pitfalls
Different Cultural Perspectives on…
Rhetorical patterns in writing
Sharing work (= helping a friend or cheating?)
Disagreeing with a professor or author
Speaking up in class
“Interrupting” a professor in her/his office
Strategies to Address Plagiarism
• Provide examples of correct citation in your
• Discuss seriousness of plagiarism in the U.S.
(See Dean of Students Code of Conduct)
• Put your policies about plagiarism on your
Strategies to Address Different
Rhetorical Patterns in Writing
• Understand there are different rhetorical
styles in other cultures (e.g., main point might
be made at the end of an essay)
• Make your expectations clear (in both written
and oral form)
– Thesis statement (claim) in the introduction?
– Fact/opinion, or both?
– Opinion in the conclusion only?
Typical Academic Skill Strengths and
Weaknesses, by Cultural Group
• Critical thinking skills
– Experienced: Russian and former Soviet Republic, European,
Latin American
– Less experienced: Chinese, Japanese
• Memorization
– Experienced : Chinese, Japanese, Korean
• Essay tests
– Experienced: Russian and former Soviet Republic, European
– Less experienced: Saudi, Japanese
• Multiple choice tests
– Experienced: Japanese, Chinese, Korean
– Less experienced: Russian and former Soviet Republic, Saudi
Linguistic Issues
Vocabulary limitations
Lack of knowledge of idioms
Lack of grammatical control
Typical Strengths & Challenges (Language Skills)
for Specific Cultural Groups:
• Chinese:
– Strengths: reading, vocabulary
– Challenges: speaking, writing, grammar
• Indian:
– Strengths: reading, writing, listening, speaking
– Challenges: “American” pronunciation and vocabulary
• Arab:
– Strengths: speaking and listening
– Challenges: reading and writing
Typical Strengths and Challenges,
• Kazakh (and former Soviet Republic students):
– Strengths: all skill areas
• Turkish:
– Strengths: speaking, writing
– Challenges: reading, grammar
• Japanese:
– Strengths: reading, grammar
– Challenges: writing, speaking
Typical Strengths & Challenges, Cont’d.
• Korean:
– Strengths: vocabulary, reading, writing
– Challenges: speaking, pronunciation
Strategies in Lecturing
• Understand that int’ll students may not get
references to pop culture or jargon/slang
• Allow int’l students longer time to formulate
oral responses to your questions
• Try to include int’l content and case studies
• Ask int’l students for examples from their
countries (ideally with advance notice!)
(Strategies in Lecturing, cont’d.)
• Avoid asking the class a question as a whole;
direct the question
• Have students paraphrase questions and
answers in class to assure comprehension
• Maximize “sign-posting” language
Strategies in Small Group Participation
• Get to know student names.
• Create situations early in the semester for int’l
and domestic Ss to interact and get to know
each other.
• Make expectations about participation clear.
• Do not assume familiarity with the format.
Strategies in Small Group Participation,
• Ask Ss to prepare key questions and readings
ahead of time.
• Ask Ss how an issue would be considered from
their experiences, (which may or may not
represent views from their culture).
• Cultivate respectful and non-threatening
• Give all students roles/tasks in the group
(leader, timekeeper, recorder, “gadfly,” etc.)
Comments from Real Students!
(Summary of survey)
Cultural Sensitivity:
• I’m glad to answer questions about my country; just
make sure you have the right country!
• Professors/students shouldn’t assume students are
having a better life while being in the U.S. just because
they come from a developing country.
• Referring to the U.S. as “America” might offend some
Latin Americans.
Tips, cont’d. (cultural sensitivity)
• People from my country don’t like to talk about
politics (or religion) or our problems but enjoy
talking about our country’s rich cultural history.
• Treat international students as you would treat
• I like it when professors ask for cross-cultural
comparisons about my country and the U.S.
Tips, cont’d.
Speaking more slowly:
• I want my professors to speak more clearly
and slowly.
• I felt uncomfortable or patronized if a
professor spoke extra slowly for me.
Tips, cont’d.
Availability of Lecture Notes:
• Having lecture notes available to all students
after lecture is helpful (but not with any
special conditions for international students.)
• Lecture notes BEFORE the lecture would be
helpful in listening to the lecture! (or, at least,
knowing the assigned readings)
Tips, cont’d.
• Group work in class:
– helpful to have the questions in advance (for
everyone) so we have time to think about them
• Extra writing/editing help?
– Encouraging students to read more will help them
write better.
– Professors can teach us to be self-sufficient by telling
about on-campus writing resources.
– Extra help is good.
Tips, cont’d.
• Extra help/attention?
– It's better to give a chance to foreign students to
prove themselves, and then offer help, but offering
help in advance implies a predisposition of their
(inferior) skills.
– Some students can take advantage of the situation if a
professor gives special treatment.
– Last advice to professors, don't give anything for free.
If there is a special treatment, make them do some
extra work to earn that. :-)
• Office of International Programs
– Foreign Student Advising
– Int’l Student and Scholar Services
– Peer mentors
– Global Culture Club
– Friendship families
– CultureGrams
• A.C.E. Language Institute
– English as a Second Language courses
– International Teaching Assistant training courses
– Institutional TOEFL and SPEAK tests
– Conversation Partner program
– Host family program
• Writing Center (now employs 2 A.C.E. Language Institute teachers)
A.C.E. Language Institute
Main Office: 1106 S. 6th Street, Bozeman

International Students in Your Classroom: Challenges and